NextGen moves closer to reality

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Next Generation Air Transportation System — known as NextGen — moved two steps closer to reality in late August when new programs became operational.

The FAA deployed a new system called Time-Based Flow Management (TBFM), a scheduling tool that meters aircraft through all phases of flight in order to deliver the correct number of aircraft to airspace sectors and down to the runway at the exact pace at which the aircraft can be accommodated.

The system has been installed at all 20 en route centers. It replaces Traffic Management Advisory (TMA).

Because it is time-based, TBFM enables controllers to manage aircraft in busy airspace and deliver a more consistent flow of traffic.

After training is completed, FAA expects the system to be the platform for NextGen operations. Later it will be used at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Baltimore International Airport and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Lockheed Martin produced the TBFM system. At all centers, air traffic controllers, technicians and installers worked closely to resolve technical issues.

The second step forward is Precision Departure Release Capability (PDRC), which was developed by the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) and then turned over to the FAA to further develop and implement in the en route centers.

PDRC was developed to ease problems caused when the uncertainty of departure times because of bad weather, heavy traffic, or other factors caused missed opportunities for delayed aircraft to efficiently merge into the flow of high-altitude traffic. PDRC’s surface model component accurately predicts both departure times and departure runways. It also provides ascent trajectories from takeoff to the merge point in the high-altitude stream of traffic.

Transferring PDRC to FAA marks the third time in the past two years that the two agencies have collaborated on the development of technologies to improve the handling, safety and efficiency of air traffic.

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