As unnerving as it is to hear, air traffic control has always been pretty piecemeal. Relying on a combination of instrumentation — namely, radar, radios, and GPS — as well as good old-fashioned eyeballs, pilots do a pretty good job navigating the sky. But they’re about to get a lot better with a new satellite-based system.
Appropriately named NextGen, the new system being deployed widely this year by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) promises to improve every single air traveller’s experience. The key is constant connectivity to precise satellite technology that gives all aircraft and controllers in flight towers access to real-time-data from the time the plane leaves the gate until it arrives at its destination. This means weather problems are more easily spotted and avoided — which is a huge deal since weather causes 70 per cent of all delays. Beyond that, the entire air traffic control system is becoming more automated and modernised. The FAA already has a list of NextGen success stories, too.
The NextGen system will get even better as more planes use it, too. “All you need is one aircraft to land and the benefits begin,” said the FAA’s Warren Strickland in a statement. “With connections, the benefits are exponential.” Heck, even an incremental benefit would be nice at this point!