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Friday, January 1, 2010

Editor’s Note: Advancing NextGen

Bill Carey

January is the occasion for looking forward, and there is no more forward-looking topic than the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). To bring us up to date — you’ll recall the RTCA NextGen Mid-Term Implementation Task Force issued recommendations four months ago that have the potential to influence aviation policy and practice for the next decade.

The work did not end with the delivery of that report to FAA. RTCA President Margaret Jenny, senior FAA executives, Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III and Gerald Dillingham of the Government Accountability Office testified on the Task Force report Oct. 28 before the House Aviation Subcommittee. There, where the purse strings extend, the report was well-received by committee members. Chairman Jerry F. Costello (D-Ill.) described it as "a positive step forward and a significant breakthrough in the NextGen effort." Ranking minority member Thomas E. Petri (R-Wis.) called the report "an important milestone in the long history of ATC modernization."

The following day, the RTCA Air Traffic Management Advisory Committee (ATMAC), responding to a request from FAA, established an interim NextGen Implementation Work Group to serve as a communications link between industry and government as the Task Force recommendations are assimilated in FAA’s planning process. The ATMAC also honored FAA’s request to form a new Trajectory Operations (Tops) work group, to "fill an urgent need for a common TOps concept, understanding and vocabulary across the aviation community," the RTCA Digest reported.

How much of the "airport and metroplex-centric" approach of the Task Force finds its way into FAA planning will become clearer this month with the release of the 2010 update of the NextGen Implementation Plan. The Task Force report provides a "definitive jump start to actually implementing NextGen," Hank Krakowski, chief operating officer of FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, told the House subcommittee. "... The intention is to have as much of this framed out as possible for the NextGen plan update in January."

Michael Romanowski, FAA’s director of NextGen Integration and Implementation, offers insight into the agency’s decision-making process in our NextGen special section, beginning on page 25. "What we’re doing right now," he stated, "is we’re going through, assessing those recommendations against the current planning... identifying where the gaps are, what adjustments need to be made in the planning, what adjustments may need to be made from a budgetary point of view."

As have other FAA executives, Romanowski spoke of the overriding importance of NextGen. "It’s been clearly articulated from the president on down, through the Secretary of Transportation to the new administrator, that NextGen is an administration priority, it’s a national priority to do this," he said. Indeed, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt in November announced the formation of a new federal advisory committee to study all aspects of the aviation industry, with an emphasis on NextGen, following an invitation-only meeting with airlines, airports and labor groups.

Romanowski and other participants in the RTCA Task Force served as panelists for our Nov. 4 webinar, "NextGen Task Force: Applying The Recommendations." Their comments are excerpted in the special section, which includes a comparison of NextGen and the Single European Sky ATM Research (SESAR) initiative by contributing editor and retired Northwest Airlines pilot Frank Alexander.

Through our "NowGenNEXT" conference Sept. 15, organized in partnership with RTCA; the Nov. 4 webinar, this month’s special section and ongoing industry coverage, Avionics Magazine has played a small but significant role in disseminating information about NextGen to a broad aviation audience. I’m proud of that contribution to the future of aviation and pleased to announce that our parent company, Access Intelligence, and RTCA have concluded a new agreement that will see us co-produce the RTCA Symposium and a second conference this fall, tentatively scheduled for April and September. Check these pages and our Web site, aviationtoday.com, for updates. Also, you can look forward to a new series of webinars on NextGen topics.

As the leading publishing brand focused on civil and military avionics, we’re doing what we can to advance NextGen.

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