FAA Solicits Bids For NextGen Contracts Worth $7 Billion





FAA Solicits Bids For NextGen Contracts Worth $7 Billion

By Daniel Baxter
Air Traffic Control Tower

December 5, 2009 - The FAA is soliciting bids from companies interested in competing for NextGen support contracts with an approximate combined value of $7 billion, the largest award in the agency’s history. Under the umbrella awards, called System Engineering 2020 (SE2020), the FAA will award as many as five separate contracts for research and development and systems engineering work that will help the agency deliver NextGen. 

The SE2020 contracts will be awarded to teams of companies, up to three of which will perform research and development work and two of which will perform systems engineering work.

This work will complement and enhance major NextGen initiatives already under way, such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast, System Wide Information Management and Data Communications. Contract teams will focus on a series of operational capabilities, including Trajectory Based Operations, Collaborative Air Traffic Management and Reduced Weather Impact.


The goal is to achieve early NextGen successes to improve safety and bring greater efficiencies to the nation’s airspace system. The team concept is designed to create competitive synergy within each group, driving innovation so that each team comes up with the best possible product. The FAA also structured the contracts, using market survey data, to encourage bids from teams that will include small companies as prime contractors as well as subcontractors. The agency is looking for the best and the brightest, regardless of size. Five-year contracts will be awarded next summer, with subsequent three- and two-year options. 

The Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is the name given to a new National Airspace System due for implementation across the United States in stages between 2012 and 2025. To implement this the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will undertake a wide-ranging transformation of the entire United States air transportation system. This transformation has the aim of reducing gridlock, both in the sky and at the airports. 

The air transportation system of the United States is acknowledged to be under increasing stress. Without urgent action, it will continue to degrade, with increasingly costly aircraft flight delays and increasing concerns over flight safety. NextGen is a wide-ranging transformation of the entire National Airspace System (NAS) of the United States, not just pieces of it, to meet future demands and avoid gridlock. It moves away from legacy ground based technologies to new and more dynamic satellite-based technology. The new capabilities and the highly interdependent technologies aim to change the way that the system operates, reduce congestion, and improve passengers' experiences.  


NextGen consists of five elements: 

1. Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B). ADS-B will use the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite signals to provide air traffic controllers and pilots with much more accurate information that will help to keep aircraft safely separated in the sky and on runways. Aircraft transponders receive GPS signals and use them to determine the aircraft precise position in the sky. This and other data is then broadcast to other aircraft and air traffic control. Once fully established, both pilots and air traffic controllers will, for the first time, see the same real-time display of air traffic, substantially improving safety. The FAA will mandate the avionics necessary for implementing ADS-B. 

2. System Wide Information Management (SWIM). SWIM will provide a single infrastructure and information management system to deliver high quality, timely data to many users and applications. By reducing the number and types of interfaces and systems, SWIM will reduce data redundancy and better facilitate multi-user information sharing. SWIM will also enable new modes of decision making as information is more easily accessed. 

3. Next Generation Data Communications. Current communications between aircrew and air traffic control, and between air traffic controllers, are largely realised through voice communications. Initially, the introduction of data communications will provide an additional means of two-way communication for air traffic control clearances, instructions, advisories, flight crew requests and reports. With the majority of aircraft data link equipped, the exchange of routine controller-pilot messages and clearances via data link will enable controllers to handle more traffic. This will improve air traffic controller productivity, enhancing capacity and safety. 

4. Next Generation Network Enabled Weather (NNEW). Seventy percent of NAS delays are attributed to weather every year. The goal of NNEW is to cut weather-related delays at least in half. Tens of thousands of global weather observations and sensor reports from ground-, airborne- and space-based sources will fuse into a single national weather information system, updated in real time. NNEW will provide a common weather picture across the national airspace system, and enable better air transportation decision making. 

5. NAS Voice Switch (NVS). There are currently seventeen different voice switching systems in the NAS, some in use for more than twenty years. NVS will replace these systems with a single air/ground and ground/ground voice communications system.

With NextGen, many pilots and dispatchers will be able to select their own, usually direct flight paths, rather than follow the existing interstate highway-like grid in the sky. Each airplane will transmit and receive precise information about the time at which it and others will cross key points along their paths. Pilots and air traffic managers on the ground will have the same precise information, transmitted via data communications. 

Major demand and capacity imbalances will be worked collaboratively between the FAA air traffic managers and flight operations. The increased scope, volume and widespread distribution of information by SWIM, will improve decision making and let more civil aviation authorities participate. 

The impact of weather on flight operations will be reduced through the use of improved information sharing, new technology to sense and mitigate the impacts of the weather, to improve weather forecasts and decision making. Better forecasts, coupled with greater automation, will minimize airspace limitations and traffic restrictions. 

The new procedures of NextGen will improve airport surface movements, reduce spacing and separation requirements, and better manage the overall flows into and out of busy airspace, and to provide maximum use of busy airports. Targeting NextGen at the whole of the NAS, rather than just the busiest airports, will uncover untapped capacity across the whole system. During busy traffic periods, NextGen will rely on aircraft to fly precise routes into and out of many airports to increase throughput. 

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