Correspondence

 
December 21, 2010

Letter to Chairmen Oberstar and Costello and Ranking Members Mica and Petri Regarding FAA's Efforts to Implement RTCA Task Force Recommendations for NextGen

 
 
 

Summary

On December 21, we issued a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Aviation Subcommittee regarding FAA's efforts to implement the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).   Last September, a RTCA task force recommended mid-term actions for advancing NextGen.  The task force findings and recommendations are consistent with our work, covering areas such as maximizing the use of equipment already on aircraft and new procedures, enhancing information sharing among FAA and airspace users, and reducing delays. We are reporting our results thus far with respect to (1) FAA's progress in responding to the task force report, (2) potential barriers to implementing the task force recommendations and realizing benefits, and (3) ongoing problems with a key modernization effort that could materially affect the pace of NextGen.  In summary, FAA is incorporating RTCA's recommendations in its NextGen plans but has not specified how it will execute key initiatives for addressing delays in major metropolitan areas.  For example, FAA is still working to establish definitive milestones to integrate new airspace designs and procedures at metroplex locations.  FAA also has yet to establish a mechanism for integrating metroplex initiatives with programs to better manage airport surface operations.  At the same time, FAA faces several organizational, policy, logistical, and training challenges that could impede NextGen implementation in the midterm; these include working across diverse agency lines of business and establishing policies on data sharing.  FAA must also resolve implementation problems with critical modernization projects, such as En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM)--a $2.1 billion NextGen tool for processing flight data--which has experienced software problems and delays at key sites.

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