Unclogging the Skies For 1 Billion Passengers
The FAA calls those extra lanes "NextGen", short for Next Generation Air Transportation System, a state-of-the-art satellite-based air traffic control system that would replace the current decades-old radar-based one and allow the rising number of planes to fly closer together on more direct and precise routes, effectively opening up those extra lanes and averting an otherwise unavoidable aviation traffic jam.
"Only a modernized air transportation system will be able to keep up with our forecasted demand," FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt said in a statement this morning.
NextGen has been in the works for years and will take more than a decade to fully implement, but many NextGen technologies are already in use today: Just this month, JetBlue became the latest airline to announce it will start using NextGen-related systems now -- 35 of the airline's planes will be equipped with new avionics equipment that will allow them to start flying those more precise, satellite-based flights on routes from New York and Boston to Florida and the Caribbean next year.
NextGen, of course, is not cheap. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office estimates that the system could cost as much as $160 billion over the next 15 years. Inaction, however, also has its costs -- The FAA projects that without the new system in place, the inevitable gridlock would not only infuriate passengers, it would also cost the U.S. economy more than $40 billion a year by 2033.
Carter Yang is a Washington, D.C.-based producer for the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric." He covers aviation, transportation, and homeland security.
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