Air Traffic Control Enters the 21st Century

NextGen looks to overhaul navigation and communication in U.S. airspace. Data Comm is just one component in a vast and ambitious program, called NextGen (short for Next Generation Air Transportation), in which the Federal Aviation Administration is overhauling the way aircraft navigate and the way controllers track and communicate with them. Satellite navigation can allow aircraft to fly smooth, efficient point-to-point routes rather than zigzagging between ground-based navigation beacons and stair-stepping to change altitudes. Satellite-based surveillance, meanwhile, can give air traffic controllers—and other pilots—more accurate and timely location information than radar can, allowing aircraft to fly closer together.

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