Monthly Archives: November 2008

Fly NextGen overview page updated, new links added

The Fly NextGen overview page has been updated to include some key NextGen roadmaps and operational concepts. Here some links that seem most essential to us; if you disagree (and/or would like to see some additional ones added), drop us a line.

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Nationwide ADS-B ground rollout formally announced

It was not exactly unexpected, but ADS-B has been deemed officially fit for prime time. Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell announced a nationwide rollout of ground stations yesterday in a speech before the Aero Club in Washington. (Press release here.)

In the short term, the biggest beneficiary of this “in-service decision” will be system integrator ITT, which had the main contract for installation at a series of 11 test sites around the Miami ARTCC. (More details about the business angle in this article from flightglobal.)

In his remarks, Sturgell lamented the state of public perceptions around NextGen, and especially around the FAA’s ability to manage complex projects in a timely fashion:

We’re dealing with claims like “NextGen won’t be here until 2025” or “NextGen’s just a slogan.” I think that talk comes to a halt today.  [..]  In just a little more than a year following the ADS-B contract award, we’re in the position to give it the green light. On budget. On schedule. This decision clears the way for the installation of ground stations, and to transmit broadcasts for operational use across the nation. We’ll start on both coasts and portions of the Midwest. 310 ground stations are scheduled to be operational by 2010.

At the same time, we’re setting up key sites for ADS-B testing for surveillance. We’re going to use the Gulf of Mexico, Philadelphia, Juneau and Louisville. And once the test is completed, we follow closely at additional key sites, like New York.

By 2013, we’ll have 794 ground stations to complete the deployment, covering everywhere that you find radar today. And also in places like the Gulf and the mountains of Alaska, where there is no radar coverage.

I said a moment ago that the critics contend that NextGen is a slogan. This is the order to accept the system — to commission it. Vinny Capezzuto’s group has tested ADS-B ten ways from Sunday, and it works. The top safety expert, Nick Sabatini, says it’s a go. The COO is a former airline pilot, and he’s giving it thumbs up. Consider ADS-B operational on November 24, 2008, at 10:15 a.m.

The four sites that Sturgell referenced (Gulf of Mexico, Philadelpha, Juneau, Louisville) are interesting in that the technology being tested there represents the next frontier for ADS-B. These so-called “critical services” are intended to provided GPS-based aircraft position data to controllers, in order to help achieve correct separation. Theoretically, this will eventually allow the FAA to eliminate secondary radar in some locations.

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Want to see what JPDO is up to? New website lets you dig deep

A very interesting venture by the JPDO to give the public access to a series of key documents and road maps, using a highly dynamic (if slightly confusing) website.

There’s so much to explore, one hardly knows where to begin, but one thing that caught our eye was a list of “19 objectives” that a new airspace system should fulfill:


• Retain role as world leader in aviation
• Reduce costs of aviation
• Enable services tailored to traveler and shipper needs
• Encourage performance-based, harmonized global standards for U.S. products and services
• Maintain aviation’s record as safest mode of transportation
• Improve level of safety of U.S. air transportation system
• Increase level of safety of worldwide air transportation system
• Provide for common defense while minimizing civilian constraints
• Coordinate a national response to threats
• Ensure global access to civilian airspace
• Satisfy future growth in demand and operational diversity
• Reduce transit time and increase predictability
• Minimize impact of weather and other disruptions
• Reduce noise, emissions, and fuel consumption
• Balance aviation’s environmental impacts with other societal objectives
• Mitigate new and varied threats
• Ensure security efficiently serves demand
• Tailor strategies to threats, balancing costs and privacy issues
• Ensure traveler and shipper confidence in system security

We’re not sure we’ve seen the goals of NextGen summarized quite in this way before. Seems like it could be a compelling counterweight to the sometimes simplistic focus on ADS-B.

(Thanks to our friends at the JPDO for the heads-up about the site.!)

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EXCLUSIVE: House aviation subcommittee chair Jerry Costello on reauthorization, controller morale, and his hopes for a ‘different attitude’ at the FAA

When Congress returns for a full session next year, all eyes will be watching Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL), who heads the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Costello and his colleagues will be taking point on the all-important FAA reauthorization bill, without which NextGen will remain nothing but a pipe dream.

