SESAR is Europe's ‘Single European Sky Air traffic Research system’. NextGen is the USA's ‘Next Generation Air Transport System’. SESAR and NextGen are developments targeted at post 2020. The common vision is to integrate and implement new technologies to improve air traffic management (ATM) performance – a ‘new paradigm’. SESAR and NextGen combine increased automation with new procedures to achieve safety, economic, capacity, environmental, and security benefits. The systems do not have to be identical, but must have aligned requirements for equipment standards and technical interoperability.
A key component is a ‘cooperative surveillance’ model, where aircraft are constantly transmitting their position (from navigational satellites), flight path intent, and other useful aircraft parameters – known as ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast). The focus for planning and executing system operations will increasingly be aircraft 4D trajectories: a 4D trajectory is the aircraft path, three space dimensions plus time, from gate-to-gate, i.e. including the path along the ground at the airport.
In analysing potential major ATM system changes, a simple division into five Key Test areas might be: Safety Credibility, Operational Concept, Technological Feasibility, Benefits and Costs, and Transition Path. The main attention here is on Benefits and Costs of SESAR. The strategic challenge will be to convince customers and stakeholders of the benefits of paradigm shift expenditure, given the associated impacts on future user charges, aircraft equipment investments and public expenditure. The analysis here shows that the existing cost benefit analysis results for SESAR are not particularly robust, possibly over-estimating Net Present Values by some tens of € billions.