According to the 2011-2015 National Plan of Integrated Airports Systems compiled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), there are over 19,700 airports in the United States. The FAA has projected that the number of annual airline passengers will grow from 732 million in 2012 to 1.2 billion in 2022. However, air traffic delays, an aged air traffic control system, and increasing costs are threatening to paralyze air travel. By 2025, 27 airports in 15 metropolitan areas will have insufficient capacity (FAA).
Additionally, a 2019 report on the capital needs of U.S. airports done by Airports Council International-North America found that airports have more than $128 billion in total project needs considered to be essential by the airport and airport users. This is a 28.3 percent increase since 2017. Airports contribute more than 7 percent to the U.S. gross national product and support over 11.5 million jobs.
The infrastructure research firm Cambridge Systematics found that within the next decade, 25 of the nation’s top 30 airports will suffer the same congestion as the day before Thanksgiving at least two days each week. In other words, the busiest travel day of the year will be what passengers visiting many of America’s top destinations will experience every day.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the U.S. aviation system received a grade of ‘D’ in 2017 – and our outdated air traffic control system played a large role in the poor grade. It is in dire need of modernization as we are operating with a system based on World War II era technology.
We must move more rapidly to deploy “NextGen,” which is an umbrella term for the ongoing, wide-ranging transformation of the National Airspace System. 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.
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.
A 21st Century transportation system must employ the most cutting edge technologies such as NextGen to ensure the efficient and safe movement of people and goods.