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Soapbox - Randy Babbitt, FAA Administrator


Randy Babbitt, FAA Administrator

“International cooperation is key to air traffic control modernization”

Let’s be candid. If the US equation for NextGen does not have an international component, we’re in a deep stall. Look at any forecast by any group and it’s going to tell you that the international market is on the way up. It has to be factored in, no questions asked.
NextGen is not limited to the US. If we’re sure of anything about aviation, it’s that change is constant. Today long-range flights are routine. Detroit to Tokyo is just one more run. When you’re talking about “puddle jumper” aircraft these days, that puddle is an ocean.

Recognizing this, we do indeed need cooperation and collaboration here in the US. But it can’t stop at the shoreline. We must make sure that interoperability is the order of the day—and I think we are. If your product or service doesn’t work beyond your borders, it’s time to get back to the drawing board.
The Obama Administration and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood are enthusiastic about the potential for international linkage, such as that between NextGen and SESAR. I have flown enough to know that this is a success story waiting to happen. We need to advance well beyond the preliminaries of NextGen. As a group, we need to commit to giving modernization the momentum it needs.

The international linkage is only the half of it. Under the philosophy of NextGen, everyone is interlinked. NextGen is not an air traffic control modernization program in its silo—and it was never intended to be. The goal is to have everyone become part of the infrastructure; aircraft, air traffic control, airline operations centers, airports, defense and homeland security systems, and the people who operate, inspect and maintain all of these.

Everyone’s got to be on the same page strategically, tactically, operationally. That is the end-state, if you will, of NextGen. But in order for that to happen, everyone’s got to start talking together.

Cooperation is needed at unprecedented levels in order for it to work. If you’re going into this with a territorial mindset, don’t do it. There is no one major player in the system as contemplated by NextGen. If you have a burning need to put someone at the top of the list, it’s the passenger. He’s not concerned with multi-lateration or situational awareness. The passenger is focused on the basics. Did I leave enough time to make it through security? Did I take off when I was supposed to? Did I land when I was supposed to? And did my bags have the happy coincidence of being on the plane with me?

Concerning acceleration itself, we’re not going to sacrifice long-term deliverables at the altar of near-term expediencies. Industry wants maximum benefit from today’s tools. NextGen’s long-term capabilities aren’t a mutually exclusive endeavor.

For example, the lessons learned from implementing the recommendations of this task force will help us derive maximum benefit from ADS-B once the supporting infrastructure and standards are in place.
Each of the programs that make up NextGen is designed with the broadest possible application in mind. We’re stressing cooperation, collaboration and interoperability. We have the White House behind us, and the industry giving us clear direction about what it needs. The rest is up to us—all of us.

For more information on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) visit www.faa.gov

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