Legislation to reauthorize Federal Aviation Administration programs now moving through Congress would provide considerable funding to pay for the FAA's part in upgrading management of the national air space to the satellite-based NextGen system. However, the costs to aircraft operators of adopting the necessary technology are significant, and NextGen cannot provide the full benefits it promises of a safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly system if only some operators are properly equipped.
The FAA's current NextGen implementation plan calls for giving air space priority to the "best-equipped, best-served" operators as an incentive to spur early adoption of NextGen avionics. Is this the best approach? Or should the airlines and other aviation system users get funding assistance from the government, or greater freedom to raise their own revenues, to fund the cost they will need to bear?