Stakeholders stress need for NextGen equipage incentive

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Pressure continues to build for an expedited induction of the next generation (NextGen) air traffic control system, with stakeholders again pushing the US Congress to offer incentives for outfitting aircraft with NextGen-compatible avionics.

The timetable is too long, United Airlines senior vice president of operations Joe Kolshak said today during a US Senate aviation operations, safety and security subcommittee hearing.

Deadlines of 2020 and 2025 do not make a good business case because it is difficult to ask a CFO for tens of millions of dollars when equipage is not required and benefits will not be seen for 10 to 15 years, he explains.

Benefits can be delivered with GPS and automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) in the next three to five year, he says.

Kolshak, speaking on behalf of the Air Transport Association of America (ATA), also pressed the government to accelerate its investment in proven NextGen technology.

When industry stakeholders requested $2.5 billon for NextGen equipage in the federal economic stimulus earlier in the year, Congress allocated $200 million.

Given the financial health of the industry and the economy, the FAA may have to offer incentives to airlines for them to make NextGen investments, says Gerald Dillingham, director of physical infrastructure issues at the Government Accountability Office.

Among the incentives FAA is promoting is preferred airspace, routings or runway access for operators that choose to equip aircraft early.

Several Senators agree on the need for faster implementation. "We need to make progress," aviation subcommittee chair Senator Byron Dorgan says. "Some are talking about NextGen 2020, 2025. In my judgement, that pace is too slow."

Interim goals proposed during the hearing include the creation of a single NextGen implementation office.

The office should be fully funded this year to centralize NextGen planning and implementation, says Honeywell Aerospace marketing and product management vice president T K Kallenbach.

Regulators should also set adoption rates for Required Navigation Performance (RNP) this year, he says. Usage of the procedure should increase 20% year over year until 90% of commercial flights use the approach, Kallenbach adds.

Ground-based augmentation system should then be installed in the top 20 congested airports by 2011, followed by the top 50 congested airports by 2013, he says. Then the government should accelerate ADS-B rollout, aiming for 2015 instead of 2020, the Honeywell executive recommends.