It’s a question that FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said he gets a lot: Is NextGen real? During a speech at the Aviation Week and Space Technology NextGen Forum, Babbitt answered: “Yes, NextGen is quite real. It really can happen. It really is happening.”
Babbitt went on to say that the uncertainty surrounding NextGen is due, “in large part, to the memories of the historic steps and missteps we’ve all made as we’ve tried to modernize the system. Goodness knows, it’s not easy to get pilots, controllers, engineers, the airlines and manufacturers to agree on anything. If you take a look at the history of the FAA, you can see as far back as the 1960s arguments were heating up between the engineers who could create automation systems and the controllers who had to use those systems and that equipment. Keep in mind; this was taking place at a time when a mainframe took up an entire floor.
“But this gave way to the 70s and the 80s and well into the 90s,” he continued. “The Advanced Automation System, AAS, still leaves a bad taste to some in this room. I know that the taxpayers and stakeholders were frustrated with how that turned out. But that was then and this is now. Let me give you a quote: “The FAA is not the poster child for mismanagement.” That’s GAO talking there, not me. There were lots of folks who leveled criticisms back in the day, and I can’t say that they were wrong. But the people who continue to argue that we cannot deploy equipment and that we cannot make the NextGen transition are talking about a different decade.”
Babbitt reported that “fully 90% of the programs that we are undertaking are on schedule and under budget. We reached a turning point: we successfully launched the Free Flight tools. I think that was a turning point, and I think that the pilots out there who have come to benefit from the fruits of the user request evaluation tool and traffic management advisor would have to agree.
“Are we committed to NextGen? Absolutely,” he continued. “The budget this year for NextGen is $867.7 million. The long-term commitment is $9.6 billion through the year 2015 — that is a lot of money.”
You can read his full remarks here.