NextGen software technology that will allow air traffic controllers to maximize the benefits of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures on the approach to the runway was transferred to the FAA from NASA last week in an official ceremony at FAA headquarters.
Coupled with the precision of PBN, the technology, called Terminal Sequence and Spacing, provides predictability, allowing controllers to safely reduce excess spacing between approaching aircraft, saving time and fuel while reducing emissions.
The technology uses time-based metering to improve the safety and efficiency of Area Navigation (RNAV) and Required Navigation Performance (RNP) approach procedures in terminal airspace.
The airport-centric Terminal Sequence and Spacing technology dovetails with an existing traffic metering tool that delivers efficiencies in the airspace beyond the airport. Time-Based Flow Management, which improves the flow of traffic through high altitude, en route airspace down to the four corner posts, navigational fixes in the sky approximately 40 miles from an airport. Terminal Sequence and Spacing helps controllers manage aircraft from the four corner posts down to the runway.
With the new technology, controllers see circles called slot markers on their display screens that indicate where an aircraft should be in order to fly a RNAV or RNP route through the forecasted wind field, meet all speed and altitude restrictions and land on time. This software enables the use of PBN procedures to become more routine, requiring less vectoring, fewer level-offs of aircraft and less communication between controllers and pilots.
The FAA, which received an initial technology transfer of Terminal Sequence and Spacing from NASA last September, is expected to make a full investment decision by the end of the year through its Joint Resources Council, a team of top agency executives that reviews major acquisitions and approves funding.