Last week, Congressman Costello sat down with Fly NextGen to talk about his frustrations with times past and his hopes for times to come.

To read the interview from the beginning, start here.

Selected quotes:

On his skepticism: “The FAA does not have the best track record in their attempts to improve the air traffic control system. A lot of money has been spent — not only under this administration — and we have very little to show for it.” (Link)

On capacity: “I think it would be a mistake to believe that NextGen and the infrastructure improvements are not needed because of the temporary reduction in the number of flights.” (Link)

On user fees: [The Bush administration] “spent a great deal of time talking about imposing user fees, and at no time explained to the American people, let alone the Congress, how the system would work. So it was a major failure on their part.” (Link)

Economic stimulus: “There are projects that are ready to go, as far as runway and taxiway improvements and other issues addressing congestion and safety. And I believe that airport improvements should be part of any stimulus package that has a component for improving our infrastructure.” (Link)

Labor relations: “Recently, I was in a tower at an U.S. airport that is extremely busy, and of the dozen or so controllers that were on duty, the most experienced controller was on the job 18 months, and many of them were there less than a year. So there’s a horrible morale problem, everybody recognizes it but the FAA.” (Link)

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Bush: Radar-based ATC ‘doesn’t make sense’

President Bush visited DOT headquarters in Washington today, where he praised Secretary Mary Peters for her service and announced several initiatives related to aviation and passenger air travel. One part of the package: an executive order (full text here) creating a multi-agency task force to ensure that NextGen is implemented in a “safe, secure, timely, environmentally sound, efficient, and effective manner.”

The order requires the Transportation Secretary to establish an office within 60 days, and to convene an advisory committee within 180 days.

Here are the President’s remarks about air traffic management:

There’s a lot more work to be done. For example, at an age when teenage drivers use GPS systems in their cars, air traffic controllers still use World War II-era radar to guide modern jumbo jets. That doesn’t seem to make any sense to me, and I know it doesn’t make sense to the Secretary and a lot of folks in this audience. Modernizing our aviation system is an urgent challenge. So today, I’m signing an executive order that makes this task a leading priority for agencies across the federal government.

Mr. Bush also scolded members of Congress, appearing to direct his remarks to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which will consider several key bills in 2009.


Members of Congress have responsibilities. As they take up the next highway and aviation bills in the coming year, they should adhere to a few principles. They should harness the power of the free market through policies like congestion pricing, which uses the laws of supply and demand to reduce traffic on our roads and in the air.

They should ensure that taxpayer funds for transportation are allocated based on the true needs of the American people, not spent on wasteful earmarks or the political demands of influential lobbies.

They should provide incentives for the private sector to develop new technologies, invest in our infrastructure, and help make our transportation system worthy of the 21st century.

Just a little advice.

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Controllers want changes in ATOP system

The National Association of Air Traffic Controllers issued a press release this week, calling on the new administration to reevaluate the Advanced Technologies for Oceanic Procedures system. ATOP allows aircraft to transmit location coordinates across long distances in an automated fashion, but the implimentation is somewhat controversial because airlines are allowed to set their own policies about how frequently updates are sent to controllers. NATCA is worried that controllers could be disciplined or fired, even when separation data from aircraft is inadequate. ATOP is used at all three of the FAA’s oceanic centers: Ronkonkoma NY, Oakland CA, and Anchorage AK.

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It’s official: Obama names transportation transition team

The office of the President-Elect confirmed yesterday what Fly NextGen first reported Wednesday morning: Former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey will be helping to lead Mr. Obama’s transition team on transportation issues. Other key members of the team:

  • Seth Harris is a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project’s Agency Review Working Group responsible for the labor, education, and transportation agencies. He is a professor and the Director of Labor & Employment Law Programs at New York Law School.
  • Mortimer Downey is a self-employed transportation consultant who served for eight years as the Deputy Secretary of Transportation under President Clinton, and was an Assistant Secretary of Transportation during the Carter Administration.
  • Michael Huerta is Group President of ACS Transportation Solutions, a company that provides technology solutions for the transportation industry.

(Biographical elements are from the OPE transition website).

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