A Strategy for NextGen Adoption…Now

This is the second in a series of posts on the rapid and ongoing adoption of NextGen procedures and processes, including RNP approaches, and what that means for 21st-century flight crews.

Several weeks ago we posted an introduction to a series of posts on NextGen. As an illustration of how fast and easy it is for technology to overtake years of established knowledge and routine, we talked about the global rise of RNP approach procedures. Since that post, we had the privilege to address the topic at Bombardier’s annual Safety StandDown® event in Wichita, KS. As always, our interaction with hundreds of flight crews at this important safety symposium gave us the chance to assess the challenges all flight crews face in adopting new technologies in an ever-evolving airspace environment. As a result, we are going to continue to write on the topic of NextGen, in an effort to ease the transition to new procedures with both knowledge and flight discipline. In the process, we hope that we encourage the adoption of new technology and procedures along with a pattern of flight discipline that is built on knowledge and understanding.

Start here: You may be surprised to find how much of US Airspace and ATC facilities have changed in just the last 12 months—a year ago, for example, only a few major airports were capable of providing datalink services, and now there are around 50, with more locations scheduled to enter service in 2017. Every 21st Century aviation professional should tour the FAA’s NextGen website at http://www.faa.gov/nextgen/ and browse the various topics that are constantly being updated and renewed as implementation proceeds. You can bring this tour even closer to home by looking into the progress of NextGen at your own “home ‘drome” by navigating over to the “PBN Dashboard” which keeps score of NextGen procedures being used at your home field, or at any destination your flight department sends you to: http://www.faa.gov/nextgen/pbn/dashboard/. Just select an airport identifier, and you can inventory the NextGen services offered there.

If any of the following terms are new to you, it might be time to set the parking brake and evaluate how these changes are impacting your own flight planning and flight deck routine: DCL, OAPM, RECAT, OPD, RNP. The pace at which the National Airspace is being adapted to these basic NextGen services is accelerating; developing an understanding of each, and how they are related to the broader system of air traffic management, can only have a positive impact on overall system safety.

There’s a lot for all of us to learn about the changes that have already been made to our airspace in the US—and many of these kinds of changes have already been adopted across the global airspace. We think there’s a concise and disciplined way for every flight department and every pilot to learn even the finer points of operating within the new airspace. Many readers of this blog are already familiar with the 9 Principles of Automation Airmanship. These foundational principles apply not just to new flightdeck technology, but allow for new airspace and flight procedures to be adopted with ease and organization in the same way. In our next post—after you’ve navigated through the FAA’s NextGen website—we will look closely at the key knowledge that will put you on a path to safe, informed, and compliant adoption of NextGen where you fly, now.

Think about it.

Until our next post, fly safe, and always, fly first.

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