Big changes ahead for Civil Aviations in the USA (NextGen) and in Europe (SESAR)

What Is NextGen?

NextGen is an umbrella term for the ongoing, wide-ranging transformation of the National Airspace System (NAS). At its most basic level, NextGen represents an evolution from a ground-based system of air traffic control to a satellite-based system of air traffic management. This evolution is vital to meeting future demand, and to avoiding gridlock in the sky and at our nation’s airports.
NextGen will open America’s skies to continued growth and increased safety while reducing aviation’s environmental impact.
We will realize these goals through the development of aviation-specific applications for existing, widely-used technologies, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS) and technological innovation in areas such as weather forecasting, data networking and digital communications. Hand in hand with state-of-the-art technology will be new airport infrastructure and new procedures, including the shift of certain decision-making responsibility from the ground to the cockpit.
When fully implemented, NextGen will allow more aircraft to safely fly closer together on more direct routes, reducing delays and providing unprecedented benefits for the environment and the economy through reductions in carbon emissions, fuel consumption and noise.

NextGen Benefits
Airports and other segments of the greater aviation community already are starting to reap the benefits of NextGen capabilities, but the best is yet to come. Our latest estimates indicate that by 2018, NextGen will reduce total flight delays by about 21 percent, providing $22 billion in cumulative benefits to the traveling public, aircraft operators and the FAA. During this same period, we expect to save more than 1.4 billion gallons of fuel from air traffic operations alone, cutting carbon emissions by nearly 14 million tons. These conservative estimates make the case for NextGen and affirm that the path we are traveling with our aviation partners is the right one.
As we move forward, we remain keenly focused on safety as the FAA’s top priority. We will vet each new system and procedure through the agency’s Safety Management System process. The FAA’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing program, in use today, will monitor the NextGen operational capabilities to identify any precursor risks.
We know that NextGen’s benefits are not limited to America’s borders. Just as we are working with the international community to ensure that our technology systems work seamlessly with one another, we are working to standardize global operational procedures that better protect our environment.
Challenges to Implementing NextGen
The FAA remains confident it will achieve NextGen, but we are fully aware that the road to success will be challenging. Undertaking NextGen is extremely complex, in part because systems in various stages of development and maturity are interdependent and will be implemented in a variety of time frames. NextGen’s increasing dependency on aircraft-centric capabilities means that we must rely on operators’ willingness to equip. We will not make the most of performance improvements until operators are properly equipped to reap the benefits of those capabilities. We are managing the uncertainties inherent in such a large-scale undertaking by using a portfolio management approach for NextGen development and deployment.

Single European Sky

Contrary to the United States, Europe does not have a single sky, one in which air navigation is managed at the European level. Furthermore, European airspace is among the busiest in the world with over 33,000 flights on busy days and high airport density. This makes air traffic control even more complex.
The EU Single European Sky is an ambitious initiative launched by the European Commission in 2004 to reform the architecture of European air traffic management. It proposes a legislative approach to meet future capacity and safety needs at a European rather than a local level.
The Single European Sky is the only way to provide a uniform and high level of safety and efficiency over Europe’s skies.

The key objectives are to 
  • Restructure European airspace as a function of air traffic flows
  • Create additional capacity; and
  • Increase the overall efficiency of the air traffic management system
The major elements of this new institutional and organisational framework for Air Traffic Management in Europe consist of:
  • Separating regulatory activities from service provision, and the possibility of cross-border Air Traffic Management services.
  • Reorganising European airspace that is no longer constrained by national borders.
  • Setting common rules and standards, covering a wide range of issues, such as flight data exchanges and telecommunications.
Click here to access the European Commission website on Single European Sky. 


As part of the Single European Sky initiative, SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) represents its technological dimension. It will help create a “paradigm shift”, supported by state-of-the-art and innovative technology.
The SESAR programme will give Europe a high-performance air traffic control infrastructure which will enable the safe and environmentally friendly development of air transport.
A partnership programme
SESAR aims to eliminate the fragmented approach to European ATM, transform the ATM system, synchronise all stakeholders and federate resources. For the first time, all aviation players are involved in the definition, development and deployment of a pan-European modernisation project.
SESAR aims at developing the new generation air traffic management system capable of ensuring the safety and fluidity of air transport worldwide over the next 30 years. It is composed of three phases:
  • The Definition phase (2004-2008) delivered the ATM master plan defining the content, the development and deployment plans of the next generation of ATM systems.
    This definition phase was led by Eurocontrol, and co-funded by the European Commission under the Trans European Network- Transport programme and executed by a large consortium of all air transport stakeholders.
  • The Development phase (2008-2013) will produce the required new generation of technological systems, components and operational procedures as defined in the SESAR ATM Master Plan and Work Programme.
  • The Deployment phase (2014-2020) will see the large scale production and implementation of the new air traffic management infrastructure, composed of fully harmonised and interoperable components guaranteeing high performance air transport activities in Europe.

The SESAR Joint Undertaking

Taking into account the number of actors involved in SESAR and the financial resources and technical expertise needed, it was vital for the rationalisation of activities to set up a legal entity pursuant to Article 171 of the Treaty establishing the European Community capable of ensuring the management of the funds assigned to the SESAR project during its Development Phase.
More about SESAR on Wikipedia


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