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Next Generation Air Transportation System

by mrzee


  • Introduction
  • Next-generation transformational programs
  • Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B)
  • Collaborative air traffic management (CATM)
  • System wide information management (SWIM)
  • Data communication program (DATACOM)
  • Objectives of next-generation aviation
  • Possible solutions to next generation aviation challenges
  • Summary
  • References


According to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Next Generation Air Transportation is an umbrella term for the ongoing and wide-ranging transformation of the National Air System (NAS). It represents an evolution from ground-based system of air-trafficcontrol to a satellite –based system of air traffic management (ATM). It is a plan developed with an aim of improving the current infrastructure and it is intended to reach its objective in the year 2025 with its midterm in the year 2018 while its first year of implementation was 2012 and it is meant to take place across United States (Lodrigues, & Cusick,). The 2010 Strategy for the Next Decade was established with a plan to concentrate on enhancing operations.

The Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) was established in 2003 to prepare and manage the system’s development. The air transport infrastructure of the next decade is primarily planned to mitigate issues with airspace pollution at high-density airports (Rodrigues and Cusik). It is claimed that these airports have a number of flights taking place every 24 hours and that human traffic is often strong annually. To gain this improvement, the FAA has therefore ranked them top in the list; the New York Airport and Dallas Fort Worth International Airport are an example. Delta Airlines and FedEx have been showcasing this device.

Refining and improving satellite navigation through augmentation systems will assist pilots in all flight phases that are: taxing, to take-off, en-route flying and landing in all weather conditions, reaching the level of safety thatwill be required to cope with the continuous increase in the number of flights. It is an important development because flights could be for commercial purposes or leisure purposes within the same airspace thus the need to separate them.

Next Generation Air Transportation System

 The old system provides navigation to pilots through the aid of equipment like Non Directional Beacon (NDB) which is a radio transmitter put on the ground at a known location from which the aircraft can track to or from, whereas VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR)  which is used to provide a more accurate directional information. Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) provides distance information to and from the facility. Lastly, there is the Instrument Landing System (ILS) that provides lateral and vertical guidance to aircraft approaching landing.  All these facilities had to be located in positions where they were accessible for maintenance and optimum navigation purposes.

Currently in the old system domestic airspace is monitored by the radar and there are specific paths that planes follow. Whereas the oceanic ones follow tracks (prescribed routes for airplanes) which are in line with the current wind. To separate the two paths i.e the domestic and oceanic airspaces there has to be a greater distance separation of the two tracks to avoid collisions. This consequently affects fuel consumption and air travelling costs since there are some unutilised air tracks that could be well utilised to lower the two elements.

The more reasons as to why the ground –based system is being phased out is because of the disadvantages that accompany it and the can be listed as follows: there is high carbon emissions and noise pollution which in return have a negative impact on airline and airport operational costs because it directly affects the approach and departure routes to and from the airport facilities. There is also the problem of aircraft congestion and delays in the ports because they all (aircrafts) depend on the same radar information and routes for movement (Lodrigues, & Cusick). There is also high fuel consumption by the crafts because they use a lot of the fuel to burn the engine before take-off and so to land at different junctions so as to receive more direction before proceeding to the next destination.

Next Generation Transformational Programs

The Next Generation is an evolution process from ground-based system which useAir Route Surveillance Radar, Airport Surveillance Radar, and airport surface detection equipment to operate. Next Generation has therefore developed the following six areas for coverage and they include which form its backbone: Automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B), Collaborative air traffic management (CATM), System wide information management (SWIM), Data communication program (DATACOMN), NAS voice switch (NVS) program, Next Gen network enabled weather (NNEW).In this new system the first Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) developed and is in use is THE Global Positioning System (GPS). It was first developed for military purposes but was made accessible for civilian use later on.

Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B)

Under : Automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) the following make up this: automatic; which periodically transmits information with no pilot/ operator input required, dependent; this is where aircraft position and velocity vectors are derived and dependent on the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network, Surveillance; it is known as a new method of determining positioninstead of using surveillance radar, Broadcast; information is transmitted to anyone with the appropriate ADS-B equipment.

According to Serine (2015) ADS-B is more accurate than radar because it offers a more precise information regarding the aircraft location, speed and flight path..She says, ADS-B Out is an aircraft that will transmit their data to ATC and other aircrafts while ADS-B In receives information from the Out one and displays it on the cockpit.

Collaborative Air Traffic Management (CATM)

In the second area which involves CATM is aimed at supporting improved flight planning and ATC flexibility. This is meant at obtaining in- flight adjustment to obtain more favourableroutings and altitudes to save time and money. This is made possible by a software architecture accommodative to aircraft flight operational preferences to the greatest extent possible in a collaborative fashion working closely with ATC.

System Wide Information Management (SWIM)

SWIM as a third pillar of Next Generation Aviation System is all about networking the Next Generation data to provide management on surveillance, weather, flight data, aeronautical and NAS information. SWIM consists of standards, infrastructure and governance enabling the management of ATM information and its exchange between qualified parties via interoperable services. According to FAA, the international civil aviation organization and Europe adopted in 2005 so as to seamlessly provide aviation information to ATC customers in a simple and useable format.

