JetBlue Goes High Tech

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and JetBlue have signed a NextGen deal that will let the budget airline  fly more precise, satellite-based flights from Boston and New York to Florida and the Caribbean beginning in 2012.

This is a seachange in air traffic control. At a government cost of $4.2 million, 35 JetBlue airplanes will get what are called NextGen global positioning navigation systems, moving the U.S. national airspace system away from a ground-based system of air traffic control to one based on electronic winged birds in the sky. The government hopes the moves will enhance safety and reduce aviation congestion--and that the airline industry will plunk down an estimated $20 billion over the next decade on the new technology.

The move come after President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, whereby the President noted  the importance of  investments in technology in order for the country to become more competitive globally and strengthen our economy here at home, a federal press release notes.

“In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for targeted investments that harness American innovation to strengthen our nation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “NextGen is a critical investment in the future of our transportation system, one that uses the latest technology to transform our airspace to make aviation safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.”

The deal will also let JetBlue to fly a new route to the Caribbean, and could lead to the development of two new, shorter ADS-B-only routes to the Caribbean from Boston, New York and Washington, a federal press release notes.

JetBlue Airways CEO Dave Barger said in a statement: “Our investment today will yield dividends far into the future, not just for JetBlue but for all airlines. Our customers and crew members deserve our best efforts.”