On March 10, 2009, the GAO made public its response to questions submitted for the record related to the February 11, 2009, hearing concerning the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009. At that hearing, Dr. Gerald Dillingham, Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, was asked a series of questions to which he replied that he would supply written responses at later date. This document that GAO has now made public are those responses.
Most of the questions concerned NextGen, its implementation, and potential pitfalls that the GAO believes the FAA will encounter.
- How can the FAA provide incentives to get aircraft equipped to handle NextGen?
- List of NextGen technology demonstration projects
- Does the GAO distinguish between ATC Modernization and NextGen?
- If Congress were to provide the level of funding outlined in the FAA’s preliminary estimate, approximately $1 billion more through 2012 than the most recent Capital Investment Plan, would it help to accelerate the development and deployment of NextGen?
- Would additional funding help to bridge the so-called "NASA Gap?"
- Additional research, development and deployment that could be done with funding over and above FAA’s Capital Investment Plan funding levels?
Answer: Through use of some combination of mandated deadlines, operational credits or equipment investment credits. FAA has proposed a "best-equipped, best-served" program whereby FAA would offer those aircraft operators who choose to equip their aircraft as soon as possible with various operational benefits, such as preferred airspace, routings, or runway access. Boeing has proposed a "reverse auction" in which federal investment tax credits would be combined with operational benefits. This program, however would cost about $750 million annually over and above the cost of the implementation of NextGen.
Answer: See the next page for a table of the demonstration projects.
Answer: The ATC modernization program focused primarily on the acquisition of ATC systems. NextGen is a total transformation of the air transportation system, representing a paradigm shift from air traffic control to air traffic management. It is a shift from ground based radar control of aircraft to a satellite-based, aircraft-centric national airspace system.
Yes, if Congress provided FAA with additional funding, that funding could be applied to a variety of projects and initiatives that would help to accelerate the development and deployment of NextGen.
The NASA gap has increased in recent years from both the previous administration’s cuts to NASA’s aeronautics research funding and the expanded requirements of NextGen.
GAO found that avionics development and aircraft equipage are two areas that are critical and time sensitive for the implementation of NextGen and could be candidates for increased funding. In addition, additional funding for human factors to aid in the transition from "air traffic control" to "air traffic management" could be used to elucidate the new roles for all participants.