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Challenges in Implementing Performance-Based Navigation in the U.S. Air Transportation System

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On July 29, 2009, the Principal Assistant Inspector General for Auditing and Evaluation (PAIGAE) testified before the House Subcommittee on Aviation regarding FAA’s efforts to modernize airspace through Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP). The PAIGAE noted that RNAV and RNP are key to NextGen’s success and have shown some benefits, but fundamental issues need to be addressed. While RNAV and RNP have considerable industry support, some stakeholders are dissatisfied with the Agency’s overall method for implementing these initiatives. Of particular concern is FAA’s practice of laying most “new” routes over existing routes and the fact that air carriers are not using them. Stakeholders and FAA also disagree on the potential role and responsibilities of non–Government third parties in speeding the adoption of RNP. Unless these are clearly defined, it will be difficult to establish an effective oversight framework for third parties. To ensure the safe and effective implementation of RNAV and RNP–and to realize their full benefits–the PAIGAE stated that FAA will need to focus on the following areas: (1) aligning Agency goals with producing quality RNP procedures that have significant benefits rather than focusing on the number of procedures, (2) establishing priorities for new routes and funding requirements for related airspace redesign projects and systems that controllers rely on to manage traffic, (3) performing cost–benefit analyses in close coordination with all stakeholders before and after implementing RNP procedures, (4) ensuring controllers and pilots are aware of and trained on procedures before they are implemented, and (5) developing and establishing a policy on how and to what extent third parties will be used to help support FAA’s NextGen efforts and ensure an effective oversight approach.