Acting Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta and aviation partners have launched a collaborative effort to make air traffic control more efficient, help airlines improve on-time performance, and reduce emissions generated by aircraft flying in and out of airports in the Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., areas.
As part of the FAA’s NextGen modernisation programme, the Metroplex initiative – which includes the optimisation of airspace procedures in the metroplex – will improve the flow of air traffic into and out of all airports in the Atlanta and Charlotte metropolitan areas.
A metroplex is a region with several airports serving major metropolitan areas where heavy airport activity and environmental constraints combine to hinder the efficient movement of air traffic. Metroplex initiatives are underway or planned in 21 metropolitan areas across the country.
The Metroplex initiative is based on satellite navigation, which the FAA calls Performance-Based Navigation (PBN), also a key component of NextGen. PBN enables pilots to fly aircraft using radar or satellite coverage, or by utilizing the on-board flight management system. PBN allows shorter, more direct routes that reduce flight time and fuel consumption, and result in fewer carbon emissions.
“Delta is committed to working with key stakeholders to design and implement efficient procedures that benefit our customers and the communities surrounding the Atlanta Metroplex,” said Steve Dickson, Delta senior vice president, flight operations. Delta applauds efforts that through technology allow us to reduce our environmental impact setting the stage for the evolution to NextGen.”
The FAA estimates that 1.2 million fewer nautical miles will be flown in and out of Atlanta, based on current flight plan miles filed. This equates to 2.9 million fewer gallons of fuel used and a reduction in carbon emissions by 30,000 metric tons. For Charlotte, an estimated 2.5 million fewer nautical miles will be flown annually, based on current flight plan miles filed. 3.7 million gallons of fuel will be saved, with reduced carbon emissions by 35,000 metric tons annually.
“US Airways is committed to continually evaluating the ways we do business and how our business impacts the environment and the communities we serve,” said Robert Isom, US Airways’ Cchief operating officer. “Optimising the airspace at our largest hub at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where we operate more than 630 flights each day, will help us reduce our carbon emissions by up to 59,000 metric tons each year and save up to $17 million annually on fuel costs.”
This collaborative, regional partnership includes the FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Delta Air Lines, US Airways, and Atlanta and Charlotte-area airports.
“Atlanta is fortunate to have such a strong team working on the Metroplex project. Through collaboration with management, NATCA and industry, “ said Jeffrey D. Russell, National Air Traffic Controllers Association lead representative on the team. “I expect our team to deliver a phenomenal product to the users of the airspace system and air travelers, who will benefit greatly from these efforts to make our system even safer and more efficient.”
The Metroplex work teams will explore and develop strategies to streamline airspace over Atlanta and Charlotte to help reduce airspace complexity for air traffic controllers and flight crews. The strategies include:
- Creating separate high-altitude flight tracks for Atlanta departures and Charlotte arrivals to allow aircraft to climb and descend without leveling off.
- Expanding Optimized Profile Descent (OPD) procedures into Atlanta and Charlotte airports. OPDs allow pilots to almost idle the engines while the aircraft descends, using the on-board Flight Management System to fly a continuous, descending path without leveling off. OPDs reduce fuel consumption, carbon emissions and noise
- Shortening flight tracks by making them more direct.
- Designing new satellite-based procedures for Atlanta reliever airports with air traffic control towers, which are DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, Gwinnett County Airport/Briscoe Field, Fulton County Airport and Cobb County Airport/McCollum Field.
- Creating separate flight tracks for flights arriving at Atlanta reliever airports, to separate them from flights to Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
- Developing routes that will enable general aviation traffic to fly across the Atlanta and Charlotte metro areas while remaining clear of controlled airspace.
- Designing new satellite-based procedures for air carrier airports near Charlotte, including Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Greenville- Spartanburg and Columbia, S.C.
- Raising the ceiling of airspace handled by the FAA Terminal Radar Approach control at Charlotte Douglas International Airport to 16,000 feet from 14,000 feet to facilitate OPDs.