The FAA is making progress with the modernization of the National Airspace System through its NextGen initiative. A recently released report disclosed that 354 WAAS LPV approaches were added nationwide in 2011. As long as you have a WAAS-capable GPS receiver, you now have a lot more options when the weather is less than CAVU, with access to nearly 2,800 precision approaches at 1,420 airports around the country that allow you to fly down to minima as low as 200 feet.
Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) implementation also appears to be progressing quickly. By the end of last year, 300 ADS-B stations had been enabled around the country. Full ADS-B implementation with 700 stations is expected by early 2014. So if you’re thinking of picking up the new Stratus system recently announced by Sporty’s and ForeFlight, you’ll likely get coverage in most places you fly very soon, if you don’t already. By 2020, you will need to get a panel mounted ADS-B unit in order to fly in certain airspace, including Class A, B and C. However, the Stratus unit won’t qualify since it does not provide ADS-B Out signals.
The environmental initiatives within NextGen also saw progress in 2011 with the ASTM approval of Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) jet biofuel. An increasing number of airlines as well as a growing percentage of airplanes flown by the U.S. Air Force and Navy are now using biofuels. However, since the biofuel technology is quite new, the product is more expensive than traditionally refined fuels. But as production becomes more efficient, the prices should come down.
Read the full report here.