We should expect it by now. But since the FAA had had years and years to plan for the implementation of NextGen technology, one would think that it could have resolved the roll-out problems prior to the passage of the FAA Reauthorization Act. Instead, we have the Department of Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel once again chastising the FAA “for not fully resolv[ing] key organizational, policy, and training barriers to implementing NextGen capabilities in the near term.”
The Inspector General continued, stating that the FAA still has not established its overall costs or timeline and major computer glitches persist. Plus, completion of a program to better coordinate areas near big cities with multiple airports has been pushed back 15 months. Moreover, eight cities, including one of the most congested cities of all, New York, have been dropped from the program. See also, testimony of GAO’s Dr. Gerald Dillingham entitled “Next Generation Air Transportation System: FAA Faces Implementation Challenges.”
Do not worry, the FAA said at the hearing, we have it under control, we have learned from our mistakes. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari said that the FAA is working closely with industry to ensure that as many near term benefits as possible are delivered without losing focus on getting the US ready for what the FAA projects to be a doubling of air travel over the next two decades. Deputy Secretary stated that by 2020, the new system is expected to reduce delays by 38% compared to the current system. See also written testimony of FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta.
However, two issues remain on the horizon that threaten to doom even the FAA’s modest plans. First, the budget cuts that are slated to go into effect on January 2, 2013, could have a drastic effect on the FAA’s efforts to implement NextGen. Second, the Senate has held up the nomination of Michael Huerta from becoming the FAA Administrator. Mr. Huerta became Acting Administrator when Administrator Randy Babbitt resigned in December, 2011. Because he is currently Acting Administrator, Mr. Huerta cannot fill his old job of Deputy Administrator.
Industry groups, including the air traffic controllers group, the National Business Aviation Association and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, also testified at the hearign telling the subcommittee that they believe in the program and its importance for the future of U.S. air travel. The CEO of low-cost air carrier JetBlue Airways, Dave Barger, said new GPS technology is being installed on 35 of his airline’s jets and will be completed by the end of the year.