Data Communication Program (DATACOMN)

 Data communication program (DATACOMN) as the forth platform is a new method of communication where majority of air/ ground exchanges are handled by digital data exchange to aircrew or the flight management system. This is meant to provide more efficiency and safety in the process (Rodrigues,). This is meant to replace to oldmethod which is analogue and exhausting in terms of labour and time.

NAS Voice Switch (NVS) Program

The fifth platform which is NAS voice switch (NVS) program provides networked voice communications that supports the evolution to Next Generation operations Replaces existing 13 voice switches at En Route, Terminal, and support facilities with network-capable switches to enable flexible voice communications (Stephen, 2014), these linkages support sharing of airspace within and across facility boundaries thereby simplifying the system and saving on costs.

Next Gen Network Enabled Weather (NNEW)

Next Gen network enabled weather (NNEW) is meant to improve weather: observations, improve weather forecasts, data disseminationand weather integration into decision support tools. It is meant to reduce the workload on the controller and improve the quality of the decisions made. This data will be readily available to all those interested in travelling in the airspace anytime without having to go through much hustle since it is networked and disseminated in the aviation industry. It is also accurate since it is digitally collected and analysed before it is disseminated to the public.

Objectives of Next Generation Aviation

 According to Cusik and Rodrigues, Next Generation has some objectives to offer to the airspace system and they include: making it safer because satellite provides faster updates with greater positional accuracy versus conventional radar for surveillance and navigation. It is because the data is collected digitally and analysed scientifically hence seen to be accurate. The issue of networking also helps to ensure that the processed information is accessible to many in a timely manner. The objective is enhanced more by the ADS-B Out equipment which directly relays its information to the ATS and other aircrafts too.

 Two, make it more efficient because delays result in loss of income and productivity. This has been a proven fact because eighty percent of the delays experienced in the world are due to weather. Therefore if the problem of weather predictions is curbed most of these delays will be reduced. Delays are also caused by the lack of many direct flights to many destinations, therefore Next Generation is meant to help make more direct flights available so as to save time.

 Third, make it flexible since demand and congestion increases dramatically and the system must be therefore be flexible to accommodate NAS user needs. Lastly, make it sustainable since they have an impact on the environment with petroleum based fuels, carbon emissions and noise.

Objectives Of Next Generation Aviation

GAO and DOT Inspector General’s offices agree that the following are potential challenges that are likely to face this system: New technology requires a lot research effort. The engineers and software developers as well as the system analysts have to dig deep into their intelligence to design things that are practical and feasible in relation to the Next Generation system. It is important that whatever is developed is forecast to the future needs so as to eliminate redevelopment of another system to meet future needs in the aviation industry.

Pilots and controllers will need to adapt new roles and adapt new regulations. In order to make these people conversant with the new system it will require some training and practice so as to ensure a smooth transition into the newness. It will also call for extra cost so as to bring all these into board. This might end up being an expensive affair because the analogue method is the most widely used world over and even the education curriculum are still not adjusted to the new system.

Human factor risk will be mixed with old NAS system and can be complicated. This is evident in humans where by people are always opposed to change. This is because change is bound to bring some unsettlement in the comfort zones because of the uncertainties that always lie ahead. Some people will always resist change thereby affecting the new system that is the offing.

 UAS into new NAS system.Compatibility of the new and old aviation system is kind of difficult because it is challenging to replace a 20th century radar-based system with a technologically efficient GPS-based system which is described to be far reaching (Washington post, 2014). This is so because the new system is a vast interlocking array of technology that promises to reduce delays, fuel use and carbon footprints while allowing projected growth in the airline industry (Lodrigues , & Cusick)

Initial cost of Next Generation is very high ($40 billion), and maximally the performance of Next Generation can cost as much as 160 billion. This amount seems to be a lot among the funding agencies which are the government and the airport authorities. Therefore because of this hurdle the progress of developing and launching this system is moving at a slow pace.

Another challenge is that ADS-B signals are unencrypted and unauthenticatedleading to tracking of USAF aircraft during combat. This means critical information about an airline is open to unauthorised people who could hack into the system and affect an entire aviation industry or war effort. Therefore, this means that the developers need to check on the systems program in a keener way.

As much as the older system still has an effect on the environment, the trials that have been carried in relation to the Next Generation system still show that the same pollution is experienced. Some of the pollution includes noise pollution and air pollution. In these pollutions, it means that the routes that have been developed for the planes are constant and therefore, the residents within the routes are all the time likely to experience the disturbance as long as the planes are flying above their areas (Dargon, 2007).). Even those areas that were formally not affected could fall into the same category since the system aims at utilising optimally the most convenient altitudes available.

