NextGen Faces Ongoing Challenges, IG Says

by  Bill Carey, AIN Online


House aviation subcommittee chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) said the DOT IG’s latest progress report offers an opportunity to ‘reset’ the NextGen program. (Photo: Bill Carey)
July 22, 2013, 1:00 PM

Ten years into the NextGen ATC modernization effort, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration faces ongoing cost, schedule and technical risks in achieving its objectives of managing increasing air traffic more efficiently, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT) inspector general’s office.

In testimony before the House Aviation Subcommittee on July 17, DOT IG Calvin Scovel said the FAA’s performance is falling short of expectations for NextGen due to “several underlying programmatic and organizational weaknesses.” He said the effort lacks an “executable” plan because of unstable requirements, unresolved critical design issues, frequent turnover in leadership and undefined promises of benefits.

The Vision 100–Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act that President George W. Bush signed in December 2003 launched the NextGen modernization. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), the aviation subcommittee chairman, said the latest IG report on its progress “provides an opportunity for all of us to hit the reset button and make sure that we are headed in the right direction” on NextGen.

Appearing at the hearing with Scovel, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta defended his agency’s progress. “We are delivering the objectives of NextGen as promised,” he said. “We have consistently met more than 80 percent of our implementation milestones over the last five years, which is extraordinary when dealing with a complex technological program. Overall, NextGen is on track and, yes, there have been delays. But we’ve learned from these and incorporated those lessons in the way we move forward.”

Huerta said the FAA has made possible a 20-percent increase in airport capacity at Memphis International Airport by revising wake turbulence separation standards. Reducing the “divergence” angle of departing aircraft led to a 10-percent increase in departures per hour from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, saving airlines $20 million in fuel and reduced waiting times in one year.

Scovel reported ongoing risks and delays in the FAA’s “metroplex” initiative to improve traffic flows at congested metropolitan airports, in its consolidation of ATC facilities at central locations and in its implementation of new automation systems at terminal and en route facilities. Even the agency’s near-term priority of developing more efficient, “performance-based” navigation (PBN) procedures for airport arrivals and departures faces limitations due to the lengthy process of developing the procedures and the lack of controller policies for authorizing them. Only 3 percent of eligible airline flights use advanced PBN procedures at six large airports in the New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., areas, the IG said.

Scovel’s report also described as unrealistic the FAA’s initial goal of completing the NextGen modernization in 2025 at a cost of $40 billion to government and industry. It said that an internal study in 2009 by the multi-agency Joint Planning and Development Office found that the FAA’s NextGen plans “were not risk-adjusted to realistically reflect what was technologically feasible and therefore could not be implemented as promised.” The study concludes that achieving NextGen will cost significantly more and take up to 10 years longer than originally planned.


Aviation chief defends NextGen progress as funding cuts loom

By Matt Haldane

WASHINGTON | Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:19pm EDT

(Reuters) – The head of the Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday defended the “NextGen” program to modernize U.S. flight control systems, telling a government panel the effort has made progress despite delays and is “designed to be flexible.”

“Overall, NextGen is on track,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told a House of Representatives aviation subcommittee.

But an aviation industry group later responded that the expected cost and efficiency benefits from the program have so far not been widely realized.

The FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System program was launched to switch flight control operations from radar to GPS-based technology, allowing more traffic and reducing flight delays. The program was set up to be implemented in stages between 2012 and 2025.

Huerta said the program has had some successes, noting the deployment of 500 satellite systems at ground stations. Specific airports have already seen increases in air traffic and millions of dollars in savings, he said.

“As of this very moment, air carriers that take advantage of precision routing get into and out of airports more quickly and efficiently, which reduces fuel use, saves money and decreases aircraft exhaust emissions,” Huerta said in a prepared statement.

However, several members of the subcommittee said organizational troubles within the FAA were delaying NextGen.

“There are serious concerns regarding the FAA’s ability to effectively and efficiently implement NextGen,” said committee Chairman Frank LoBiondo.

Calvin Scovel, the inspector general with the Department of Transportation, said government budget cuts, known as sequestration, had already halted some projects to ease congestion at U.S. airports.

The FAA faces more cuts as well. Representative Rick Larsen noted that a proposed budget recently passed by the House Appropriations Committee is 22 percent less than requested and is the lowest capital funding since 2000.

