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Unformatted text preview: aircraft to fly at the same time,
reduce carbon footprints, ease air controller workloads and save on pricey fuel. "This will fundamentally change how
people fly," said Michael Huerta, deputy administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. The work — expected to
take more than two decades and cost $20 billion to $25 billion for the government's part and perhaps an equal amount for
the airlines' — "is a complex undertaking and is really a partnership of government and users of the aviation system ,"
Huerta said. It won't happen overnight. NextGen will evolve as technology evolves, and "it's not one day you flip a switch
and it's deployed," Huerta said. Some of the NextGen technology that allows more precise monitoring of air traffic already
is being used in Houston; Louisville, Ky.; Philadelphia; Alaska; and South Florida. Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle, Atlanta and
Las Vegas have NextGen guidance systems that streamline flight paths. In autumn of 2012, travelers flying into Denver
International Airport probably will notice something that feels and looks a little different. Air-traffic controllers now direct
aircraft to stair-step down in altitude, with pilots throttling up — and burning fuel — with each step down. NextGen
technology will allow descents from 30,000 feet to the runway "without touching the throttle," said Aaron Barnett, the
FAA's Denver area district manager for air-traffic control. The navigation improvements could mean a 6 percent reduction
in fuel burn in Denver, Barnett said. The coasting could save 400 to 800 pounds of fuel per flight, and arriving planes could
shave five to 20 miles off each flight. By 2020, aircraft are expected to be equipped to tell pilots exactly what their location
is in relation to other aircraft. As a result, planes will be able to fly closer together safely. The major holdup: money .
Congress, which has been battling over the budget, isn't in a free-spending mood, and airlines are hesitant to lay out an
estimated $500,000 per plane for retrofitting. As aircraft are replaced, they will come equipped with NextGen avionics, but
that's also costly. Some airline officials have called on the FAA to foot the bill. That hasn't gone over well. Until the airlines
know they'll get a return, "it's difficult to make that case," said Steve Lott, spokesman for the Air Transport Association of
America. On Aug. 29, the airline trade group called on the Obama administration and the FAA to develop a national
aviation policy, including focusing resources on speeding up NextGen. The FAA predicts NextGen will cut travel delays 35
percent by 2018, with an estimated $23 billion in benefits to aircraft operators, travelers and the FAA. In the next seven
years, GPS-enabled flight procedures will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 14 million tons and will save about 1.4
billion gallons of aviation fuel, FAA officials say. Jeff Smisek, chief executive of United Continental Holdings, said at a
recent convention in Denver that Next Ge...
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- Spring '13
- The American