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New Horizons

FAA’s COO Looks Ahead to the Next 50 Years

Tim Arel says he’s committed to working with current and new airspace users.

As COO of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, Tim Arel has a job unique in aviation: he’s responsible for ensuring safe, efficient and secure air traffic services for approximately 50,000 aircraft operating daily across the National Airspace System (NAS), including the deployment and operation of NextGen.

Arel acknowledges that the past few years in aviation have been – and will continue to be – challenging, but he’s bullish on the fact that the foundational programs for NextGen have been deployed: Data Communications, Performance Based Navigation, ADS-B, System Wide Information Management, as well as their underlying automation and decision tools.

“Our work now is to continue to expand and enhance the foundational programs that are already available in the NAS and move them to trajectory-based operations,” said Arel. “We are working to take all of the data we are now able to collect and analyze with NextGen and translate it into real-time information available to all NAS operators through automation. This will make it possible for the NAS to safely accommodate traditional users as well as new entrants.”

“We are reshaping our priorities to maintain safety and efficiency while allowing for innovation.”

Arel’s comments come as the FAA anticipates a new age of aviation. “We are reshaping our priorities to maintain safety and efficiency while allowing for innovation,” Arel said. “Our goal is to continue to collaborate with the drone and space communities to ensure global harmonization on future UAS traffic management/advanced air mobility tools and policies so we can safely get to yes.”

Business aviation has an important role in these developments, Arel said, because “business aircraft are generally better equipped and are early adopters of a number of our technologies and procedures.

“Looking out another 50 years, it will be interesting to see how business aviation evolves,” said Arel. “Will we be flying today’s business jets? Supersonics? Will it be a combination of long-range jets, regional electric vehicles and local [electric vertical takeoff and landing] eVTOLs? Whatever the future may look like, we are developing systems that will work with all of those vehicles, as well as potential vehicles we have not yet seen.”

Regarding deployment timelines, Arel said, “Our planning horizon reaches through the 2030s, but we expect to see benefits continue to accumulate along the way. We will continue our work with NASA and industry stakeholders on testing technologies and procedures. This includes continuing to communicate collaboratively with the business aviation community because we’re successful only when we work together.”

Tim Arel’s 33-year FAA career includes ATO leadership roles such as director of safety, vice president of safety and technical training, and vice president of air traffic services. He began as an air traffic controller in 1989. Arel is a U.S. Air Force veteran and has worked as an emergency medical technician, firefighter, 911 operator and police officer.

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