GAO Supplies Responses to Questions Posed at FAA Reauthorization Act Hearing

On March 10, 2009, the GAO made public its response to questions submitted for the record related to the February 11, 2009, hearing concerning  the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009.  At that hearing, Dr. Gerald Dillingham, Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, was asked a series of questions to which he replied that he would supply written responses at later date.  This document that GAO has now made public are those responses.

Most of the questions concerned NextGen, its implementation, and potential pitfalls that the GAO believes the FAA will encounter.

  1. How can the FAA provide incentives to get aircraft equipped to handle NextGen?
  2. Answer:  Through use of some combination of mandated deadlines, operational credits or equipment investment credits.  FAA has proposed a “best-equipped, best-served” program whereby FAA would offer those aircraft operators who choose to equip their aircraft as soon as possible with various operational benefits, such as preferred airspace, routings, or runway access.  Boeing has proposed a “reverse auction” in which federal investment tax credits would be combined with operational benefits.  This program, however would cost about $750 million annually over and above the cost of the implementation of NextGen.

  3. List of NextGen technology demonstration projects
  4. Answer:  See the next page for a table of the demonstration projects.

  5. Does the GAO distinguish between ATC Modernization and NextGen?
  6. Answer:  The ATC modernization program focused primarily on the acquisition of ATC systems. NextGen is a total transformation of the air transportation system, representing a paradigm shift from air traffic control to air traffic management. It is a shift from ground based radar control of aircraft to a satellite-based, aircraft-centric national airspace system.

  7. If Congress were to provide the level of funding outlined in the FAA’s preliminary estimate, approximately $1 billion more through 2012 than the most recent Capital Investment Plan, would it help to accelerate the development and deployment of NextGen?
  8. Yes, if Congress provided FAA with additional funding, that funding could be applied to a variety of projects and initiatives that would help to accelerate the development and deployment of NextGen.

  9. Would additional funding help to bridge the so-called “NASA Gap?”
  10. The NASA gap has increased in recent years from both the previous administration’s cuts to NASA’s aeronautics research funding and the expanded requirements of NextGen.

  11. Additional research, development and deployment that could be done with funding over and above FAA’s Capital Investment Plan funding levels?
  12. GAO found that avionics development and aircraft equipage are two areas that are critical and time sensitive for the implementation of NextGen and could be candidates for increased funding. In addition, additional funding for human factors to aid in the transition from “air traffic control” to “air traffic management” could be used to elucidate the new roles for all participants.

NextGen Demonstration Projects
Project
Description
Location
Partners
Surface Traffic Management Provide situational awareness information to and data exchange among airport stakeholders using technology such as Airport Surface Detection equipment-Model X (ASDE-X) to support new decision support tools. Memphis, John F. Kennedy, and Orlando airports Airport authorities, FedEx, and Northwest Airlines
Surface Conformance Monitoring Begin to link the movement of aircraft on the surface between air traffic control and future cockpit moving map displays. TBD TBD
Arrival Management (Continuous Descent Arrivals, Tailored Arrivals) Use integrated automation tools and data communication to provide a cleared trajectory path, which is transferred to the aircraft and flown by the flight management system. Miami, Charlotte, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Charleston (SC), and San Francisco airports NASA Ames, Boeing, Sensis, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, U.S. Air Force Mobility Command, Georgia Institute of Technology, MITRE Corporation, and foreign carriers
Three-dimensional Path Arrival Management (3D-PAM) Will provide, at high-density airports, a means to achieve accurate, predictable, and fuel-efficient routes, which are designed to decrease controller and pilot workload, as well as decrease adverse environmental impacts (emissions and noise) while potentially enhancing airport throughput. Denver NASA Ames, Boeing
Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS) Initially define and test Area Navigation/
Required Navigation Performance
(RNAV/RNP) approach routes into and out of Teterborough, and separate Teterborough traffic from Newark’s traffic. Operational demonstrations will be conducted using satellite navigation (SATNAV) technology in a complex environment to assist in identifying and implementing RNAV/RNP operations for performance-based navigation.
Newark and Teterborough airports NY Port Authority and Continental Airlines
Oceanic Trajectory Based Operations (AIRE and ASPIRE) Demonstrate potential benefits for oceanic trajectory optimization in terms of fuel savings and emissions reductions. Atlantic and Pacific Oceans (beginning in fiscal year 2010) operational areas Boeing; CSSI, Inc.; MITRE Corporation; American Airlines; foreign carriers and European partners
International Flight Data Object (IFDO) Conduct research, development, and laboratory proof of concept of IFDO exchange using collaborative flight planning capability for oceanic and en route air traffic services. Daytona Beach Airport Lockheed Martin, Computer Sciences Corporation, Boeing, Harris, Adacel, and Nav Portugal
Four-Dimensional Flight Management System One of a series of joint demonstration projects aimed at promoting global air traffic control leadership and collaboration with research and development activities in other countries. TBD TBD
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Examine potential for widespread integration of UASs into the future NextGen environment. Kennedy Space Center AAI Corporation, General Atomics, and GE
Network Enabled Operations Program Develop and leverage network information technology to provide an agile, highly connective network for net-centric shared situational awareness. TBD TBD
Staffed NextGen Towers Provide surface and tower services without the requirement for direct visual observation by air traffic control personnel from an airport tower cab. TBD TBD
Weather Integrated into Traffic Management Advisor and En Route Automation Modernization Research, evaluate, and demonstrate NextGen concepts, procedures,
technologies, and capabilities. Initial demonstration to show the incorporation of convective weather data into the Traffic Management Advisor tool to better maintain airport arrival rates.
Daytona Beach airport Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Lockheed Martin; Computer Sciences Corporation; ENSCO, Inc.
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