FAA chief outlines metroplex goals

Speaking at the launch of the design and implementation phase of the Metroplex initiative in Atlanta and Charlotte, FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta last week said modernisation efforts could be realised within three years.

“This has been a collaborative effort among all parties. And because of this collaboration, we expect to modernize the airspace here much more quickly than we would otherwise. It usually takes between five and 10 years to develop and implement the procedures we are talking about. But under the Metroplex initiative [in Atlanta], we expect to finish this work in three years,” said Huerta.

He said the FAA estimates that airlines flying into Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta will fly about 1.2 million fewer miles per year, based on the improved flight paths. Those paths, combined with other, fuel-saving descents, translate into a projected fuel savings of about 2.9 million gallons per year and 30,000 fewer metric tons of carbon emissions released into the air. This is the total savings for all aircraft and airlines using Atlanta’s hub airport.

“In Charlotte, we expect to see even greater savings by increasing the availability of NextGen procedures there. Charlotte is newer to NextGen than Atlanta. That means the improvements there will be greater because we’re starting NextGen from a lower level there and bringing it up,” he said.

He said the FAA expects that airlines flying into Charlotte will be able to cut about 2.5 million miles from their flights per year. The shorter routes, combined with other types of approaches, translate into a projected savings of 3.7 million gallons of fuel and 35,000 fewer metric tons of greenhouse gases emitted into the air.

He said that in both of these cities, the FAA anticipates these savings to be delivered through the use of highly precise Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures, which will reduce the number of miles aircraft must fly by allowing them to take more direct routes.

“We are not only looking at Hartsfield-Jackson. We are studying how the airspace around the world’s busiest airport is interconnected with the airspace around smaller local airports. We are creating better, satellite-based flight paths for aircraft flying into airports in DeKalb County, Gwinnett, Cobb and Fulton. Those are the smaller airports – DeKalb-Peachtree; Briscoe Field; McCollum Field and Fulton County Airport at Charlie Brown Field,” he said.

He added that similar steps would be taken at airports around Charlotte that support commercial flights – including Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina and Greenville-Spartanburg and Columbia in South Carolina.

“Across the country, there are 21 different areas surrounding big cities or combinations of cities, where we know that we need to improve airspace. We need to improve the flow of traffic, increase efficiency, decrease fuel burn and make aviation greener,” said Huerta.

“The particular way in which we are accomplishing this here in Atlanta and Charlotte is by studying the problem and then designing and implementing new procedures that take into account the entire airspace in the metro area. We are also fast-tracking the work and taking about three years. We’ll follow this template at 13 different sites across the whole country in the airspace above many metropolitan areas. Other sites are being improved under more traditional processes,” he said.

Read more: FAA to boost metroplex airspace efficiency


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