FAA releases update of OEP

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The Federal Aviation Administration has expanded plans for some programs and delayed others in the latest version of its Operational Evolution Plan, a mix of information technology and other initiatives designed to expand capacity to meet passenger needs.

The new version extends the time frame for completion by three years to 2013.

"The OEP continues to represent [the] FAA's commitments for improving capacity and efficiency in the National Airspace System over the next 10 years," wrote Marion Blakey, the agency's administrator, in the executive summary to the report. "This version of the OEP balances program progress with a crisper vision that emphasizes collaborative decision-making, required navigation performance and shared information systems."

Required navigation performance — a major piece of the FAA's transformation effort — enables pilots to navigate aircraft to any point in the world using on-board equipment instead of relying entirely on ground-based systems. Officials expect to release standards for the tool this year.

The progress of other programs is under review, however.

"Despite the FAA's best efforts to achieve and retain a government and industry commitment for the OEP implementation, the outlook for significant partnered investment is dimmed by growing security costs and airline restructuring," agency officials wrote in the executive summary.

As a result, Controller/Pilot Data Link Communications "is unable to move forward with national implementation until a critical mass of aircraft [equipment] and controller workload is reduced," officials wrote. CPDLC, which went operational in Miami in October 2002, replaces a two-way voice radio system with faster, more reliable text messaging for nonurgent exchanges.

Solid plans for cockpit display procedures also are a few years from completion, according to officials.

Despite those setbacks, the OEP has improved arrival and departure rates, decreased en route, or high-altitude, congestion, and enhanced the safety of flights during bad weather.

This update of the OEP, Version 5.0, was released last month and announced to the media today.

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