Inconsistency has become a major theme within the field of NextGen implementation. What needs to be done to rectify that?

Mike Caflisch, Boeing: There needs to be a fully aligned deployment of NextGen. Operators must be able to understand and realize the full potential benefits of each business case. Until that happens, it is likely that consistency and alignment will continue to be difficult.

We must also establish an overarching programme office with budget authority and a very high level of programme management expertise.  Using programme management best practices, the FAA needs to ensure it is measuring the right performance indicators.  If FAA actually measured flight time or fuel burn, we would know what programmes are actually providing benefits to the aviation users.  Instead, we measure if a programme is being implemented ‘on time’.  As we have seen with the RNP programme, ‘on time delivery’ may not deliver the expected benefits to the numerous aviation stakeholders.

Chris Benich, Honeywell: Right now, the primary objective should be establishing clear performance objectives for NextGen. Supporting these objectives with clearly defined metrics will lead to better prioritisation of programmes, stronger stakeholder commitment, and ultimately more consistent implementation performance.

SayedianEd Sayadian, ITT Exelis: Funding uncertainty and/or the lack of early stakeholder buy-in are at the root of many of these inconsistencies. While several questions around funding have been addressed by the passage of the reauthorization bill, additional issues remain given sequestration.

The issue of stakeholder coordination is being addressed on several fronts. At the organisational level, the FAA has asked the RTCA to convene a committee to help coordinate NextGen priorities from a stakeholder perspective. At the system-level, the FAA has increased its emphasis on early stakeholder coordination as part of the acquisition life-cycle process.

Carol Huegel, Metron Aviation: While an easy  explanation for the inconsistencies could be that the duration of the various implementation programs inherently facilitates inconsistencies as the faces and technologies advance over time, a more important factor is the failure to ‘connect the dots’ between major NextGen programmes.

There is a vital need to ‘connect the dots’ in terms of the operational requirements of all NAS Users, expected operational benefits and associated processes, procedures, and policies. Further, it is pivotal to foster a collaborative approach once the priorities have been set within and across all NextGen programmes, to ensure that appropriate adjustments are made, and best practices are applied, as lessons are learned via the collaboration on the front end.

Specifically, all implementation approaches should include consistent collaboration with external stakeholders and internal stakeholders.  Experience tells us that effective collaboration among stakeholders reduces the risks associated with implementation, improves the benefits achieved during deployment and reduces the overall investment required to achieve those benefits.

While it is fundamentally counterintuitive to suggest that collaboration can be mandated, it would be worthwhile to contemplate the value of a FAA NextGen implementation approach whereby those in leadership roles demonstrate consistent collaboration with both internal and external stakeholders. I am confident that early collaboration among all stakeholders would prove to be beneficial in ‘connecting the dots’ and reducing inconsistencies.

Steve Fulton, GE Aviation: FAA needs to simplify the number of activities, prioritise on what’s important and use all available public and private resources.

Jim McCoy, Raytheon: The US operates more aircraft per year than any other nation, and there is greater aircraft diversity in the United States than anywhere else in the world. A major reason for inconsistency is the sheer complexity of implementation is in this airspace. Safety is always our highest priority and the coordination of each modernisation element must be adequately planned to ensure that safety is never compromised as we make measurable progress, daily.

Roberta LeftwichRoberta Leftwich, Booz Allen: Inconsistency in the execution and planning of NextGen capabilities stems from factors both internal to FAA and also externally.  External issues include uncertainty in federal budgets (exacerbated by the current sequester) and the economy and its effect on the airline industry’s ability to support NextGen initiatives. Issues internal to FAA include insufficiently robust planning; lack of strong, consistent leadership and accountability; and inability to shift agency focus to a long-term technology initiative.

These issues have been well documented and discussed in a number of forums. NextGen is approaching a decade old and measurable progress is lacklustre. One approach to rectifying the issues that have blunted NextGen success is to take responsibility for NextGen implementation completely out of the hands of the FAA. NextGen costs are shared between government and industry and so could implementation responsibility.

Creation of a public-private partnership between government and industry with leadership drawn from each would act as a system of checks and balances where the best practices in industry for benefits definition, modeling, enterprise planning, etc. could be incorporated, budget stability would be introduced as it would be removed from the US government budgeting cycle, and government leadership would be in place to lead one of the largest public infrastructure projects in history.

Though creating such an entity would take some time and effort, gains made in efficient implementation of NextGen and realisation of benefits would likely make the effort worthwhile.

Todd Donovan, Thales ATM US: NextGen is extremely complicated by necessity and the aviation system’s safety-critical nature makes change very difficult. I don’t really see a lot of inconsistency. The FAA has committed to deploying certain technologies and procedures and, by and large, they are consistently following through on those commitments.

Yes, there are technical, operational and policy issues which can impact these efforts. And let’s not forget the impact that ongoing budget uncertainty causes. But I applaud the FAA for using RTCA and the NAC as an advisor to align their investments with the user communities’ interests. It helps keep everyone aligned and NextGen moving forward.

John O'SullivanJohn O’Sullivan, Harris Corporation: I don’t agree that inconsistency has been a major theme in the implementation of NextGen. In fact, the FAA’s transformational vision for NextGen vision was created only a decade ago and many of its core technologies and tenets still comprise the pillars of the initiative today. What has changed, as one would imagine in the face of such transformation, has been the shift in market forces and the impact of those forces on priorities.

For example, the primary and original driver for NextGen was increasing capacity NAS-wide. However, forces beyond our control, such as the rising price of fuel, have since broadened the focus of NextGen to include significant drivers like fuel efficiency. Hence, we’re now focused on increasing capacity in the NAS while also improving on operational efficiencies. This sort of flexibility and evolution should be lauded when undertaking a decades-long transformation of something as complex and economically vital to our economy as the NAS.

Posted in NextGen, US Survey 2013

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