The poor conditions of our air traffic control towers is nothing new. People have been talking about the next generation of aviation for quite some time, but Aviation Week reports that Next-Gen systems might be closer than before:
Better late than never -- even if never was never really an option -- regulators are moving to define and accelerate the shift toward surveillance and navigation based on satellite systems. The United States is further along on the surveillance part, known as Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast (ADS-B) Out, with FAA's proposed rule (O&M, Nov. 2007, p. 19), while Europe's SESAR (Single European Sky ATM Research) group is further advanced on datalink communications. Both Europe and the U.S. clearly are moving toward the same goal, although the pace and emphasis during the transition to next-generation traffic management still must be worked out.
The article goes on to describe a number of factors pressuring the industry to switch over. As oil prices continue to rise and more people are starting to worry about carbon emissions and global warming, any Next-Gen system should increase system efficiency and reduce fuel costs and flight times.