More on the Chicago Tribune Article

What more can I say about this article sent to me by an alert reader?  Well, let’s see.

“If you can make the airspace more efficient, the airlines will step up and incorporate it,” said Capt. Brian Will, director of airspace modernization and advanced technologies for American Airlines. He thinks the FAA should learn from the interstate highway ban on bicycles, scooters and other slow-moving vehicles.

General aviation pay close attention.  Does your Cessna qualify as a bicycle?  Note the word “ban.”  Can’t pay, can’t play…that seems to be NextGen’s not-so-clearly-stated mantra.

About 40 percent of U.S. commercial aircraft are equipped to fly the new routes, according to the FAA. But air-traffic controllers have no way to distinguish planes outfitted with the latest tools from those with older systems. And while the FAA plan incorporates the air-traffic management philosophy “best equipped/best served,” many controllers aren’t trained to direct state-of-the-art aircraft to the new air lanes.

A couple things here.  For as many equipment suffixes as we have now, how difficult do you think it would be for the FAA to add a few more?  Hmmm, that would help us distinguish those planes.  But wait, if you look at the Pilot-Controller Glossary of the 7110.65T, it mentions one of the main types of equipment that RNAV-equipped aircraft is GPS.   Oh, and lookee here, it seems there is already an equipment suffix in the 7110.65T to let us know which aircraft can conduct RNP operations.  /R

I note that the rest of the paragraph is carefully worded.  “Best-equipped, best-served” is an “air-traffic management philosophy,” not the air traffic control philosophy of “first-come, first-served” and “they all walk away.”

One of the first NextGen initiatives is to allow planes to fly shorter, direct routes by eliminating their dependence on ground-based radar towers. The idea is to make better use of a free and nearly limitless resource —airspace — instead of leaving airports like O’Hare to focus on costly runway construction projects to reduce delays.

I’m curious, how many controllers give pilots “Direct xxx” as often as they can, even it’s only within the confines of your own sector/airspace?  I know if I can shave a few miles off someone’s route and their equipment suffix says they have the capability, they get a more direct routing.

One other thing:  for as often as I hear getting rid of/not depending on ground-based radars, I’m not hearing a corresponding “this is how we plan to ensure we see the aircraft if terrorists turn off their transponders” scenario.  We’re fast approaching the 9-year anniversary of 9-11 and I’d really like to know there is a concrete plan.

Spaced-based navigation aids offer an unprecedented level of accuracy and confidence for pilots and controllers that a plane is adhering closely to the desired route. As a result, aircraft can fly precise routes; swoop in for landings in a continuous path, rather than being stepped down slowly; and operate in tight formation to maximize use of runways, officials said.

I’m not sure what else I can say that already hasn’t been said, by Don Brown here, or here, or here or our alert reader.   But the absolute best than can be done for capacity is the ability to run minimum separation on final to a runway under all weather conditions.  And the truth is, it might actually be doable during fog, rain, etc. with GPS.  Not going to happen, though, during snowstorms.  Planes take longer to get off icy runways.

But the bob-and-weave they’re talking about from departure to cruise altitude back to arrival?  Guess what, they’re still going to have to do that in some fashion, and according to the FAA, they’re going to have to do it through more aircraft at closer spacing.  Best hope that equipment doesn’t fail.

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3 Responses to More on the Chicago Tribune Article

  1. I’ve read Don’s blog for years. His criticism’s are spot on.

    NextGen will go out the window every time weather (read: “Build Ups) are in the area.

    What happens when controllers are no longer trained to control and the pilot doesn’t like the computer generated answer to his “request” for an alternate routing/altitude?

    Mayhem, malice, midair.

    Once any pilot disregards any part of the system, “Anarchy Traffic Controll” be will the order of the day.

    It’s going to be ugly.

    I like what you’re writing/reporting on here.

    Keep up the good work.

    Mike, ret.

  2. Papa_Charlie says:

    What happens during severe solar flares or storms? Does the entire NAS go non-radar rules? Will anybody remember how to do that, for days or weeks? What happens when the other 30 aircraft that were given direct DEN all arrive at the same place at the same time? What was the point, everybody can’t be number one. NexGen is great as another tool for us to use, but it’s not the panacea the FAA shirts make it out to be. But how would they know, none of them have worked traffic in 10-20 years, and are completely clueless about the real workings of ATC.

  3. Pingback: The Costs of NextGen Keep Rising | Martinlady's View Through the Looking Glass

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