NextGen: Where do we go from here?

Over this past year this series has covered just about all aspects of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and what it will do for General Aviation.

In addition, we went even further, delivering an historical perspective of the entire National Airspace System. We believed it was necessary to remind each aviator that our way of life will always be in a state of change.

Even more important is that these changes are not linear by any means. In fact, they follow more of an exponential curve than anything else. The more we learn and the more we develop, the larger the level of technological growth over every year.

FlytheDistanceWill it end here? Not a chance in hell. So why do GA pilots need to wrap their arms around all of this? Answer: To adapt to these new systems and to practice our legal right to fly.

While researching these articles over the past 16 months, we have had the opportunity to meet other GA pilots, industry leaders, sales organizations and, yes, even some of the regulatory people who keep things legal. In doing so we discovered that the majority of general aviation pilots we sat with and interviewed had negative responses to NextGen for two primary reasons: Costs and the unwillingness to learn a new system.

We spearheaded the cost early on in the series, advising the entire GA community that the market would, in fact, drive new products supporting NextGen and that prices would decline over time. Plus, given the importance of NextGen, there would be plenty of educational material available to get everyone up to speed with the operation of ADS-B.

That was over a year ago and what do you know? In just one year makers of GPS products, flight planning systems, audio systems, interface electronics, and communications are now either delivering ADS-B products or are in the development stages. These products are being introduced with all kinds of options that can be fine-tuned for each and every airplane in GA. Price, form, power requirements and even antennas have all been engineered to be retrofit and operate in GA aircraft ranging from a non-electric Aeronca Champ to Piper Navajos. In fact, it seems that the entire GPS sector is now moving into ADS-B and NextGen almost as if we asked them to go there. Not sure we can take that kind of credit, but the fact remains, they’re here.

The job now is to research these products as they hit the marketplace to see exactly what each system can offer each GA pilot. A discovery process will take place reviewing these systems in an effort to detail each product’s capability including:

  • Features and Benefits
  • Ergonomics
  • Form Factor and Size
  • Readability
  • Operation
  • User Interface
  • Installation (if any)
  • Power Requirements
  • Remote vs Wired
  • Companion Products if required
  • Graphics with Display Devices
  • Brightness
  • Portability
  • ADS-B In or ADS-B In and Out
  • True Battery Life compared to claims
  • RF Sensitivity
  • Certified or Non Certified
  • And, the big one: Price.

We will also take suggestions from you, the reader, on any functions that you may want to be informed about. As an example, we have many people out there who have no electrical power in their aircraft. These people alone have a relatively large dynamic of requirements for what they would like in their particular aircraft. Being able to speak to so many people that live within GA will allow for a true understanding of what people were looking for.

Each product will first be bench tested in our labs for their operational characteristics. This is were all the measurements will take place, such as DC current demands, battery life, heat, harnesses, and RF measurements depending on each system.

From there we go to the air with two types of aircraft, our very own Aeronca Champ and our Rockwell AC 11. In-flight testing will bring up even more information on each product from both the practical and technical side of operations.

All the companies out there that are dibbling and dabbling with ADS-B for GA, please contact us and send your products in so we can “show your stuff.”

Does it stop there? No, we have just begun.

At this year’s SUN ’n FUN, slated for April 9-14, General Aviation News and Matchbox Aeronautical Systems will provide live courses on NextGen. I promise this will not be the typical boring presentation you would get from a PowerPoint, talking points event. This will be a presentation with fully animated slides teaching and explaining the entire system. We will follow the history as we did here in print and demonstrate how the system works globally. It will be very interactive and, for sure, lots of laughs. Of course, there will be time for open discussions and a Q&A at the end. We can also provide you first hand information on some of the systems we were able to sample.

So if you are going to SUN ’n FUN, make sure to check out SUN ’n FUN Today for the schedule.

