If you browse through this blog at all it will become apparent rather quickly that I am a huge proponent of NextGen ATC technology. Call me crazy, but when it has been proven that there is a system that exists to replace decades old technology to make something more efficient, effective, and safe, I think we should act quickly to implement it.
While it is not happening as quickly as some people would like to see, it is happening. Just last week Qatar Airways flew a RNP-AR approach into Nepal. This week Frontier Airlines received certification from the FAA to fly the same types of approaches in the US.
I find it interesting that both of these events share a common trait. They are both heavily impacted by high terrain. Nepal is one of the most mountainous countries in the world, and Frontier does a huge amount of business through Denver which is nestled high in the mountains of Colorado.
These applications are where the safety impact of NextGen becomes so apparent. Navigational aids are all based on line of sight, which makes it incredibly difficult for ground-based navigational aids to be effective in mountainous regions. While GPS still requires line of sight with satellites, it is much easier to achieve that with the satellites positioned overhead as opposed to the being on the ground where they can easily be blocked by mountains.
While both of these press releases come from Airbus, it is important to note that both Airbus and Boeing are actually working together to make this new system a reality. On Airbus’s ProSky website, which is essentially their ATC arm, they have a long description of how the two airlines are cooperating to improve the whole system.
Boeing and Airbus are two of the biggest corporate competitors in the world, so to see them work together on something says a lot about its importance.
For those who may not really understand what exactly NextGen is, Boeing has an article that does a great job of explaining some of the most important technology, namely the ADS-B and how it works to improve air travel for everyone involved.