August 10th, 2009
08:34 PM ET

The future of air traffic control

[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/TECH/06/03/db.plane.nav.tracking/art.gsp.jpg" caption="The FAA is developing new technology to track air traffic via satellite."]

Federal Aviation Administration

– What is NextGen? –

NextGen is an umbrella term for the ongoing, wide-ranging transformation of the United States’ national airspace system (NAS). At its most basic level, NextGen represents an evolution from a ground-based system of air traffic control to a satellite-based system of air traffic management. This evolution is vital to meeting future demand, and avoid to gridlock in the sky and at our nation’s airports.

NextGen will open America’s skies to continued growth and increased safety while reducing aviation’s environmental impact.

These goals will be realized through the development of aviation-specific applications for existing, widely-used technologies such as Global Positioning Satellite (GPS). They will also be realized through the fostering of technological innovation in areas such as weather forecasting, data networking, and digital communications. Hand in hand with state-of-the-art technology will be new airport infrastructure and new procedures, including the shifting of certain decision-making responsibility from the ground to the cockpit.

When fully implemented, NextGen will safely allow more aircraft to fly more closely together on more direct routes, reducing delays, and providing unprecedented benefits for the environment and the economy through reductions in carbon emissions, fuel consumption, and noise.

Read more about NextGen and new innovative initiatives from the FAA to revamp air traffic control.

Filed under: Airline Safety • Beyond 360 • FAA
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. JMAnderson

    Interview the NexGen team, the air traffic controllers and lets get these choppers/planes etc on the right air wave ....in the right air space at the correct time/place this is ignorance and people should be held responsible for this unmanaged system...like the roads we drive on should have been managed monitored controlled. This is unreal that this area is not controlled with the many large towers of millions of people, tours, people of governement position,celebrities many people at risk, security and business at risk why has this been ignored for so long are they nuts there-how could they over look this nations wide, way too many risks and accidents even with 2 crashes but many more have happened we hear. This is not like the jetsons...come on wake up and go to the extreme with controlling the city air system /air space high and low all these area's what ever is needed to be built or employed to prevent no more crashes ....deaths needlessly ...and why did this get ignored why did the people that can afford private airplanes and rides,or even to go to flight school not consider or think of....bringing this concern to the publics view ages ago...if we don't hear of this hit and miss zone or if we don't use this service the public has no clue of what is going wrong..quality control, updates and upgrades to the national system needs to be discussed and constantly updated..for the increase of air travel..and people accessing private flights....it all needs to be controlled like the roads we drive on....especially in such a busy zone its common sense logic...what do we do in a busy high traffic road zone, congested buildings housing highways etc..its like the inner city air zones airways are the downtown traffice busy sections along with the big airspace zone's...treat them with control all zone's but upgrade the system yesturday already..why do we have to let people die and be killed before we correct what should have been done many years ago????? Seems like I will not be doing that area...ever, for care of not risking being another accident victim its almost like a death trap in a sense many high risks in that air space and many other cities that are the same. Do something...make change for the sake of you and me and them but do a complete job of better upgrades and systems and quality control check point systems...don't take the cheap way out for the sake of lives lost to accidents that could have been prevented
    and what an embarrassment to the United States... wake-up call : )

    August 12, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  2. Tim Davis

    As an Air Traffic Controller I have heard all the positives on NEXGEN and I know all the negatives. But lets look at the one major negative that would affect this system.

    Runway acceptance rate. Take where I work for a living. My airport has three runways. Two parallel runways with a diagonal connected to the furthest west runway. Think of an 'N' with the lower portion of the middle line of the 'N' not touching. We can handle a maximum of anywhere from 80 to 100 airplanes landing an hour. A lot depends on this including weather, visibility, and types of aircraft. But lets say with NEXGEN we can have upwards of 200 aircraft arriving each and every hour. Now what do we do with the extra 100 airplanes? They hold/wait for the runway to be made available to them. In other words we really must concentrate on adding runways to these busy airports BEFORE we use NEXGEN. Otherwise all we do is move the gridlock from one problem to another problem. Right now gridlock is due to old style radar? Well with NEXGEN it will be due to not enough runway space.

    NEXGEN sounds great and all and it MIGHT be, however there are a lot of issues to work before NEXGEN can be realized.

    August 11, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  3. eddie

    Why didn't CNN interview any REAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS about this whole 'NextGen' ponzi scheme? You know, the people who day in and day out ACTUALLY do the job? Why not ask these people what their thoughts are about NextGen?

    The FAA is trying to 'sell' this NextGen system to the flying public claiming that it's going to save time/money. It will not save time nor money. It will cost tax payers billions of $$$ to fund this BS program. This money would be better spent if it was invested into the airports, not the airspace.

    That's where the problem is, and that's where it will be.....on the tarmac, at the airports. NextGen will NOT help expand the tarmac (runways, taxiways, etc) or the terminals at the airports. There will be no 'increased growth with NextGen' as the article indicates. The only increase this NextGen system will provide will be in the form of PFCs (passenger facility charges) and fuel surcharges (which will be passed on to the flying public).

    A suggestion to CNN : How about you interview current Air Traffic Controllers about this NextGen system? At least you will get the point of view from the side that should actually have a say in this NextGen system...the men and women of this country that actually guide the airplanes safely to the ground.

    August 11, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  4. susan

    FAA ALLEGEDLY working on multiple systems for improvement. Currently still using about a 1950-1960s system.

    Often $$$ cited as big reason for failure to implement – esp now the airlines can ill afford the extra levies to help pay for the needed improvements.

    And Barbara – do you think about the number of automobiles on the road whenever you leave your house? I think not. EACH and EVERY airplane is required to be compliant with FAA tracking or under clear visual rules which are quite a bit more stringent than that to get auto driver's license. This is but one reason you are safer (per mile traveled) with pressurized air travel than auto travel. It's the ILLUSION of control.

    August 10, 2009 at 9:16 pm |
  5. Barbara-Dalton

    I hope this is not so far off. When cnn does the map thing showing the number of airplanes in the air at a given time gives it me the woolies. Every time I work up the courage to fly or take an am-track
    trip something bad happens and I back out and just drive. I know it
    silly to be such a chicken but I honestly don't think I could fly without
    being sedated.

    I would like to add it was great having EH host last week when AC
    was gone. She should do it more often.

    August 10, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    Sounds like a good system. What will it take and how much will it cost to implement? And how will it be paid for – through taxes or increased air fares or a combination of the two? Also, has this system been deployed anywhere else and if so how is it working out there? A change this big should be tested thoroughly before being fully implemented – you never know if you don't test it what items in the new system may not work well with in real life.

    August 10, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  7. Robert Blackwell

    To me this is a no brainer. All planes and other aircraft should always have thier radios on. Those that are commercial should be equipted with sensors to detect other aircraft getting close.

    August 10, 2009 at 5:40 pm |

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