This is the latest in a series of articles looking at the impact of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) on GA pilots. All articles are archived on Go to Blogs, then NextGen to catch up on the series.


  1. Scott says

    ADS-B Out – When will Drones (UAS or UAV) and military aircraft operating in the National Airspace System broadcast position and speed data? When?

    • Jay B says

      ADS-B and UAVs are two different subjects. UAVs can already broadcast position and speed. Broadcasting position and speed has been around aviation for a very long time. What you’re probably wondering is why the majority of the population is unaware of UAVs flying around. It’s because they don’t just broadcast information to everyone.

  2. Jim Klick says

    ManydecadesGA used a bunch of acronyms that I am not familiar with. I soloed in 1960, am
    currently flying a Pitts S1S, and when my current medical expires I am going the light sport
    I was awarded the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award in 2011, am an AOPA ASN, as well as a Board Member of my home airport (KLOT) so this is not my first rodeo.
    The LSA I buy will be a non-electric Champ or Taylorcraft, but since LOT is less than 2 NM
    inside the Chicago Class B Airspace, I will probably be required to buy all of those acronyms
    that ManydecadesGA described, move to an airport further from home, or hang up my flying
    gloves and go back to sports car racing.
    I cannot understand why the alphabet groups, of which I am a member, cannot get the idea
    that not very many pilots will put $20K or more in gadgets into a $30K airplane that rarely flies
    over the horizon.

    • ManyDecadeGA says

      I strongly concur with Jim Klick. What is needed, and is entirely possible now, in an iPad era, is a good FMS like interface to an electronic map display, driven by a GPS/Galileo low cost inertial kalman filtered position, that does at least down to RNP .1 with Baro VNAV, GLS, and a simple data link (e.g., VDL Mode 2 based in a form like an old Narco Mk 12), that can in turn exchange 3D and 4D RNP based trajectories with ATS and other aircraft. This could be done, and needs to be done for less than about $2,500 to $5,000 per vehicle for GA, since it is needed for UAVs, LSAs, as well as retrofit in airplanes like Jim’s and mine… so we can fly EFR …where ever we need (i.e., Electronic flight rules), and not have to move anywhere. If the Wright Brothers had to meet FAA’s rules, and use Class A,B,C,D,E, and G airspace, they probably wouldn’t have invented the airplane. If you think this isn’t possible, just watch the incredibly good ATS separation performance of a gnat swarm or a flock of birds, and wait for the displacing technologies that will make NextGen, and G3000s, and EASy/HARd, and Fusion/Confusion, look like the stone age. And the gnats and birds use a food fed Kalman filter weighing less than a microgram, and costing ZERO.

  3. ManyDecadeGA says

    Any new avionics system that doesn’t have available to implement a small simple OEM configuration, as well as a retrofittable map display and PFD, ….supporting 3D RNP (e.g., VNAV), with growth potential to RTA, … and GBAS for GLS use, … and a low cost VDL Mode 2 data link (the equivalent of the old Narco Mark 12), ….and a simple ADS as presently used in Australia or Canada (and NOT the U.S. rule gold plated version), ….with an FMS like pilot friendly interface (and NOT like even the latest GA GPSs and 1000 or 3000 series units – which still have very poor, complex, cumbersome, and vulnerable use interfaces), ….while dumping obsolete concepts like WAAS (SBAS) and airspace wasting LPV,… is simply building an expensive 21st century “boat anchor”. This capability can already almost be done on a PC or iPad, and it is only a matter of time before it happens elsewhere in the world, far from FAA eyes. When that happens, and it will eventually, the present generation of GA “NextGen avionics” here in the U.S. will be seen for what it is…. Expensive “Eye candy”, …with little or no useful added function, beyond that of a simple handheld boat or car GPS map, before the velocity lockout was adopted.

  4. Guido says

    The two biggies most of us are waiting for are:
    1. BIG price reduction from $800 for an ADS-B receiver
    2. Affordable ADS-B out equipment.

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