The Next Generation Technology Air Transportation System (NextGen) is the name given to a new National Airspace System due for implementation across the United States in stages between 2012 and 2025. NextGen) proposes to transform America’s air traffic control system from an aging ground-based system to a satellite-based system. GPS technology will be used to shorten routes, save time and fuel, reduce traffic delays, increase capacity, and permit controllers to monitor and manage aircraft with greater safety margins. Planes will be able to fly closer together, take more direct routes and avoid delays caused by airport “stacking” as planes wait for an open runway. To implement this the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will undertake a wide-ranging transformation of the entire United States air transportation system. This transformation has the aim of reducing gridlock, both in the sky and at the airports. In 2003, the U.S. Congress established the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) to plan and coordinate the development of the Next Generation Technology Transportation System.
The FAA estimates that increasing congestion in the air transportation system of the United States, if unaddressed, would cost the American economy $22 billion annually in lost economic activity by 2022. It also estimates that by 2018, NextGen will reduce aviation fuel consumption by 1.4 billion gallons, reduce emissions by 14 million tons and save $23 billion in costs. Each mile in the air costs an airline about $0.10-$0.15 per seat in operating expenses like flight crew and fuel. Flying directly from one airport to the next and reducing congestion around airports can reduce the time and miles spent in the air for the same trip.
Once implemented, NextGen will allow pilots and dispatchers to select their own direct flight path, rather than using a grid-like highway system. By 2020, aircraft are expected to be equipped to tell pilots exactly what their location is in relation to other aircraft, enabling planes to fly closer together safely. By providing more information to ground control and planes, planes are expected to land faster, navigate through weather better and reduce taxi times so flights and airports themselves can run more efficiently. The increased scope, volume and distribution of information is intended to help planes land faster, improve weather forecasts, automation and information sharing, as well as reduce taxi times
The FAA is pursuing a NextGen implementation plan and has established a NextGen Advisory Committee to aid in that implementation. In 2009, the advisory committee began a collaboration with the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) Task Force, a joint government and industry group, to participate in the effort.
Besides the FAA, the RTCA Task Force membership includes the Air Line Pilots Association, Air Transport Association of America, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, The Boeing Company, Department of Defense, GARMIN International, Honeywell International, Rockwell Collins, Stanford University, Lockheed Martin, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Harris Corporation, NASA, National Business Aviation Association, and Raytheon.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the implementation of a surface management initiative in Boston saved 5,100 gallons of aviation fuel and reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 50 tons during a period of heavy congestion. A shared surface surveillance system combined with aircraft metering techniques reduced taxi-out time by 7,000 hours a year at New York’s JFK airport and 5,000 hours a year in Memphis. Helicopters flying over the Gulf of Mexico are also using NextGen technology to manage poor weather conditions and in Colorado to navigate through dangerous mountain terrain.
There’s also been a demonstration in Memphis with Delta Airlines and FedEx. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) conducted a demonstration at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) of a new surveillance display called the Tower Flight Data Manager (TFDM) system that would present surveillance, flight data, weather, airport configuration and other information critical to controllers. Specialized Optimized Profile Descents, also known as Initial Tailored Arrivals, have moved from the demonstration phase to operational use at airports in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Denver.
In June 2010, European and American authorities reached a preliminary agreement on interoperability between their future air traffic management systems, SESAR and NextGen.
In March 2011, the FAA released the latest version of its implementation plan.
As of July 2011, JetBlue and Southwest Airlines had installed onboard equipment, partly with federal funds.