The federal government has been working on a new air traffic control system with the goal to get planes in the air and on the ground faster, and more efficiently. The system is called NextGen, and it has been developed with multiple federal agencies and NASA.

On July 15, NASA presented the FAA with a new software for managing the spacing between planes as they approach for landing. It will reduce the number of course and altitude changes required by pilots as well as the amount of communication necessary between controllers and pilots. The end result of the switch from ground-based air traffic control to satellite-based air traffic control should be aviation fuel savings, better airplane flow at busy airports, and greater safety.

What will NextGen mean for private aircraft pilots?

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) believes that the NextGen air traffic management program will be beneficial for business aviation, including boosting airspace capacity for everyone, but there are many issues still to be resolved. Some of the issues include the costs, what service operators can expect to receive after installing the NextGen technology, and what it means for operators.

Potential issues for the BizAv market

The FAA needs to level flight standards “when it comes to allowing business aircraft to be certified for the same sorts of procedures as commercial airlines” said Steve Brown, NBAA’s COO. In addition, business aviation is a mixed equipage environment, so the FAA must implement procedures that are usable by business aviation operators.

Another potential issue is the fact that only 10% of aircraft have the necessary equipment installed right now. Whether private jet owners will be able to get the technology in order before an implementation deadline is unclear. While no deadline has been imposed yet, if a jet owner can’t get it installed they may not be able to fly in certain areas.

Timing of NextGen

The FAA has plans to put the new software into its first airport in 2018 if it gets the money from Congress. The target airport hasn’t been picked yet, and money is not a given in Washington these days, so it could be a while before NextGen impacts the business aviation market.

“At the end of the day, whether you’re a military general, an airline ops guy, or a company with a business aircraft, you’ve still got to have a business case that makes sense to you,” says Steve Brown.

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