Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Randy Babbitt said yesterday that implementation of NextGen, a satellite-based technology that will replace our current air traffic control system, will be mostly implemented by 2016, two years ahead of schedule.
NextGen is expected to make flying safer by giving air traffic control a better view of planes in the sky. It should also save money and fuel. The Dallas Morning News reports that Babbitt told the American Association of Airport Executives, "Our aircraft use 19 billion pounds of kerosene annually. NextGen can save 5 percent—that's a billion gallons of fuel, and at $2 per gallon, it's $2 billion worth of savings a year."
One of the main steps to be taken is getting the technology onboard the planes themselves. Some airlines, including American and Southwest, have been proactive and already prepared their aircraft for NextGen, while others have yet to do anything. Only 30 percent or so of planes are NextGen ready. Babbitt said the FAA is considering loans and other incentives to bring more airlines up to speed.
At the same time, Babbitt took a shot at the airlines, saying they are the primary cause of delays. He said the FAA is too often the "scapegoat" for delays he believes are mostly due to poor airline scheduling. "We cannot have 19 aircraft leaving at 0800 on two runways. It's not going to happen." Airlines, for their part, largely blame the outdated air traffic control system the FAA is currently trying to fix.
Whoever you believe, NextGen should help, as long as everyone gets onboard.