This week the Federal Aviation Administration announced plans for a multi billion-dollar project to modernize air traffic control and flight time called NextGen. This program has goals of saving flight time and over a billion gallons of fuel every year.
According to an article from the New York Times, the NextGen system will rely on global positioning systems for navigation, more efficient use of runways and reduce in flight distances between aircrafts.
Randy Babbitt, FAA Chief, is pushing congress for allocations and his comments have been the most specific yet. Babbitt said that airlines could reach over $2 billion in savings each year, even though the initial costs would be around $6 billion. Babbitt and the FAA are tying to “make the business case” and help justify the investment.
Airlines are currently saying they cannot afford to equip planes with the new equipment. Airlines and trade groups have been working together to lobby for federal aid.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the ranking Republican member of the Senate Commerce Committee, said establishing a new air-traffic control network “is probably our highest priority” in terms of safety and efficiency.
Other senators do not share the same enthusiasm. Many democrats are arguing the time line of the initiative urging for faster results and immediate stipulations.
During the Senate committee meeting in which Babbitt was testifying, he also touched on a variety of other issues surrounding airlines and aviation safety.
Babbitt addressed the committee on his plans for an advanced commercial pilot license requiring more hours than the 250 already federally mandated. The new licenses would also require more high-altitude flight, training in icing conditions and experience with multi-engine aircrafts.
Lastly, Babbitt also addressed concerns over increasing pilot fatigue and his plans to combat such issues.