Quantum Leap: NextGen and the GA pilot

For all the talk about NextGen — the Next Generation Air Transportation System — there are many pilots who still think it’s somewhere far off in the future. Think again.

“People are starting to see that we’re way beyond the drawing board or the science experiment stage,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “Many components of NextGen are in place, and NextGen is showing results today.”

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What do GA pilots think about NextGen?

We asked our Facebook fans and subscribers to The Pulse of Aviation about their take on NextGen. Is it the best thing to happen to flying in a while? Or is it just more government-mandated expense to keep airborne?

Here are just a few of their comments:

  • Best thing to happen. But the cost will have to come down before it is widely accepted by individual operators.

  • More expense to satisfy Big Brother!

  • I want no part of it…invasive and too expensive.

  • The only reason anyone in GA should know anything about NextGen is to keep the sport of aviation from being screwed by it.

  • ADS-B is dependent upon GPS. The protection of the broadcast frequencies of our orbiting navaids will have to be ironclad. There can be no political indulgences granted for those wanting to test the compatibilities of new communication technologies in or near the frequency ranges of a GPS signal. The NTSB posted general aviation safety on its Most Wanted List. They should be one of many agencies that require the FCC coordinate more regularly with the FAA on potential navigation frequency interference in the interest of flying safety. ADS-B is a promising technology with many potential benefits. But as always, the Devil is in the details.

  • I agree that the devil is in the details. And, one significant devil is the cost to equip an airplane with ADS-B. Considering the majority of privately owned GA aircraft are 30+ years old, the cost to equip these planes becomes 25%–30% of the value of the plane. In these cases I believe many of these owners will simply be forced to vote with their wallet, and not install ADS-B. It simply makes no economical sense.

  • If a significant portion of the GA fleet does not equip with ADS-B, then the whole system will be marginalized. The FAA needs to make this equipment affordable to the vast majority of owners.

  • ADS-B (aka NexGen) is a fantastic system EXCEPT for two major issues. (1) The uplink NWS Radar imagery is late and too old to be of any value. (2) Worse, the FAA decided to BLOCK uplink under you are ModeS’ing. Their reason is that they want to FORCE you to take advantage of the new technology. In other words, the FAA DOES NOT CARE ABOUT FLIGHT SAFETY. Any pilot who sees what ADS-B provides WILL DECIDE TO TRANSMIT and make the necessary expense to do so. Just like the FAA’s “the iPAD is a new and revolutionary device for aviation” statement clearly indicates their lack of knowledge. There have been tabletPCs for nearly 15 years that do what the iPad does at half the cost.

  • I am a retired air traffic controller and a big supporter of the NextGen program. If the FAA follows through with the concepts the benefits will be worth the change. We have to embrace change as technology allows.

  • As a day good weather VFR pilot I don’t see any benefit for me and my type of flying. Being based in mid-Michigan the only traffic we see is at 30k ft. For the IFR guys that fly in the system it may make sense, but for average VFR GA pilot not much added value. Besides the cost currently to equip my plane exceeds it value by 2 to 1! I guess unless the FAA will foot the bill to equip my plane I’ll just have to give the major airports a wide berth if I get close!

  • NexGen must be considered as an AID, not the end-all and be-all just as any other of our “modern” aids like radar, wx, even radios and other avionics. These aids make the airplane more useful as did the controllable pitch propeller, the retractable landing gear, flaps and reliable engines. BUT, NexGen can be an excellent aid in support of see and be seen operations as well as IFR as there are many areas of the country where radar is quite limited for GA aircraft flying under 10,000 feet. Thus it would provide a very significant margin of safety both in the air and and could provide more safety for SAR operations. If I were active these days I’d go for it in a short minute.

So what do you think? Add your comments below.

Time to get familiar with NextGen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — It has been said by FAA officials that moving from the present air traffic control system to a satellite-based one is like trying to replace a flat tire on a car while it is speeding down the highway.

And while implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) may be behind schedule and over budget, it is moving along and pilots need to get familiar with it.

