Hundreds of aviation professionals are expected to gather in Atlantic City next week to discuss the future of the NextGen Air Transportation System, a series of federal initiatives to revolutionize air travel.

This marks the second year that Avionics Magazine, an international publication for the aviation industry, has hosted the Avionics for NextGen conference in Atlantic City. U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, is scheduled to deliver the keynote address and will discuss the challenges of funding and implementing the program in Washington, D.C.

Earlier this year, Congress came to a resolution over a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that funds the authority through 2015. Long-term funding for the authority previously expired in 2007, and the agency was left to rely on a series of 23 short-term financing extensions that led to a partial shutdown of the FAA last summer.

“This year’s conference will address the current issues regarding NextGen implementation,” said Emily Feliz, editor in chief of Avionics Magazine. “In the face of new funding challenges, this conference has become more relevant than ever.”

The FAA has set a goal of integrating NextGen technologies into the national airspace system by 2020. The technology will modernize the system as it transitions from a ground-based system to a more efficient satellite-based one.

Panels at Tuesday’s conference will address how to safely integrate unmanned aircraft into the airspace system, and what avionics manufacturers can do to help the aviation community realize the benefits of the upgrades.

A study by the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington, D.C., think tank, earlier this year found that airline carriers are reluctant to take on the costs associated with the upgrades in part because there is disagreement of the system’s benefits.

Locally, much is riding on the NextGen program. The technologies are tested at the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Egg Harbor Township, which employs 1,500 FAA workers and 1,500 contractors. In 2005, plans for a NextGen Aviation Research and Technology Park on the tech center’s campus were announced, but work has yet to begin on the first building.

The park’s board is currently working to negotiate an agreement with real estate development firm New Vistas Corp. \

The Northfield-based developer and the board were slated to have an agreement in place last month, but pushed off the deadline until mid-October when negotiations proved complicated. Both parties are currently working together in an attempt to secure tenants for the park. To date, none aside from the FAA itself have been announced.

NextGen park Executive Director Ron Esposito has said he and New Vistas principal Michael Cohan will attend the conference and plan to take advantage of networking opportunities to speak with potential tenants.

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