The Next Generation Air Traffic Control System, known as NextGen, will change the way GA flies, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said during a visit to AirVenture. In fact, the change is as “big a jump as going from a piston to a jet,” he said.
NextGen, which will take air traffic control from a radar-based system to a satellite-based system, will “put in the hands of GA approaches that we couldn’t justify in the past with ILS,” Babbitt said. “With NextGen, we can put satellite-based approaches on any runway in the country.”
Those approaches won’t require any equipment to maintain, he noted. “We simply have to design the approaches — the equipment will be in the airplane.”
That equipment includes ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast), which will give pilots the “exact” view as controllers, Babbitt said, noting situational awareness will be significantly enhanced. It also will put weather in the cockpit, increasing safety.
Babbitt, a longtime pilot, acknowledged that GA pilots are concerned about the cost of buying new equipment. ADS-B Out will be mandatory by 2020 for pilots who want to fly in the busiest airspace. Don’t want to invest in the new equipment? Don’t. “You will have a choice,” Babbitt said. “Like today if you don’t want a transponder you don’t have to have one, but that does limit the airspace you can go in.” It will be the same with ADS-B. If you don’t have it, you can still fly — just not everywhere.
But Babbitt predicts that once you check out the new technology, you will want it in your airplane. “Anybody who uses it will want it,” he said, noting “they will justify it in just two flights because of the safety factor. The weather alone is the same as in the most sophisticated airliner today.”
And Babbitt has a question for those who still don’t want to invest in the latest technology: “Do you plan to have the same transponder in 2020? No, so don’t buy a new transponder — buy ADS-B instead.”