JetBlue to Use Satellite Technology on Flights

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and JetBlue signed a NextGen agreement that officials say will allow the airline to fly more precise, satellite-based flights from Boston and New York to Florida and the Caribbean beginning in 2012.

NextGen is the government's modernization program, aimed at transforming the national airspace system from a ground-based system of air traffic control to one based on satellites to improve safety and reduce congestion.

Some carriers have balked at the cost. FAA agreed to pay $4.2 million for the hardware and software necessary to equip JetBlue planes, officials said. The airline will pay to install and maintain the equipment, and do training.

Under the agreement, about 35 of JetBlue's A320 aircraft will be equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) avionics over the next two years, enabling them to fly in two major routes off the East Coast even if traditional radar coverage is not available.

FAA will gather data on the new system's real world performance in the congested East Coast air corridor.

The agreement will also allow 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.

In a statement, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says, "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."

He notes that in the State of the Union address, "President Obama called for targeted investments that harness American innovation to strengthen our nation."

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