Rinaldi, Wright Discuss Future of NextGen
Thursday, June 07, 2012
NATCA’s president and its director of safety and technology (S&T) were on hand this week in Washington to discuss the future of the NextGen program before an audience of aviation technology leaders. President Paul Rinaldi and S&T Director Dale Wright said controllers’ needs are in line with those of the flying public, and that all parties will benefit from strong growth in flight technology.
Rinaldi helped kick off the event during a high profile panel on Tuesday entitled, “NextGen Success – NextGen Advisory Committee perspective on ensuring a successful NextGen implementation.”
Moderated by Dave Barger, President and CEO of JetBlue Airways and Chair of the NextGen Advisory Committee, the panel also included Vicki Cox of the FAA, Sue Baer of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Ed Bolen, President of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) and Patrick Ky from SESAR, the European air traffic management organization.
The panelists agreed that the largest obstacles facing NextGen progress are procedure and policy issues. Cox said government and industry leaders must clarify concepts such as “best capable, best serve” and the best means to equip for NextGen. Aviation Daily reported, “best capable, best served – a concept where operators with cockpits equipped for NextGen would get more immediate controller attention – has its detractors.” Rinaldi, in fact, pointed out the political difficulties of moving toward such a policy, particularly for controllers who must work with the operators.
Aviation Daily went on to note, “Not all operators will have the financial resources to equip immediately; this is particularly true for the regional carriers, where there is no single equipment solution.
“Industry groups also agree that the future system must be designed to accommodate a variety of operators, since aircraft likely will contain a mix of equipment, ‘We are going to be operating in a mixed-use environment for a very long time,’ says Bolen.”
While these issues remain difficult and continue to be discussed and debated, what is particularly gratifying to Rinaldi is that NATCA continues to help lead the discussion forward as a valued stakeholder, with a high level of credibility as a safety organization.
“NATCA members are on the front lines of aviation safety and want to have a voice in the critically important issues that affect their profession and the NAS,” Rinaldi said after the panel. “To have a seat at this table is quite valuable and we want to retain that seat through hard work and building a record of successes that results from our involvement. It’s a great honor to represent our members at these high-profile events.”
Wright, the safety and technology director, spoke on a panel Wednesday that discussed where NextGen’s progress will ideally be by the end of this decade. He appeared with leaders from U.S. Airways, Raytheon, Airbus, the International Civil Aviation Organization, among others.
From left to right: Charlie Keegan, VP of Transportation Training and Integration Solutions at Raytheon; NATCA Director of Safety & Technology Dale Wright; John Kefaliotis, VP of NextGen System Development, ITT.
The panel agreed that ideally, by 2018, there will be a collection of solid components ready to be implemented. They agreed that it is critical to develop a system that is national in scope and easy to use as soon as possible to avoid the American airspace lagging behind China both in terms of volume and modernization.
Wright said that it is important to stay on track with developing a program that could hopefully be integrated nationally within a decade or so, because some controllers remember the failure of the automation system in the 1990s. He said controllers also have to fight the outside stereotype that they don’t want NextGen or any other automation services, for fear it might make their jobs redundant.
“For years we’ve had to fight this perception that we’re obstructionists, and, under this leadership, we’re not,” Wright said. “But controllers are skeptical, a lot of them won’t believe this is coming until they see it, so we need to stay on task and on time, so we can go to them in a couple of years and have some real dates to look forward to.”