US is getting further behind in airspace management technology


US NextGen air traffic control technology is a decade old even as it’s introduced and the nation is rapidly falling behind other countries with more advanced air traffic management systems.

A panel of US airlines and the head of the US National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) outlined the consequences of not having a dependable, steady revenue stream to support national airspace growth through technology advances.

Speaking at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Aviation Symposium May 10, NATCA president Paul Rinaldi said FAA was doing better at implementing some satellite-based NextGen technology, but the problem was that this technology was already 10-11 years old. “It may be that we are moving up to an iPhone 1 level, but some of our competitors are on iPhone 6 or 7. Our system is very big, but that’s not an excuse for why we can’t streamline our processes and give our stakeholders what they need to be more efficient,” Rinaldi said.

JetBlue Airways EVP operations Jeff Martin said US NextGen roll-out progress was “a horse race” with airlines leading sometimes and the government leading other times.

Rinaldi warned that neighboring airspace management organizations, such as NAV Canada, had the stable revenue streams that enabled them to modernize, adapt and be more dynamic.

As an example, Rinaldi said NAV Canada was “running full steam ahead” to adopt a space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) air traffic surveillance system, while the US was stuck with an “archaic system”.

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