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NextGen months behind schedule, fiscal cliff could push it even farther

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is months behind schedule and FAA management faces many challenges before the massive project completes its movement from the planning stages to implementation.

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NextGen technology launched in western Colorado

DENVER – The FAA and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) have activated new NextGen technology that will help pilots address inclement weather around Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) in western Colorado.

The technology, known as Wide Area Multilateration (WAM), improves safety and efficiency by allowing air traffic controllers to track aircraft in mountainous areas that are outside radar coverage, FAA officials explain.

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Company demonstrates NextGen tracking of manned and unmanned aircraft

Worried about the proliferation of unmanned aircraft in the National Airspace system? You’re not alone. Officials at Sagetech recently posted a video of a demonstration of the use of an off-the-shelf “NextGen” Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system, along with an iPad, which can help pilots track unmanned and manned aircraft around them.

In the demonstration, the unmanned aircraft (Arcturus UAV) is carrying a Sagetech Mode S ADS-B Out Transponder. The manned aircraft (Cirrus) is carrying a Sagetech Mode S ADS-B Out Transponder with integrated GPS Receiver and a Sagetech Clarity ADS-B Receiver, which receives the signals from the unmanned and manned aircraft and connects to the iPad via WiFi link and plots both aircraft on the map.

FIS-B: What every GA pilot always wanted (at least I do…)

This is the 14th in a series of articles looking at the impact of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) on GA pilots.

The last discussion on Traffic Information Service–Broadcast (TIS-B) was a clear example of how the FAA is trying to put together a Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) program that all of us in general aviation can sink our teeth into. Flight Information Services-Broadcast (FIS-B) is no different. Again, it is offered to primarily general aviation airplanes that incorporate a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) to operate under ADS-B.

So what is FIS-B? Flight Information Services-Broadcast will provide free weather to pilots, along with all the goodies that all of us use when planning most flights. I say “most” because I still see so many of my fly buddies go for weekend putts and never even consider any of these services.

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The fizz on TIS

This is the 13th in a series of articles looking at the impact of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) on GA pilots.

In my last post, ADS-B: Twice as nice, I spent a fair amount of time detailing the fact that there are two separate ADS-B systems in the U.S. — one for the big boys at 30,000-plus feet and another for the rest of us at 20,000 feet and lower having all the fun.

However, the FAA knew straight away that there was going to be an issue with GA in implementing ADS-B, due to costs, so agency officials started thinking of ways to bribe us into coming “on board” with ADS-B.

The FAA will offer two services that should be beneficial for all of us. One is TIS-B (Traffic Information Service–Broadcast) and the other is FIS-B (Flight Information Service–Broadcast). I doubt that any GA pilot would refuse either of these services, so it does seem that the FAA came up with a cool little offer to get all of us on board. That being said, there is still a ways to go before everyone out there goes for it, but it is at least a start.

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NextGen key to economic growth in New York

In a move that signals that the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is key to economic growth in New York, the New York Aviation Management Association (NYAMA), an organization representing the leadership of New York’s aviation industry, has joined the National Alliance for the Advancement of NextGen (NAANG), as have about a dozen of its members.

NYAMA’s participation in the group signals the strong support for improvements in air traffic systems by New York State aviation leaders, officials said. [Read more...]

NextGen Institute meeting spotlights road ahead

The NextGen Institute, a U.S. government-private sector partnership, held its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.,  Sept. 21, where government officials and industry representatives gathered to highlight accomplishments in the development of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) and to discuss the road ahead. A report at Rotor.com, the website of the Helicopter Association International, quotes Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari: “NextGen will affect the global aviation system for the better. NextGen is the United States’ chance to continue to lead the world in aviation.”

But the report continues, quoting former FAA Administrator Marion Blakey, who noted that if the Jan. 2 sequestration process indeed happens, it would be a “blow at a very critical point” in the NextGen implementation program and “delay, diminish, and jack up the price” of equipage. Read the entire report here.