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NATCA Supports William J. Hughes Technical Center As Essential for Advancement of NextGen Modernization – (3/11/2014)

CONTACT: Sarah Dunn, 315-796-1560

NATCA National NextGen Representative Melvin Davis affirmed NATCA’s strong support for the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center as a facility to research, develop and test new systems related to NextGen modernization before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation today.

Testifying at the Technical Center, Davis discussed the value of how it is the only place in the country where current National Airspace System (NAS) systems can be tested alongside new technologies. To facilitate that testing, the Technical Center has technologies and equipment, expert maintainers, engineers, and scientists intimately familiar with the structure and operation of those technologies and equipment.

Successful deployment of NAS modernization, Davis added, requires a balanced approach comprised of healthy dialog between the vendors providing technology enhancements, the Technical Center personnel that shepherd the capabilities through the modernization process, and the air traffic controllers who are the “end users” of the technologies and capabilities that will enhance the efficiency of the NAS.

“These three essential elements [vendors, Technical Center, and end users] must be methodically incorporated into the deployment process,” said Davis. “As we have seen in the recent past, under-appreciation for any one of these elements introduces significant risk that will manifest itself as the deployment process progresses.”

Davis explained that the last four years of intensive complex system deployment have revealed that regardless of the automation platform, one theme connects them all: the essential role of the Technical Center as a facilitator and enabler of the NAS modernization.

“The Technical Center is the only place where vendors and current air traffic controllers have the opportunity to interact with FAA experts across all of the domains that make up our National Airspace System,” said Davis. “NATCA believes the Technical Center is providing invaluable opportunities at all stages of development, testing, and deployment, and we look forward to continued collaboration and cooperation.”

Additionally, Davis emphasized that NATCA is proud of its involvement in all aspects of the process as an essential stakeholder, and that NATCA and the FAA both recognize stakeholder involvement is the key to continued success for NextGen.

“Our presence, as well as that of industry leaders, has been an important addition to the discussion on modernization,” he said.

Other highlights from Davis’ testimony:

• “The NAS is comprised of several different systems such as airports, aircraft, and air traffic control systems. Air traffic control is operated by humans and supported by a variety of automation systems. Each of the systems performs a unique task, but must cooperate with the other systems to ensure the safe transfer of information. The Technical Center is a national asset that houses a functioning replication of each of these individual subsystems that comprise the NAS. More specifically, the Technical Center is essential for the integration, verification, and validation and testing of components that make up NextGen.”

• “Another phase of procurement is the testing and evaluation of new products. The Technical Center is able to replicate an operational air traffic facility in a laboratory environment where testing and evaluation can take place independent of live traffic. The FAA employs current air traffic controllers and other end-users to test these products in simulated air traffic conditions. This concurrent testing would be impossible to conduct in the NAS while maintaining live traffic.”

• “NextGen is going to modernize the NAS by bringing in new systems or using current systems in new ways. The Technical Center ensures the smooth integration of these systems so when they move from testing to actual deployment in the field, they will behave as expected. This allows the FAA to work on adding new systems without introducing risk or interrupting the NAS.”