“At those funding levels, the agency would be required to restrain (NextGen) efforts greatly,” Scovel noted.

But Huerta said that while the proposed cuts may cause the latest programs under NextGen to be suspended and might cost up to 700,000 jobs by 2021, the program was “flexible” enough to adapt.

“The industry and we have agreed that it would be prudent for us to have a clear sense of … priorities,” he said.

The DOT’s Scovel, however, said the technology had not been widely adopted and that delays and costs meant the program would cost “significantly more” than the planned $40 billion and could take 10 years longer than the original 2025 deadline.

“I would urge the committee to hold the FAA’s feet to the fire,” Scovel said, suggesting the inspector general’s office could be used to ensure the FAA meets its goals.

Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade organization that represents the commercial aviation industry, said in an email that the new procedures are not yet widely used.

In some cases, airlines have invested in equipping planes with GPS, but have not been able to take full advantage of the modern technology, she said, adding FAA data shows that flight delays cost airlines and consumers about $31 billion annually.

“To date, FAA has received adequate funding for NextGen,” Medina said. “And it speaks to the fact that we need policies and procedures in place to enable us to use the equipment we have already invested in.”

(Reporting by Matt Haldane; editing by Andre Grenon, G Crosse)

ADS-B Configuration Choices

For more background, refer to my previous article, “ADS-B, What You Should Know” at

coveragemap3Above is a very cool ADS-B “buildout” map, courtesy of ForeFlight, showing the progress from 2/27/2012 to 6/27/2013. They are “getting there”.

The FAA expects to have ADS-B fully deployed by the end of 2013 or early 2014.

Do I need ADS-B? Only if you want to fly your Mooney after New Years Day, 2020 in airspace that presently requires an aircraft to have a transponder.

Will I need a panel installed WAAS GPS?

Yes. ADS-B will use your GPS location and transmit that information to the controllers. WAAS allows the accuracy needed and a portable GPS won’t do the job. So, if you don’t have a panel mounted GPS, let’s start from the least expensive options.

ebay has some used GNS 430 WAAS for sale at around $7,300, plus installation. A new Garmin GTN 650 will cost almost $10,000 plus installation.

Want a bigger screen? The Garmin GTN 750 starts at about $15,000 plus installation.

If you already have a non WAAS Garmin 430, then the upgrade to WAAS will cost about $3,200 plus two hours of labor to install the new antennae. Garmin does not service the non-WAAS models. However, Garmin will upgrade the non-WAAS 430/530 to WAAS. After that, your  GNS 430W or 530W are 100% supported by Garmin.

ADS-B “In” Goodies for those flying in the “Blue” areas depicted in the map above.

Can I receive weather and NOTAMs?

Yes. Flight Information Service-Broadcast (FIS-B) gives you FREE access to about the same information that is currently provided by a SirusXM Radio “Aviator” subscription:

  • METARs & TAFs
  • Non-Routine Aviation Weather Reports (SPECI or Special Report)
  • Both Distant and Flight Data Center (FDC) NOTAMs
  • AIRMETs and SIGMETs, including Convective SIGMETs
  • Special use Airspace (SUA) status
  • Temp Flight Restrictions (TFR)
  • Winds and temps aloft

FIS-B may soon receive more weather information, such as Lightning, Turbulence NOWcast, Icing NOWcast, Cloud tops, and 1 minute AWOS – all uplinked every 10 minutes. In contrast, XM’s data service packages can be seen HERE. To be fair, XM’s weather is more timely and, depending on the package, contains more analytical products.

But wait, there’s more!

Can I receive a traffic display in my cockpit, just like the big jets?

Yes, from the Traffic Information Service-Broadcast (TIS-B). The data link transmitter that commercial, biz jets and high performance / high altitude aircraft will use to report their position and altitude is a Mode S transponder that uses a feature called “Extended Squitter” (ES). These transponders transmit using the 1090 MHz band, which is the  international standard for ADS-B Output. A Mode S transponder with ES is required if you are flying in class A airspace (Flight Level 180 and above) or internationally.

Specific only to United States airspace – and not approved elsewhere – is the UAT data link transmitter, which is an alternative to the Mode S transponder. It transmits your position and altitude on the 978 MHz band. In 2020, UAT transmitters may only be used on GA aircraft that are flying below FL180 in the USA.

