Jan. 26, 2015

Listen to this week’s NBAA Flight Plan podcast on NextGen.

NBAA Chief Operating Officer Steve Brown is one of a dozen aviation industry leaders, researchers, manufacturers and government officials who have been tasked by the National Research Council (NRC) to make recommendations on equipment and best practices to help air traffic managers fully implement NextGen.

This group is slated to make its recommendations by late spring, and those suggestions will be forwarded to the NRC’s parent organization, the National Academy of Sciences. The academy will pass them along to Congress for incorporation into the upcoming FAA reauthorization legislation to be considered later this year.

“FAA is now investing about $1 billion a year in creating new abilities and equipment. That’s money from the Aviation Trust Fund, created with our fuel tax dollars. Since we’re a direct stakeholder, we want to make sure that money is used wisely,” said Brown.

As NBAA works on a wide variety of NextGen-related issues, including ADS-B deployment, RNAV and air routing, Brown said the NRC effort aims to address more behind-the-scenes issues.

“We’re talking about systems FAA uses to provide services, so in this case, it’s ATC software changes, new equipment that will be installed in towers and en route centers….It’s not necessarily technology that pilots would recognize,” Brown explained. “There’s plenty of both hardware and software that’s ‘behind the curtain.’ All of it is integrated and all of it has to work in order to make NextGen functional.”

The NRC study committee plans to meet face-to-face once a month until its recommendations are finalized. But between meetings, Brown said members are in constant contact, on teleconferences and in web meetings.

“My sense is that we’ll include a couple of recommendations on best practices used by organizations other than FAA,” Brown said. “These may be in the realm of researching and certifying new technology. The idea is to create a more efficient, less costly process. We’ll probably have recommendations on how FAA can partner with the private sector to achieve those outcomes.”

The committee’s final recommendation will likely include methodology for bringing about the needed infrastructure and equipment changes more quickly and at a lower expense than currently projected, he added.

Many NBAA efforts, including the NRC committee work, are based on Member input, Brown explained. Through a number of channels, NBAA Members are providing constant feedback on operations, equipment and costs.

“All of that – literally dozens of times a day – helps us formulate recommendations for progressive improvement,” he said.