Local Facilities at Center of FAA’s Progress on NextGen, says Shelley Yak
July 24, 2016
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  • The July 18 editorial of The Press of Atlantic City, “Region and nation again told to wait for air traffic upgrade,” inaccurately describes the Federal Aviation Administration’s modernization of the nation’s air traffic control system, known as NextGen.

    The FAA has made significant progress on NextGen over the past few years. Completing the transformation to NextGen is one of the agency’s highest priorities. NextGen so far has yielded $1.6 billion in benefits to airlines and the traveling public. With consistent funding from Congress, we expect to deliver $160 billion in benefits nationwide by 2030.

    FAA facilities at Atlantic City International Airport (ACY) are at the center of the NextGen modernization. The FAA Tower at ACY already has the new, state-of-the-art Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) displays, which enable operation of current and future NextGen capabilities.

    In addition to upgrading the automation systems at towers, we have completed installation of a powerful technology platform for the new high altitude air traffic control system known as ERAM. This system allows controllers at 20 air traffic control en route centers across the country to handle current flights and future increases in air traffic safely and more efficiently. It also is a platform for many other NextGen applications.

    Last year we finished the coast-to-coast installation of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) network, which is already enabling satellite-based air traffic control in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico and other locations. ADS-B traffic and weather broadcasts are now available across the country. We are working with the airline industry and the general aviation community to help them do their part to meet the FAA requirement to install ADS-B equipment by 2020.

    We are making significant progress in other major NextGen priority areas, including Performance-Based Navigation, which is replacing old flight paths with more efficient satellite-based procedures at a rapid rate. We now have more satellite-based procedures in the skies than radar-based procedures, including six NextGen procedures at the Atlantic City International Airport. We have created new NextGen routes above some of the nation’s busiest metropolitan areas, including the northeast corridor, saving millions of dollars in fuel, decreasing carbon emissions and cutting down on delays in each city.

    In addition to these improvements, we have set clear priorities on delivering more benefits in the next three years. These range from improved separation standards for heavy aircraft to better coordination of traffic on the airport surface and streamlined departure clearances using data communications. Data Comm technology is giving pilots and controllers a new, more efficient way to communicate critical safety information through a digital text system.

    The FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township is the nation’s leading air transportation system laboratory, and it is at the center of all of current and future NextGen accomplishments. Modernizing the air transportation system is possible as the result of the research and testing conducted by almost 3,500 engineers, scientists and other technical experts at the FAA Tech Center. Any technologies we implement must be reliable and safe from the outset. Our outstanding team at the Tech Center makes NextGen possible.

    The U.S. aviation system is a valuable asset for the American public. The FAA’s investment in NextGen is creating a more flexible and adaptable aviation system that ensures we will continue to have a thriving aviation industry and a healthy and sustainable national airspace system. We have invested $7 billion in NextGen since 2007, and with consistent funding from Congress, we will complete the major NextGen modernization objectives by 2025.

    The FAA indeed has made significant progress in modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system.

    Shelley Yak, of Little Egg Harbor Township, is director of the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township.