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Monday, December 27, 2010

NextGen Implementation 'Uncertain,' IG Says

FAA’s slow progress in implementing recommendations of the RTCA NextGen Mid-Term Implementation Task Force and start-up problems with the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) program render “uncertain” the agency’s ability to meet mid-term goals for implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

This is the conclusion of a letter delivered by Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin L. Scovel III last week to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Reacting to the letter, incoming committee Chairman John L. Mica, R-Fla., called for tighter FAA oversight, saying “delay in delivering NextGen benefits is unacceptable.”

Requested by the committee, the IG’s 11-page letter serves as an assessment of FAA’s current progress in implementing industry-consensus recommendations of the RTCA NextGen Task Force, issued in September 2009. While FAA has established prototype study teams to improve airspace procedures at airports in Dallas and Washington, D.C., as recommended by the Task Force, it “is still working to establish definitive milestones to integrate new airspace designs and procedures at metroplex locations,” the IG found.

Meanwhile, FAA’s plan to replace existing flight-data system hardware and software at 20 Air Route Traffic Control Centers with the Lockheed Martin ERAM system has been troubled by software problems at its initial operating site, Salt Lake City. The projected $2.1 billion program now faces a schedule slip of three to six years and $500 million cost overrun.

ERAM is a critical component of five of the eight initiatives described as NextGen portfolio programs. “Delays with ERAM will have a cascading effect on other fundamental NextGen programs now and well into the future,” the letter advises.
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