Possible Solutions To Next Generation Aviation Challenges

About the future of Next Generation, a couple of agencies and institutions are working towards the realisation of the dream and some of them include International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAP), FAA and university. As for ICAP it has launched an association of aviation professionals and it is called Next Generation ration Aviation Professionals (NGAP). According to ICAP website, the initiative is meant to provide adequate qualified and competent aviation professionals capable to manage operate and maintain future international air transport system. Professionals being discussed here are regulators, airlines, aviation associations, students and training institutions.

ICAP does this initiative by organising symposiums and exhibitions whereby in these meetings issues like work programs, establishment of stakeholders and partners, as well as lessons professionals, are learning from the Next Generation procedures. Those that are spearheading this process and other experts in the aviation industry are the ones that offer the discussions and teachings to the participants. It is vital because if the success of the new system is dependent on the reception it receives from the aviation professionals.

In a report compiled by Dillingham, 2012, FAA has also rolled out a plan meant to cover 36 of United States airports. The report aims at three areas which are: introducing multiple-runway operations, performance- based navigation procedures and sharing of more data about surface operations. When it comes to multiple- runways operations, it is designed to raise efficiency in the airport by reducing delays sincemany air tracks are provided therefore, many aircrafts can be attended to at the same time. According to Dillingham, 2012, FAA’s second plan which is providing performance-based navigation procedures are meant to repetitive and predictable flight paths. This is important because it actually concurs with the objective of Next Generation which is to reduce costs, save time and secure the air transport system. This is boosted by direct routing of flights.

This performance based navigation analytically can be seen to be having the following advantages: there is clarification of the ways all diverse RNAV systems are used, it facilitates the operational approval process for an aircraft, avoidance of the need to develop sensor- specific operations with each new evolution of navigation and lastly, reduction of the need to maintain sensor-specific routes and the associated cost of installation and maintenance (Landry, 2011). These advantages can be contrasted with the limitations of the old system which are now being turned into benefits as: airports which could not be accessed have a new route designed for them, routes can also be designed to fly around noise sensitive areas unlike before and routes can also be separated so as navigation does not have be from point to point.

With all this, the third element in FAA’s plan is to transform its communication from voice to digital so as to enhance safety and efficiency. This is vital as the voice system has been criticised as being inefficient and mistakes as opposed to using digital means to transmit data with FM’s which has been tested to be more efficient.

Currently the JPDO has come up with two important documents that it believes will stir up the realisation of the system. They are: the Concept of Operations and the Enterprise Architecture. TheConcept of operations describes the Next Generation vision in a readable and prose format whereas; the Enterprise Architecture serves as the blueprint for Next Generation. The integrated Work Plan is the comprehensive multi-agency plan to achieve (Graham, 2009). These are considered to be milestones as the first one gives a description of how air traffic will be managed; security provided to guard the airspace, people and cargo. It gives the bottom line on which partnerships can be formed with the aim of assessing the concepts and developing policies and research agendas.

The second milestone is a structured approach to the first milestone in which comprehensive details are given for each stage of accomplishment. It is therefore, charged with the duty of defining key capabilities of Next Generation system, how they fit together, timing of their implementation and how they affect the aviation community (Dillingham, 2012).The integrated Work Plan is the next milestone under development which describes the transition from the current air system to the future air transportation system. The future one has an aim of focusing on traffic management rather than control. The JPDO states that the three documents will be reviewed and updated periodically as situations and times dictate.

In brief, it can be said that the adoption of a satellite-based aviation infrastructure would have a huge effect on the aviation industry. It has or will improve safety, efficiency, capacity and reduce environmental pollution (Benbassat, 2010). The Next Generation is an evolution process from ground-based system which use Air Route Surveillance Radar, Airport Surveillance Radar, and airport surface detection equipment to operate. Next Generation has therefore developed the following six areas for coverage and they include which form its backbone: Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), Collaborative air traffic management (CATM), System wide information management (SWIM), Data communication program (DATACOMN), NAS voice switch (NVS) program, Next Gen network enabled weather (NNEW).In this new system the first Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) developed and is in use is THE Global Positioning System (GPS). It was first developed for military purposes but was made accessible for civilian use later on.

  • Benbassat, D., & Ileri, L. (2010). Next Generation Air Transportation System: Data Communications. Proceedings Of The Human Factors And Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 54(1), 114-115. doi:10.1177/154193121005400125
  • Dillingham, G. (2012). Next Generation Air Transportation system. [Washington, D.C.]: U.S. Govt. Accountability Office.
  • Dargon, J., & Nutt, P. (2007). The future of aviation. New York: D. Appleton & Co.
  • Graham, B. (2009). Air transport: Horizon 2020: Key factors and future prospects. Journal Of Air Transport Management, 3(1), 47-48. doi:10.1016/s0969-6997(97)82791-3
  • Landry, S. (2011). The next generation air transportation system: An approach to function allocation. Hum. Factors Man., 22(4), 351-361. doi:10.1002/hfm.20265
  • Lodrigues, c., & Cusick, S. Commercial Aviation Safety (5th ed., pp. 189-193). New York: Mc Graw Hill.
  • Taneja, N. (1971). A model for forecasting future air travel demand on the North Atlantic. Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Flight Transportation Laboratory.

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