GDL-88 trafficAt left is a traffic display on a Garmin GTN 750. TIS-B will uplink to ADS-B “In” aircraft, allowing a traffic display in the cockpit. It will also display on a GNS 430 / 530.

How do I receive FIS-B and TIS-B?

There are two ways.

#1: Install a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) in your aircraft. Only the UAT has the bandwidth to receive the FIS-B and TIS-B signals. (ES transponders don’t have enough bandwidth). Garmin’s UAT is the GDL 88 ($3,700 – $4,000 plus about 20 hours to install). The GNS 430W / 530W or the newer GTN 650 / 750 displays can present the data in the cockpit.

#2: Buy a portable FIS-B and TIS-B receiver. These connect either with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to an iPad and power the applications:

The ForeFlight app works with the Stratus receiver. Stratus 1 sells for $700. It provides a Wi-Fi connection that allows ForeFlight to receive FIS-B. It also receives TIS-B (only ADS-B participating aircraft), using the 978 MHz band. That’s the band used by GA aircraft operating below Class A airspace.

Stratus 2 ($900) uses both the 978 MHz and 1090 MHz bands. This allows you to see ADS-B participating air carrier and private or commercial operators of high-performance aircraft as they “Squit” their location using ES Transponders. This makes the Stratus 2 traffic picture more complete. The Stratus 2 also features a built-in AHRS for backup attitude information and is 30% smaller, with improved GPS performance and better heat resistance. See the Stratus video HERE.

The Dual XGPS170 ($700) powers: AOPA FlyQ EFB, Avilution (Android app), Bendix King myWingMan, eKneeboard, Flight Guide iEFB, Naviator (Android app), WingX Pro7, and EFIS models from GRT Avionics. It connects to the iPad via a Bluetooth connection, providing FIS-B and TIS-B. Watch the Dual XGPS170 video HERE.

The Garmin Pilot app, works with the Garmin GDL 39 receiver ($700). It connects via Bluetooth, allowing the Garmin Pilot to receive FIS-B and TIS-B. It also supports portable Garmin GPS units like the aera and GPSMap. See a GDL 39 video HERE.

When it comes to receiving Traffic (TIS-B), it becomes a complicated mess that would thrill the Marque de Sade. You see, the concept behind ADS-B is that airplanes, using their WAAS GPS position, will report their position, altitude, speed and other data via a UAT or ES transponder datalink to FAA ADS-B ground stations. This is ADS-B Out. ADS-B compiles position reports from participating aircraft and crunching this data packet to a specific aircraft. That data shows where nearby aircraft are located, complete with relative altitude and target trends.

Without ADS-B Out, and using a portable ADS-B In receivers do a good job with weather (FIS-B), but they are fallible when it comes to traffic (TIS-B). Without ADS-B Out, you’re not a participant, so you are unable to receive a custom traffic packet. If there is a participating aircraft nearby, it’s your lucky day – you can see his traffic packet, but it won’t be centered on your airplane.

Portable ADS-B Receivers and TIS-B Traffic Displays – Three Scenarios

Stratus-no ADS-B groundScenario #1: You’re flying with a portable ADS-B receiver like the Stratus, GDL 39 or the Dual XGPS170, but you don’t have an ADS-B Out transponder like the Garmin GTX 330ES installed in your panel. You’re not near an ADS-B ground station, so you will only receive TIS-B target information for airplanes that are transmitting ADS-B Out via air-to-air.  (Most airplanes do not have ADS-B Out, but this will change after 2020 when the FAA’s mandate goes into effect.)

Stratus-no ADS-B-but close

Scenario #2: You are flying with a portable ADS-B receiver like the Stratus, GDL 39 or the Dual XGPS170 without an ADS-B Out transponder like the Garmin GTX 330ES installed in your panel.

You happen to be close to another aircraft that is ADS-B Out-equipped and within range of an ADS-B ground station. The ADS-B Out airplane can relay traffic information to your ADS-B portable receiver in a 30-mile bubble and in this case, you will see what Santa has broadcast to the ADS-B Ground Station. That is, you’ll see all in-range Mode C and ADS-B targets.


Scenario #3: You have an ADS-B Out transponder like a Garmin GTX 330ES  installed in your airplane. Using your installed ADS-B equipment, you’ll be continuously transmitting to the ground stations and creating your own bubble of traffic information. In this best-case scenario, you’ll see all radar traffic within a 30-mile diameter and 3,500 feet of your altitude on your iPad using portable ADS-B receivers like the Stratus, GDL 39 or the Dual XGPS170.

