Context to a Changing Aviation System

Growth in aviation has been exponential since the 1970s, with increased social mobility and burgeoning international trade and tourism. Pressure is building to provide greater capacity and efficiency within the aviation system to serve this growth.

Technological Shifts

A significant shift in aviation technology is also underway. Developments in many fields are opening the door to new opportunities for efficiency and safety improvement:

  • Global navigation satellite systems can now pinpoint aircraft to within a few metres.
  • Air traffic service surveillance is moving from groundbased radar to aircraft-based systems.
  • Digital messaging (datalink) and satellite communications are supplementing traditional radio transmissions in communications.
  • Information technologies are allowing us to integrate all aviation data to provide more complete information to pilots.
  • More powerful computers are enabling the Introduction of complex predictive trajectory management.
  • Remotely piloted aircraft systems are enabling the public to participate directly in the aviation system.

Ongoing modernisation of the aviation system will assist in the safe and efficient movement of air traffic, more accurate navigation, reduced reliance on ground-based systems and increased availability of information for more effective decision-making. These new systems also allow for shorter, more direct routes, as well as more efficient departure and arrival flight paths. This reduces fuel burn, aircraft emissions, and facilitates the movement of air traffic. However, unmanaged technological changes can also lead to increased safety risks when they outpace the regulatory and infrastructure developments needed to support it.

International Harmonisation

There is a strong international drive for an integrated and interoperable global air navigation system, led by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) with state and industry support. Alignment to the extent possible with international requirements is important to ensure that New Zealand maintains compatibility and interoperability with the international civil aviation system. ICAO’s 4th Global Air Navigation Plan (ICAO Doc 9750), outlines the expected availability of new technologies as Aviation System Block Upgrade (ASBU) modules with four five-year time increments starting in 2013 (Block 0) and continuing through 2028 and beyond (Block 3).

The ICAO Plan is not mandatory but provides a planning tool for states in supporting a harmonised global air navigation system. Where states determine a need for the modernisation of their airspace and air navigation systems, it is recommended they follow the applicable modules set out in the ICAO Plan. The Asia-Pacific region has also developed a regional plan to guide states in development and ensure regional harmonisation. The ICAO Asia-Pacific Seamless Air Traffic Management Plan has been taken into account to ensure this Plan aligns with identified regional outcomes.

Many states are in the process of developing their own plans to take advantage of the changing technologies to improve traffic flow, efficiency, safety and environmental performance. These plans include the NextGen programme in the United States and the Single European Sky Air Traffic Management Research (SESAR) multinational project for European airspace. Many countries and regions, including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are also well on their way to implementing their own plans.

What are the NSS Programme Workstreams?

The following provides an overview of each workstream relevant to the stage in which change is to be delivered. There are eight domains across three stages as described in the National Airspace and Air Navigation Plan 2014. Click on the links provided to explore each domain further. 


The introduction of navigation procedures that use accurate data from the Global Network of Satellite Systems (GNSS) will mean shorter, more direct flights. Click here to read full details.

Auto Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) is set to become the main aviation surveillance technology worldwide.  Click here to read full details.

Communications play a vital role in air navigation. They provide contact between the aircraft and the ground – keeping aircraft safe and ensuring efficient aircraft flow. They also provide the aeronautical and weather information critical to good decision making. Click here to read full details.

Over the next few years Aeronautical Information Systems that today rely mainly on paper-based charts and publications, will move to data-driven digital systems. Click here to read full details

To promote efficient and safe airspace use the Air Traffic Management (ATM) system will shift focus from providing services that control to services that enable air traffic. Click here to read full details.

New Zealand airspace design will be reviewed to accommodate increased traffic, new aircraft types and more direct flight paths. Click here to read full details.

New Southern Sky will establish a collaborative planning process and decision making forums that respond to increasing demand on aerodrome infrastructure. Click here to read full details.

Integrating fine scale meteorological information into air traffic management and PBN applications will support seamless and efficient aviation operations. Click here to read full details.

What are the NSS Programme Milestones?

Across the eight domains, there are a range of Programme Milestones that have been defined. 

Click here to view the high-level milestones chart for the NSS Programme. [Please Note. Page still under development].