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NextGen technology to be implemented in Colorado

December 4, 2012, 12:55 pm

The Federal Aviation Administration is currently implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System, the largest aviation investment in U.S. history, which will allow air traffic controllers to handle more planes. NextGen will replace the old ground-based radar systems and allow aircraft to use satellite global positioning systems, so the planes will be able to more efficient routes. It is expected to reduce air traffic by as much as 10 percent once fully implemented.

In the latest advance of the NextGen system, the FAA and the Colorado Department of Transportation have installed NextGen technology that will help pilots better deal with inclement weather near Montrose Regional Airport in Colorado.

The technology is called the Wide Area Multilateration, and it allows air traffic controllers to track aircraft in mountainous areas, where, with the old system, they were not able to track with radar coverage. Using small sensors deployed in remote areas, the system is able to track aircraft locations by relaying signals from transponders on the plane to determine the precise location.

“Safety is our highest priority, and this is an excellent example of state and federal governments working together to not only improve safety and efficiency, but also provide immediate economic benefits,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The new technology will help local businesses that depend on private and commercial aviation.”

The implementation of the Wide Area Multilateration around Montrose is part of the Colorado Surveillance Project, a partnership between the FAA and CDOT that began providing radar-like service to the mountain communities throughout Colorado in 2009. The two groups expect the Wide Area Multilateration system will be fully in place near Durango, Gunnison and Telluride in summer 2013.

“This system will allow pilots to fly search and rescue missions in weather conditions that would have previously kept them grounded,” said acting FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “It also will support Colorado’s tourism by enabling pilots to land in conditions that previously caused diversions or flight delays.”

CDOT Aeronautics Division Director David Gordon said the department is constantly looking for new ways to streamline efficiency, adding that the new and improved surveillance will provide more efficient flight plans, saved time, reduced fuel burn and benefits to the economies of mountain resort communities and airports.

No matter how advanced technology becomes and how much more efficient or safe the NextGen system will make the aviation community, pilots are still encouraged to obtain pilot insurance to always make sure they are prepared for the worst-case scenario.

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