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FAA slowness on equipment approval could inhibit NextGen, says GAO

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A time-consuming Federal Aviation Administration certification process for new aircraft equipment continues to threaten the roll out of avionics capable of taking full advantage of NextGen, the FAA's effort to modernize air traffic control.

That's what industry stakeholders told auditors from the Government Accountability Office for a report dated Oct. 7 that the GAO released publically Oct. 29.

NextGen is a $40 billion collection of programs meant to revamp air traffic control. As part of it, the FAA mandated earlier this year that airplanes carry by 2020 transponders to receive and relay Global Positioning System signals for air traffic control use, a technology known as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast. The FAA also hopes that the airplane operators will equip cockpits with displays capable of receiving aircraft positional data back from the ground, so that pilots would have a real-time digital picture of their location relative to other aircraft.

As NextGen progresses, airplane operators will need to install extra equipment--but getting the FAA to approve new equipment for can be a long and frustrating experience, private sector officials told the GAO.

The FAA is working to ensure that NextGen equipment receives the attention of dedicated personnel and prioritized attention, the report states.

But, "it is too early to tell whether [the changes] will increase the efficiency of FAA's certification and approval process and reduce unanticipated delays and cost for the industry," the report states.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-11-14 (.pdf)

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