Scenarios – Thanks to Sporty’s

So ask yourself, “Where do I fly?” 

Let’s assume that you are equipped with a WAAS GPS, a Mode-C Transponder, and: 

           You desire to fly in Class A airspace or internationally after 2020, and 

           You want ADS-B weather and traffic displayed on the GPS unit(s) 

 Option 1 – FIS-B and TIS-B Panel Display. 

Upgrade to a Garmin GTX 330ES Transponder – $3,500 + about 4 hours to install. This satisfies the 2020 ADS-B out requirement. 330 INSTALL NOTES: If you are replacing a Garmin GNX 327 transponder, from the outside, it looks like a simple ‘slide out the old and slide in the new’ install. However, the GTX 330ES is 2.55 inches longer than the 327, so “some assembly required”. Good news: Both transponders use the same antennae. THEN . . . . . .  Install a Garmin GDL 88 Diversity Datalink – $3,745 – $4,000 + about 20 hours to install. This uplinks FIS-B and TIS-B data to your display(s).

OR . . . . If you already have a Garmin Data Link (GDL) for XM Weather, you can keep that. You will forego the TIS-B Traffic Display. XM Monthly costs depend on your desires. Click HERE for plans. See your Avionics shop for GDL install costs.

Option 2 ADS-B “In” FIS-B and TIS-B on a portable Garmin GPS or iPad OR keep XM Weather:

Upgrade your transponder. A Garmin GTX 330 ES Transponder will cost $3,500 + 4 hours to install. See 330 INSTALL NOTES in Option 1. THEN ADD . . . . . . .  An iPad or portable Garmin GPS units like the aera or Garmin Map696. 

The iPad starts at $400 for the 16 gig model. Wi-Fi models need an external GPS like the Dual XGPS150A or Bad Elf GPS – $100. The Garmin aera runs $600 and the Map696 costs $2,000.

Choose a portable receiver. This will allow you to receive FIS-B and TIS-B. Once again those receivers are the GDL 39 (iPad or Garmin portable GPS’), Stratus 1st Gen, Stratus 2nd Gen, (ForeFlight only) and the Dual XGPS170 (works with a myriad of apps)  OR . . . . If you already have a Garmin Data Link (GDL) for XM Weather, you can keep.  Monthly costs depend on your desires. Click HERE for plans. See your Avionics shop for GDL install costs.

Can a Garmin GTX 330 Mode-S Transponder be updated to ES? 

Yes. It can be upgraded to a GTX330 ES for only $1,200 + about 4 hours to install (see 330 INSTALL NOTES – previous page. If you’d like weather and traffic displayed on the GPS display(s), you’ll need to add a UAT, similar to the GDL 88 Diversity Datalink. Or, if you don’t mind viewing weather and traffic on your iPad, you can simply use the app and portable “ADS-B In” receiver options noted above.

Resale thoughts

If you own an aircraft that is capable of flying above FL180, but you choose to not equip your airplane with a Mode S (ES) transponder, consider this: One day you might want to sell your airplane. Without a Mode S (ES) transponder, you’ve handicapped your airplane a bit. It’s capable of flying high, but banished from Class A airspace. You will probably need to adjust your selling price accordingly.

Perhaps you have a normally aspirated Mooney that will never see Class A airspace. Being ready for 2020 makes your aircraft more exciting when compared, side by side, with one that needs some work.

If you:

Fly below FL180 and Have no desire to venture outside the USA and … 

Your aircraft is already equipped with a WAAS GPS and … 

You have either a Mode-C or Mode-S (non-ES) Transponder and … 

The idea of weather and traffic displayed on your GPS display excites you.

You’ll need to add just one piece of hardware in order to meet ADS-B requirements – a UAT.

Garmin’s UAT is the GDL 88 Diversity Datalink – $3,745 – $4,000 plus 20 hours to install.

Any Garmin GDL 88 model UAT will make an honest pilot out of you on January 1st, 2020. In the meantime, you’ll be able to enjoy ADS-B traffic (TIS-B) and subscription-free weather (FIS-B) on your GNS or GTS panel mounted GPS display. For more information, contact your favorite Avionics Shop.

Fly safe and stay out of trouble! JD

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