Watchdog Worries About NGATS


The FAA’s Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) is making progress towards the lofty goal of reinventing the National Airspace System, but there’s a minefield of coordination, budget and implementation issues ahead, according to a report from the Department ofTransportation’s Office of Inspector General. OIG said the creationof the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) is “anextraordinarily complex and high-risk effort given the potentialmultibillion-dollar investments by FAA and airspace users.” Whilethere seems to be an overall plan to coordinate a bunch of agenciestoward the goal of accommodating three times the air traffic of todayby 2025, the OIG worries that there’s a lack of specific directionwithin those agencies to make sure the work actually gets done. TheOIG is naturally interested in just how the FAA is going to investall those billions of dollars in NGATS equipment and facilities, butit’s also concerned about the financial impact on those who will usethe system. Among the big questions is what equipment aircraftwill need and who’s going to pay for it. It’s a given that NGATS willinvolve a shift of more responsibility for separation to the cockpitand that satellite-based gear is going to facilitate that. But justwho will do what in the new system and whether pilots and controllersalike can handle the anticipated workload are open questions. “We arerecommending that the JPDO conduct sufficient human factors analysesand studies to ensure that the changes envisioned for NGATS can besafely accomplished,” the DOT OIG concluded.