In the next ten years, exciting new technologies will be implemented to help ease air traffic congestion, add to system capacity, and enhance safety. Some of these changes will be invisible to pilots and will be made seamlessly. Others will entail changing some old habits and learning new procedures. New aircraft equipment will bring powerful new capabilities, but will require training and practice to master.


Airlines and other operators will continue trying to find more efficient ways to use the National Airspace System (NAS). More and more users are working with federal agencies to write new policies and develop exchanges of real-time flight information, all in the interest of improving their service as well as their bottom lines. As new business strategies emerge, there also will be changes in the aircraft fleet. For example, as regional jets continue to increase in popularity, they have significant potential to reduce traffic at major airports as well as on the most crowded airways. Providing service along underused area navigation (RNAV) routes directly between smaller city pairs, they can bypass congested hubs and avoid airborne choke points. The number of regional jets is forecast to increase by more than 80 percent in the next decade. Compared to the turboprop airplanes they will replace, RJs fly at similar speeds and altitudes as larger jets, so they mix into traffic streams more smoothly, making en route traffic management easier for controllers. [Figure 6-1] At the other end of the spectrum, larger airplanes capable of carrying over 500 passengers are now flying. These “superjumbos” have the potential to reduce airway and terminal congestion by transporting more people in fewer airplanes.

This ability is especially valuable at major hubs, where the number of flight operations exceeds capacity at certain times of day. On the other hand, some of these airplanes have a double-deck configuration that might require extensive changes to terminals so that large numbers of passengers can board and deplane quickly and safely. Their size may require increased separation of taxiways and hold lines from runways due to increased wingspans and tail heights. Their weight also may require stronger runways and taxiways, as well as increased separation requirements for wake turbulence. [Figure 6-2]

Other innovative airplanes include the turbofan-powered very light jets (VLJs), which are relatively small turbo-

fan-powered aircraft with 6 to 8 seats, with cruising speeds between 300 and 500 knots, and with a range of around 1,000 nautical miles (NMs). [Figure 6-3] If initial orders are an accurate indicator of their popularity, they will soon form a significant segment of the general aviation fleet. The FAA predicts that the business jet fleet will nearly double over the next ten years, approaching 16,000 airplanes by 2016. At least eight manufacturers are planning VLJs, several prototypes are flying, and the first new airplanes are being delivered to customers. Most are intended for single-pilot operation, and most will be certified for flight up to FL410. All will be technically advanced aircraft, with advanced glass cockpit avionics, digital engine controls, and sophisticated autopilots. These new airplanes will be capable of RNAV, required navigation performance (RNP), and reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) operations, and will operate mostly point-topoint, either on Q-Routes or random off-airways routes. With prices well below other business jets and competitive with turboprop singles, VLJs will appeal to many customers who could not otherwise justify the cost of a jet aircraft. VLJs have the potential of providing air taxi/air limousine services at costs comparable to commercial airlines, but with greater schedule flexibility, relatively luxurious accommodations, faster travel times, and the ability to fly into thousands more airports.