1

Introduction

The U.S. National Airspace System (NAS) is widely acknowledged to be both safe and reliable. However, runway capacity (particularly at the busiest U.S. airports—referred to as the “Metroplex” airports), the current operational model, and the evolved NAS constrain flight patterns and operations in ways that limit the net capacity of the U.S. air space and limit options for improving efficiency. Although technological and procedural improvements have been introduced into the system over the years to increase capacity, reduce delays, and improve safety, elements of the NAS rely on outdated technology, and the system has not been significantly changed to take advantage of available information and communications technologies or to enable major improvements in how the airspace is organized and managed. Furthermore, the NAS exists in a complex political, organizational, and economic milieu that imposes its own constraints and demands as well.

In 2003, an effort to transform the air transportation system was announced, and the Joint Planning and Development Office was established to develop the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen refers to a set of programs and initiatives to be coordinated into an evolving overall transportation system aimed at a continuing transformation of the NAS. NextGen aims to overhaul the U.S. air transportation system through a combination of procedural and technological improvements. It is intended to make use of extant capabilities along with key enabling technologies such as satellite navigation systems and a digital communications infrastructure to share real-time information, making it possible to shorten routes, navigate better around weather, save time and fuel, reduce delays, increase capacity at airports not already capacity-limited, and improve capabilities for monitoring and managing of aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), working with a wide range of stakeholders, is currently working toward both near-term and midterm capabilities.1

NextGen efforts will almost certainly increase the amount, complexity, and safety-criticality of NAS systems and corresponding enterprise and system architectures. The development of

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1 More information about NextGen can be found in the NextGen Implementation Plan 2013 on the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov/nextgen/implementation/.



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1 Introduction The U.S. National Airspace System (NAS) is widely acknowledged to be both safe and reliable. However, runway capacity (particularly at the busiest U.S. airports—referred to as the “Metro- plex” airports), the current operational model, and the evolved NAS constrain flight patterns and operations in ways that limit the net capacity of the U.S. air space and limit options for improving efficiency. Although technological and procedural improvements have been introduced into the system over the years to increase capacity, reduce delays, and improve safety, elements of the NAS rely on outdated technology, and the system has not been significantly changed to take advantage of available information and communications technologies or to enable major improvements in how the airspace is organized and managed. Furthermore, the NAS exists in a complex political, organizational, and economic milieu that imposes its own constraints and demands as well. In 2003, an effort to transform the air transportation system was announced, and the Joint Plan- ning and Development Office was established to develop the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). NextGen refers to a set of programs and initiatives to be coordinated into an evolving overall transportation system aimed at a continuing transformation of the NAS. NextGen aims to overhaul the U.S. air transportation system through a combination of procedural and tech- nological improvements. It is intended to make use of extant capabilities along with key enabling technologies such as satellite navigation systems and a digital communications infrastructure to share real-time information, making it possible to shorten routes, navigate better around weather, save time and fuel, reduce delays, increase capacity at airports not already capacity-limited, and improve capabilities for monitoring and managing of aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), working with a wide range of stakeholders, is currently working toward both near-term and midterm capabilities.1  NextGen efforts will almost certainly increase the amount, complexity, and safety-criticality of NAS systems and corresponding enterprise and system architectures. The development of 1  More information about NextGen can be found in the NextGen Implementation Plan 2013 on the FAA’s website at http:// www.faa.gov/nextgen/implementation/. 4

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INTRODUCTION 5 large-scale, software-intensive systems is widely recognized to be challenging and risky (in terms of cost, schedule, and system performance), and there have been both “extraordinary successes and colossal failures”2 in developing and deploying systems in both the private and public sector. Efforts related to the national air transportation system are especially challenging owing to its large scope and scale (and difficulty tends to increase nonlinearly as systems scale up in complexity, features, and quality goals), the multiple entities that interconnect with it (such as airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and airport operators), and the human-systems interactions associated with piloting and controlling. Cost and time estimates associated with the acquisition of large, software-intensive systems are notoriously overoptimistic—in part due to the misalignment of near-term goals and incentives with long-term goals and incentives. In addition, in any complex environment, new or upgraded systems require careful attention to the co-development of appropriate new business pro- cesses and to human-systems integration considerations and related issues such as organizational design, development of new concepts of operation, system usability, and user training. The committee has received a number of briefings on NextGen efforts, particularly as related to the study’s focus on enterprise architecture, software development, safety, and human factors. In this interim report, the committee outlines some of the topics it has examined so far in the study process. Chapter 2 describes some of the constraints faced by NextGen efforts. Chapter 3 outlines major themes and areas of focus and concern that have emerged thus far in the committee’s work. The final report—anticipated in mid-2014—will provide more in-depth analysis, along with find- ings and recommendations. 2  National Research Council, Achieving Effective Acquisition of Information Technology in the Department of Defense, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2010, p. ix.