NextGen Advisory Committee at work

May 19, 2011 by Craig Fuller

This morning I am in New York for a meeting of RTCA’s NextGen Advisory Committee–a group tasked with addressing NextGen implementation issues and making consensus recommendations to the FAA. As a member of the committee, I had a chance to make a presentation to the group about issues affecting the general aviation community.

Breakfast at Gracie Mansion.

While we come from different backgrounds–the airlines, the FAA, air traffic control, airports, military aviation, and GA–we all want to find the right path to modernize our airspace and air traffic management. At the top of our list of priorities is ensuring that we continue to have the safest aviation system in the world. And while we may differ in some areas, we are all hard at work trying to find the best solutions to the challenges of modern flying while taking full advantage of the benefits new technology has to offer.

New York is the perfect venue for today’s discussions, considering not only the busy and complex airspace in the region, but also the personal interest of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an avid general aviation pilot himself. Mayor Bloomberg hosted a breakfast at Gracie Mansion this morning, where I had a chance to chat with him, Committee Chairman and Jet Blue CEO Dave Barger, and FAA Deputy Administrator Michael Huerta, among others. Despite the many other responsibilities of each of these participants, it’s clear that they are fully committed to finding not only solutions, but the right solutions to the challenges of modernization.

Today’s discussions have been productive, but there’s much more  to do, and small working groups will sort through many more details before our next full committee meeting. Many of those working groups include AOPA staffers, so you can be certain that the interests of the GA community will be considered at every step along the way.

NextGen, and the way it is implemented, will affect every single pilot–and just about every American–in the nation. It’s such a big issue, with so many technical details and practical implications, that it may sometimes seem impossible to get your arms around it. But I think it’s important to keep pilots in the loop. I want you to know that we are diligently working to resolve all the issues modernization presents, and, just as important, that we are making real progress. As always, the AOPA team is fully engaged in ensuring that–whatever final recommendations we reach–the needs of general aviation, your needs, are taken into account.

  • Bruce Taylor

    Aviation eBrief carries the story that Obama plans to aid the airlines in equippage for NextGen. I certainly hope my Association will look out for GA’s interest on this, but there is no mention at all in this article.

    If they will be providing equipment for airlines, then they damn well better extend the same assistance to ALL aircraft, including mine.

    What the heck makes the airlines so special, anyway??? I have no idea what it costs to equip an airliner with ADS-B equipment. If I can do it in my Cardinal for under $10,000 then they should be able to, also. And $10K is NOTHING compared to the revenue of a single airline flight, so why are they bellyaching?

    Please keep up informed of what you are doing to make sure that any assistance that goes to a BILLION dollar airline also goes to assist my middle-class self!

  • grumpy

    Bruce, I feel your pain but have to say “good luck with that!”

  • James Carlson

    Helping to shave a few percent off of the massive fuel burn for an airline is something that has an equally large return-on-investment. As much as I’d love to have the government pay for new gadgets in my plane, I don’t think that’s going to happen, and the same argument doesn’t much apply. For the same reason that the lead we release is tiny, the benefits from equipping us are also far smaller, and there are far more of us, so it costs more to do. Yeah, it’d be nice to be “fair,” but it doesn’t make economic sense, though I do agree with the original poster that the airlines are comparatively rolling in money versus GA.

    I’m much more concerned about first having stable and useful standards. We don’t want another LORAN type of event. I can’t afford to dump $10K on new gear that ends up not working in a relatively short period of time.

    Secondly, I’m very concerned that a blind “privatizing is always better” mindset is going to lead us to some real boondoggles in the privately-run ATC future that NextGen poses, and that besides just wasting public money and making a few big companies even richer, it will also result in less accountability and less safety for all. I know that ATC isn’t doing well in the public eye right now, but as a pilot I happen to have a deep appreciation for what they do. Tearing that accomplishment down won’t be helpful.

  • Mike Schumann

    Having the government subsidize ADS-B equipage for anyone is absurd. Wake up and smell the coffey. The federal government is broke.

    The bigger question is why is this equipment so expensive? What happened to the fully functional MITRE ADS-B UAT transceiver that was being tested that had a total parts cost of < $400. Why isn't this being certified for use in VFR aircraft and put into production.

    The fundamental problem is FAA over engineering without any regard for the practicalities involved. The FAA would rather have gliders flying around without any transponders, totally invisible to ATC or other air traffic, than to permit the utilization of commercial grade technology that MIGHT transmit the wrong position and cause an airline to deviate around a ghost target.

    How many more mid-airs do we need before someone gives us the green light to deploy the technology that has been ready to go into production for over 2 years now?

  • Bruce Taylor

    I agree with all above…

    Fat chance getting the government to fund MY ADS-B equipment. But if they fund the airlines, then they should fund me!

    But I also agree that the Feds shouldn’t be funding ANYONE, but if they are going to fund the airlines then they better fund ME!

    My point is: What does this really cost the airlines per plane? Sure it adds up when multiplied by hundreds of planes, but I think it isn’t a lot of money in the big picture per plane. If they can afford the planes for several million dollars each, then whats another $10K for ADS-B that will save them MUCH more than that in fuel, salaries, delayed flights, and so on and so forth.

    So I don’t think that the Feds should fund anybody, but if they fund the airlines, then they better fund ME!

    And I’m paying AOPA, through membership dues and my credit card and my insurance and my other purchases, to look out for my interests on this. So, Mr. Fuller, please make sure we don’t get left out. Please educate us and give us the details. What is it costing per plane? Why doesn’t the FAA just say “Hey, if you want more direct routing and closer landing spacing, thereby reducing your costs and delays, then you’re gonna have to get ADS-B, otherwise we’ll vector you to Timbuktu just like we do Good Ole Bruce…”