Is NextGen a Bust?

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gps_next_genThe government claimed it was the future of air travel. NextGen was touted as the absolute ideal way to fly. It was meant to overhaul the nation’s aviation system – a move from typical ground control to satellite and GPS tracker-based air traffic control. It was also meant to lessen the environmental impact that planes have.

But, how is the $40 billion NextGen project working out?

The Real Cost

According to an internal FAA report, the actual cost of NextGen is 3X higher than was originally quoted. And as far as the completion date goes, well, that’s not going to be in sight for another ten years. What went wrong?

The project keeps getting larger in terms of current technological development.

What NextGen Addresses

What’s not to love about the concept of NextGen? Who doesn’t want to improve the flying experience? Frequent travelers everywhere are hoping the government gets this right, and the program does what they say it will.

  • It is estimated three times as many planes can fly the friendly skies when all is said and done.
  • Less fuel is used due to more direct routes.
  • Routes become more efficient.
  • Planes rely on GPS trackers to get from point A to point B, instead of relying on ground control stations.
  • The GPS trackers will broadcast their position not only to ground control, but to other planes as well. Now, the other pilots can see where exactly their plane is in relation to the other planes in the sky at that time.

These are some pretty big developments. But with big developments come problems.

The Issues

Today, it seems that the need for more planes in the skies to accommodate the predicted influx of passengers has diminished. The FAA had initially predicted 1 billion passengers by 2014, but now they have changed that to 2027.

This could be related to the fact that airports across the nation experience quite a bit of congestion. According to the FAA, another reason this figure has changed is because takeoffs and landings are down 26 percent from 2000.

Although they promised a smooth implementation of the program, it has been anything but. The new landing procedures they spelled out were actually not possible for some planes. The GPS trackers they used had glitches in the software, leading to planes being improperly identified. Oops!

All of these problems have led to airlines hesitating before jumping on board with the installation of the NextGen system in airplanes.

Budgetary Woes

The big issue for lawmakers is the cost, amidst numerous budget cuts. Since the system is technically not slated for mandatory use right now, lawmakers are quick to put this program on the back burner. However, an advisory committee has recommended the FAA focus on 11 of the 150 initiatives the program plans to implement. These 11 initiatives are the closest to being ready.

If the new procedures are implemented, it could boost the economy while at the same time lessening the impact of air travel on the environment. How much less? It is estimated the more direct routes will lead to a reduction of emissions by 24,250 tons.

That’s like 4,100 people choosing to bike to work!

There are significant benefits to the NextGen program. Hopefully, the FAA can figure out a way to implement it in the best way possible — instead of nixing the idea altogether.

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