O'Hare International Airport in Chicago
O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. REUTERS

in the priod ahead, the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to deploy a new air traffic control system, Next Generation Air Transportation System, commonly known as NextGen, that promises to improve the flying experience almost as much as the jet engine did.

NextGen, which will replace the 60-year-old radar system with a satellite-based Global Positioning System, has many benefits. Planes will continually broadcast their coordinates, or positions, not only to air traffic controllers, but to other commercial aircraft, The Associated Press reported. Hence, for the first time pilots will be able to see other planes, their flight plan, and the relation of the plane they are piloting to other planes. As a result, planes will be able to fly closer together.

Further, when planes approach airports, GPS navigation enable them to use more-efficient landing and takeoff procedures. And, like the above in-flight efficiencies, planes will be able to take-off and land closer together, even in poor weather. NextGen is expected to cost the federal government $22 billion and the airline sector about $20 billion through 2025.

And, the FAA predicts, NextGen will save significant time, fuel and money. It also will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and noise.

It really is a revolution in air transportation, said Deputy FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, The Associated Press reported. The decisions we're making in the next several years will set the foundation for the next 75 years of air traffic control.

In a nutshell, NextGen is a long-overdue, tech-based system that will save time, money, and energy. And any system that reduces the amount of fuel a commercial plane burns per flight is good for the environment.

So who could possibly complain against a system that's roughly the equivalent of replacing a 1960s Buick with a 2011 Porsche 911?

Airline companies, that's who. Airlines favor NextGen, but they're concerned about the FAA's history of changing directions after they've made costly new investments. That's one reason the arilines want the federal government to help pay for the equipment they're required to buy. Loan guarantees may represent one compromise between the feds and airlines, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Airlines also want proof that NextGen is ready to produce tangible benefits. That's why the FAA's goal is to leverage current GPS technology, before adding more technology, and, by extension, raising cost.