The Federal Aviation Administration has been working since 2012 to upgrade air traffic control systems across the country and Abilene Regional Airport is included on the list.
The FAA has spent 7.5 billion already on introducing the NEXTGEN system to major airports across the country and it will eventually be at all airports. The main change is moving from a ground-based radar system to a GPS system that will track aircraft.
“[NEXTGEN is] not just one set of equipment, it is different types of equipment kind of coming together for the airspace system,” said Don Green, director of transportation services at ABI.
Being able to track planes with GPS provides real-time updates to air traffic controllers, allowing them to be more efficient when directing aircraft from point A to B.
“They can go from Abilene Regional Airport directly to DFW or directly to Houston without flying an air route, which may not be directly the shortest distance point to point,” Green said.
Air routes are similar to using highways to get from one city to another – they’re not always a direct path. The direct routes will shorten flight times, resulting in less fuel usage. That should save customers money and time in the air.
Another change to be made would be transitioning from a verbal communication system to a data communication similar to text messaging. This allows controllers to handle more traffic by transmitting information faster.
This project is funded by the FAA but is still dependent on the Congressional budget. It is aimed to be in effect by 2025.