Skift Take

If Democratic and Republican politicians are truly concerned about the nation's economic vitality, not to mention aviation safety, then they should ensure that NextGen and FAA air traffic controllers don't become the fall guys.

Satellite-based global positioning systems are not just for car-services like Uber and the latest mobile app keen on detecting your location.

On National Aviation Day, which marks Orville Wright’s birthday on August 19, 1871, the Next-Generation Air Transportation System, a partnership between the FAA and the airlines, is slowly beginning to take shape.

Over the Summer, for example, JetBlue began using NextGen’s satellite-based system for approaches to runways 13L and 13R at JFK with the airline’s Airbus A320 fleet, and became the first FAA-approved carrier to operate such flights at the airport.

The FAA says the aircrafts’ “constant vertical descent” and “precise curved flight path to the runways” are geared to provide shorter flight times; reduce airport congestion, flight delays, noise, and greenhouse gas emissions; and save about 18 gallons of fuel per flight.

Here’s a video depicting a JetBlue NextGen GPS arrival at JFK:

Reducing airspace clutter at JFK would consequently provide relief at LaGuardia, Newark, and Teterboro airports in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area, officials believe.

The FAA, since 2011, similarly has been testing ways to streamline flight arrivals and departures in nearly two dozen metropolitan areas where multiple airports vie for airspace.

NextGen’s implementation, considered vital for aviation safety and to alleviate increasingly congested airspace, is far from assured.

The National Alliance for the Advancement of NextGen has been picking up support from airlines, airports, municipalities, hotels and other businesses, pushing for funding and to make NextGen a reality.

The FAA budget may be the focus of heightened hyper-partisan maneuvering next year, and the aviation industry has to be concerned whether NextGen funding will fall victim to the in-fighting.

These are sobering thoughts on National Aviation Day 2012.


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