The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides air-ground voice and data communications for pilots and air traffic controllers to safely coordinate all flight operations, ground movement of aircraft at airports, and in-flight separation distances between aircraft. However, the anticipated growth in air traffic, coupled with FAA's efforts to reduce air traffic delays and introduce new air traffic services, will create a demand for additional channels of voice communications that FAA's current system cannot provide. FAA and the aviation industry agree that the existing communications system, even with enhancements, cannot meet aviation's expanding need for communications. To ensure that the technology it wants to use for Next Generation Air/Ground Communications (NEXCOM) will meet its future needs, FAA, in collaboration with the aviation industry, conducted a comparative analysis of numerous technologies, to assess each one's ability to meet technical requirements, minimize program risk, and meet the agency's schedule. However, before making a final decision on the technology for NEXCOM, FAA will need to efficiently address three major issues: whether the preferred technology is technically sound and will operate as intended, if the preferred technology and the equipment it requires can be certified as safe for use in the National Airspace System, and whether it is cost effective for users and the agency.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Transportation||1. To make the most informed decision in selecting the technology for NEXCOM and continue to receive the support from the aviation community, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FAA Administrator to assess whether the requirements for voice and data communications have changed and the potential impact of emerging technologies on the Very High Frequency Digital Link Mode 3's useful life as part of its cost-effectiveness analysis of NEXCOM.|