ensuring that the work proceeds on schedule. The concern on the part of these workshop participants was that if this prioritization is not done, the bulk of the work that will be done will be non-priority work or that the work will focus only on marginal improvements.
A second issue raised by many of the participants was the JPDO’s inability to articulate the goals of the NextGen program. The JPDO outlined a large number of excellent research tasks in its presentations, most of which will likely be required to support future U.S. airspace system needs. However, many participants felt that there was a lack of focus on the most important future needs: airspace and airport capacity. Further, they felt that the JPDO had not done an adequate job of stating specific, real improvements that could be gained through implementation of the program. Several participants also felt that the JPDO had not been clear in expressing what would be achieved. For example, in stating that NextGen would increase throughput two- to threefold, it was not immediately clear to some participants whether the JPDO was referring to an increase in flights or in passengers carried. They felt that the next version of the Integrated Working Plan (IWP) would benefit from further clarification.
Several participants also suggested that some of the difficulty in articulating the benefits to be achieved could reflect the lack of a baseline against which to measure improvements. In this regard, a number of concerns were raised:
Some participants noted an overreliance on modeling as a mechanism for predicting improvements.
Modeling of the component systems that carry out functions is necessary for success at the broad enterprise level. Many participants felt that the JPDO may need to move to the systems level and make some assumptions about specific systems to get enough detail to make decisions about the best path to take.
Several participants reminded the JPDO about the need to consider impacts broadly across a full life cycle; sometimes long-term impacts are not considered when short-term benefits look attractive (e.g., the large-scale use of biofuels could adversely affect the production of food).
Some participants noted that in overspecifying problems (i.e., promising too much), the JPDO may end up with no implementation, due to the high cost associated with the final program.
Regarding the fourth concern, several participants noted that the large scope of research still needed at this point could be seen as an impediment to meeting the dates targeted for implementation of the NextGen program. They suggested doing something to reduce the scope of the program and advance the dates. For example, one participant suggested that the JPDO restructure NextGen, either through more demonstrations, by focusing on a regional approach, or by selecting targeted issues that might be used as illustrations of what the NextGen program could achieve in terms of increased throughput without a loss of safety. The execution of a demonstration or an individual targeted piece of the plan could produce evidence that the system can work. Many workshop participants felt that if the application is chosen wisely, it could incorporate the major tenets of the system in one package.
This approach could focus the overall plan and would clearly highlight how all of the proposed tasks will yield real benefits in the future. It was further felt by several participants that demonstrations of this sort would make it more difficult for a new administration to reject the continuation of the NextGen program. The motivation for continuing NextGen would also be more visible to the public, especially in the change to a new administration. Several participants agreed that a demonstration of improved air operations could therefore be useful to a new administration as something to cite as an early accomplishment.