Hundreds of aviation professionals gathered in Atlantic City, N.J., this week to hear about NextGen technologies, implementation and challenges at Avionics Magazine’s third annual Avionics for NextGen conference.
Frank Lobiondo, chairman
of the House subcommittee
Congressman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), chairman of the House subcommittee on aviation, kicked off the conference, saying the industry has made a lot of progress on NextGen, but faces many challenges ahead, not the least of which is sequestration, a possible government shutdown later this year and another debt ceiling debate in the Congress.
“We’re not building runways. We have to find a way to be more efficient. NextGen is essential,” he said, adding the next few months will likely be the difficult for Congress, and NextGen, with an Oct. 1 government shutdown looming. “There’s an enormous challenge to get off this track.”
In the United States, with the 2020 automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) Out mandate looming, avionics manufacturers, installers and operators are working to get systems developed, certified and installed, which is an enormous challenge, conference panelists said. Among the challenges for operators is mixed fleet equipage, training and establishing the business case.
“American Airlines has long history of supporting NextGen,” said Capt. Brian Will, director of airspace modernization and advanced technologies at American Airlines. “When you put all this stuff on the airplane and you don’t get to use it, and see the benefits we’re hearing about, then it is costing us something. … The longer it takes to get these things accomplished, it is costing us up here real money, every day.”
Airlines on the panel have all participated in NextGen trials, and reiterated their commitment to this multi-billion project. But they said it is important to move beyond the trial phase of programs and enter the deployment and implementation phase.
“Delta is committed to NextGen. We’ve committed vast amounts of resources to it. We believe in it,” said Chip Beall, technical pilot at Delta Airlines.
The business case for operators is still a tenuous one; airlines face stringent return-on-investment scenarios from their chief financial officers, and general aviation operators still see 2020 as a long way off and are putting off their equipage plans. However, in both air transport and general aviation cases, the industry needs do a better job of more clearly outlining the business case and the equipment standards needed for operators, according to conference panelists.
“What’s interesting about our end of the market is that it’s not really about ROI; it’s not about anything other than what is it going to do for my airplane. The big thing for the people in our market is what do I need for the bare minimum,” said John Uczekaj, president and CEO, Aspen Avionics.