NGATS May Cost Aircraft Owners $20 billion

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The Government Accountability Office says the cost of equipping aircraft for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) will range from $14 billion to $20 billion, depending on the gear that will be needed, the number of very light jets that will be using the system and how much downtime will be required to install the equipment. The GAO was quoting figures it says were recently released by the FAA’s Joint Projects Development Office, which says the government will spend between $15 billion and $22 billion on the project by 2025. The wide range reflects uncertainty in just what the system will entail. Meanwhile the GAO says the FAA is generally moving in the right direction with NGATS, but there’s a looming leadership vacuum that could hinder that progress. The GAO says the FAA should move quickly to replace its chief operating officer to ensure at least some continuity when Administrator Marion Blakey’s term expires in September. COO Russ Chew left the post in February and is now in a similar post with JetBlue. That, coupled with Blakey’s departure, could jeopardize the modernization initiatives the agency created, particularly the structural and technological changes that will be the foundation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System. “While FAA has implemented many positive changes to its management processes, it currently faces the loss of key leaders,” says the GAO report. “Such changes require focused, full-time attention from senior leadership and a dedicated team.”