FAA’s Progress and Challenges in Advancing the Next Generation Air Transportation System

Requested by the Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Aviation
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On July 17, 2013, the Inspector General testified before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Aviation regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) efforts to advance the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). While FAA has made some progress since it launched the program a decade ago, many NextGen initiatives remain in the early stages of development. The Inspector General focused on three priorities the Agency must address to realize NextGen’s benefits: (1) addressing underlying causes of difficulties with advancing NextGen, (2) maximizing near-term benefits of new performance-based navigation (PBN) routes, and (3) keeping the implementation of critical automation systems for controllers on track. First, the Inspector General noted that FAA’s difficulties with advancing NextGen stem from a number of underlying causes, including the lack of an executable plan, unresolved critical design decisions, undefined requirements, and stakeholder skepticism. Second, the Inspector General described that the key to obtaining user support in NextGen is quickly integrating new PBN routes and procedures at airports, which will maximize near-term benefits such as fuel savings. Finally, the Inspector General stated that, despite recent progress, FAA faces cost and schedule risks with its efforts to modernize automation systems that controllers use to manage traffic at both terminal and en route air traffic facilities.