You know the feeling: it's been a great flight, you're on approach, and the captain informs the cabin that you are in a holding pattern. Forty five minutes later you are on the ground, late for everything and all the joy is gone. The future of aviation is in fuel efficiency, noise reduction, direct routing and being able to cram as many planes into one airport simultaneously as humanly possible. There is a system being rolled out from now until 2025 that will significantly improve virtually everything coming and going. We all win.
Next Generation Air Transportation System otherwise known as NextGen is the GPS, data and metrics answer to air traffic issues. Approaches to most airports currently involve a seemingly never ending series of turns and altitude holds. In the current system, heavy planes maintain a low altitude and a relatively low speed thus consuming lots of fuel. If you could begin an approach further out in a more direct manor, it would allow more "glide" time where there is minimal thrust needed and thus less fuel. It's like keeping your fully loaded car running while in the supermarket. Aside from fuel consumption, added mileage and the associated extra time and space needed to facilitate these moves, they mean more planes flying low over more neighborhoods. NextGen is the answer to literally all of these problems.
NextGen proposes to transform air traffic control systems from a ground-based system to a satellite-based system. GPS technology will be used to shorten routes, save time and fuel, reduce traffic delays, increase capacity, and permit controllers to monitor and manage aircraft with greater safety margins. Planes will be able to fly closer together, take more direct routes and avoid delays caused by airport “stacking” as planes wait for an open runway.
Basically, this is great stuff. Planes are flying at higher capacity than ever (hence the higher prices despite dropping fuel costs) and there are only so many slots to handle that traffic at present. With the creation and implementation of NextGen we should see noticeably faster approaches, take off patterns and more slots available. If you ask me, more slots means more opportunity for competition to demand better products. A nice side benefit comes in the form of a little relief for mother nature, which I am never mad at.
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