FAA reports on drones and NextGen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The FAA has made some strides in moving towards modernization, but is behind schedule and not fully geared for some other important issues, a Congressional committee discovered Wednesday, Feb. 5, in a hearing designed to check on the FAA’s progress in the two years since reauthorization.

Rep. Frank LeBiondo, chairman of the aviation subcommittee, said Congress wants to know not only the status of  the agency’s implementation of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, but must also begin preparing for reauthorization of the FAA next year. Roughly 200 mandates to the FAA were included in the last Reform Act.

Most of the testimony from the three witnesses at the hearing centered on the Next Generation Air Transportation System — NextGen — and integration of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) — drones — into the system.

Appointment of an assistant administrator to head up NextGen development has been a major step in moving to this satellite-based air traffic system, but the program is falling behind schedule, the committee learned.

Because the change to a new system covers almost every branch of the FAA, concern was expressed that the agency does not have a coordinated effort to get communication and cooperation to advance the program on an appropriate timetable.

Drones are expected to increase manyfold over the next five years. How they are assimilated — safely — into the national airspace system must be developed. FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told the committee the agency sees drones added to the traffic system in small classes with no single set of regulations covering all.

Besides Huerta, other witnesses at the hearing were Calvin Scovel III, inspector general of the Department of Transportation, and Dr. Gerald Dillingham, civil aviation issues of the General Accounting Office.


  1. Jeff says

    Yes, I agree with the comments above that NextGen is failing and the ADS-B if flawed in it’s present concept. I can’t help remember back when the FAA said the “Microwave Landing System” (MLS) was the way of the future. How long and how much money was spent on that idea. Hmmmm.

    • ManyDecadesGA says

      Ah Yes !!!… The Mythical Landing System (MLS). Another excellent example.

      Along with ISMLS TALAR STATE A-SCAN CoSCAN TLS etc,. … and politically installed towers in sleepy places like Johnstown PA, …and now the already obsolete, outrageously expensive, and completely unnecessary WAAS (completely redundant now that we’ll have nearly 100 SVs flying in orbit with both GPSIII plus Galileo, and others too). But somebody in GA must be willing to pay the up-coming likely high user charges for WAAS, and flawed concept use of ADS-B, because the airlines sure aren’t going to pay for it, just for GA. Ridiculous, the money the FAA wastes.

  2. ManyDecadesGA says

    Calvin is correct, NextGen is failing, and is never going to work as presently configured. ADS-B, while a fundamentally useful “interim” idea, is being implemented with completely erroneous concepts, and flawed assumptions. The 2020 ADS-B mandate needs to be immediately shelved, before GA users waste any more money on poorly conceived dysfunctional installations. Obsolete WAAS, and airspace wasting LPV, need to each be scrapped, in favor of RNP based dynamic trajectory management. With RNP based 4D trajectories, and proper use of present FMSs, even UAVs could already start to be efficiently integrated into the global airspace system THIS YEAR, and not even have to wait until 2015. The airlines have already wisely figured much of this out, and are unlikely to waste even a dime configuring for NextGen’s alchemist’s “Fool’s Gold”, until and unless it is substantially reconfigured. FAA’s still preserved concept of hand carrying airplanes (or UAVs) 1:1 through the NAS, with ADS based “pseudo radar vectors” is roughly the equivalent of implementing a nuclear powered carbon fiber composite buggy whip.

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