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12/4/2014 - NextGen System: Not Much Progress

The progress of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) was the subject of a recent House Transportation Committee hearing that XLA attended. The news was not at all encouraging leaving several Committee members frustrated.

As many know, NextGen is a vast interlocking technology that would reduce delays and cut travel time while allowing for future airline flight growth. All good things for XLA members. The project’s $40 billion cost is shared by the airlines and the federal government.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is in charge of bringing NextGen into its application stage. And therein is the problem. The FAA had promised to launch NextGen almost a decade ago and continues to drag its heels. The lack of FAA progress has been discouraging to many.

“It’s apparent that the process is broken,” Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) stated. He said that the FAA was “moving at a snail’s pace”. John Engler, the former Michigan governor who heads the Business Roundtable expressed concern “about the slow and uncertain pace of FAA efforts”.

NextGen is the best hope for avoiding gridlock in the skies with the airline industry projected to serve 1 billion passengers by 2021. With the help of GPS, planes would be able to safely travel closer to other planes and fly more direct routes. Those direct routes would save the airlines billions in fuel costs and reduce pollution.

So NextGen would reduce delays, speed travel, increase safety, lower costs and enhance environmental goals. So what gives?

The XLA and every other stakeholder needs the FAA to develop a sense of urgency for implementation of NextGen. The lack of progress is simply not acceptable to express shippers, airlines and passengers. Our Association applauds Congress for convening this hearing and holding the FAA accountable for its lack of progress towards approval of a much needed technology.

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