NATIONAL AIRSPACE SYSTEM PLANS
FAA planners’ efforts to devise a broad strategy to
address capacity issues resulted in the Operational
Evolution Plan (OEP)—the FAA’s commitment to meet
the air transportation needs of the U.S. for the next ten
To wage a coordinated strategy, OEP executives met with
representatives from the entire aviation community—
including airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers, service
providers, pilots, controllers, and passengers. They agreed
on four core problem areas:
The goal of the OEP is to expand
capacity, decrease delays, and
improve efficiency while maintaining
safety and security. With
reliance on the strategic support of
the aviation community, the OEP is
limited in scope, and only contains
programs to be accomplished over a
ten-year period. Programs may move
faster, but the OEP sets the minimum
schedule. Considered a living document
that matures over time, the OEP
is continually updated as decisions
are made, risks are identified and
mitigated, or new solutions to operational
problems are discovered
- Arrival and departure rates.
- En route congestion.
- Airport weather conditions.
- En route severe weather.
An important contributor to FAA plans
is the Performance-Based Operations
Aviation Rulemaking Committee
(PARC). The objectives and scope of
PARC are to provide a forum for the
U.S. aviation community to discuss
and resolve issues, provide direction
for U.S. flight operations criteria, and produce U.S. consensus
positions for global harmonization.
The general goal of the committee is to develop a
means to implement improvements in operations that
address safety, capacity, and efficiency objectives,
as tasked, that are consistent with international implementation.
This committee provides a forum for the
FAA, other government entities, and affected
members of the aviation community to discuss issues
and to develop resolutions and processes to facilitate
the evolution of safe and efficient operations.
Current efforts associated with NAS modernization
come with the realization that all phases must be integrated.
The evolution to an updated NAS must be well
orchestrated and balanced with the resources available.
Current plans for NAS modernization focus on three key
- Upgrading the infrastructure.
- Providing new safety features.
- Introducing new efficiency-oriented capabilities
into the existing system.
It is crucial that our NAS equipment is protected, as
lost radar, navigation signals, or communications capabilities can slow the flow of aircraft to a busy city,
which in turn, could cause delays throughout the entire
region, and possibly, the whole country.
The second category for modernization activities
focuses on upgrades concerning safety. Although we
cannot control the weather, it has a big impact on the
NAS. Fog in San Francisco, snow in Denver, thunderstorms
in Kansas, wind in Chicago; all of these reduce
the safety and capacity of the NAS. Nevertheless, great
strides are being made in our ability to predict the
weather. Controllers are receiving better information
about winds and storms, and pilots are receiving better
information both before they take off and in flight—all of
which makes flying safer. [Figure 1-4]
Another cornerstone of the FAA’s future is improved navigational
information available in the cockpit. The Wide
Area Augmentation System (WAAS) initially became
operational for aviation use on July 10, 2003. It improves
conventional GPS signal accuracy by an order of magnitude,
from about 20 meters to 2 meters or less.
Moreover, the local area augmentation system
(LAAS) is being developed to provide even better
accuracy than GPS with WAAS. LAAS will provide
localized service for final approaches in poor weather
conditions at major airports. This additional navigational
accuracy will be available in the cockpit and
will be used for other system enhancements. More
information about WAAS and LAAS is contained in
Chapters 5 and 6.
The Automatic Dependent Surveillance (ADS) system,
currently being developed by the FAA and several
airlines, enables the aircraft to automatically transmit
its location to various receivers. This broadcast mode,
commonly referred to as ADS-B, is a signal that can
be received by other properly equipped aircraft and
ground based transceivers, which in turn feed the automation system accurate aircraft position information.
This more accurate information will be used to
improve the efficiency of the system—the third category
of modernization goals.
Figure 1-4. Modernization Activities Provide Improved Weather Information.
Other key efficiency improvements are found in the
deployment of new tools designed to assist the controller.
For example, most commercial aircraft
already have equipment to send their GPS positions
automatically to receiver stations over the ocean. This
key enhancement is necessary for all aircraft operating
in oceanic airspace and allows more efficient use
of airspace. Another move is toward improving text
and graphical message exchange, which is the ultimate
goal of the Controller Pilot Data Link
Communications (CPDLC) Program.
In the en route domain, the Display System
Replacement (DSR), along with the Host/Oceanic
Computer System Replacement (HOCSR) and
Eunomia projects, are the platforms and infrastructure
for the future. These provide new displays to the
controllers, upgrade the computers to accept future
tools, and provide modern surveillance and flight
data processing capabilities. For CPDLC to work
effectively, it must be integrated with the en route