FAA Launches Air
Traffic Control NextGen Initiative In Houston
By Jim Douglas
April 5, 2012 - Top U.S. Transportation Department and
Federal Aviation Administration officials met with
aviation partners in Houston on Wednesday as part of a
newly-launched collaborative effort to make air traffic
control more efficient, help airlines improve on-time
performance and reduce emissions generated by aircraft
flying into and out of Houston’s airports.
“Houston is testing technology and flight procedures
that will improve on-time flights and increase safety
and fuel efficiency,” said U.S. Deputy Transportation
Secretary John Porcari.
“The work underway in Houston to develop new
satellite-based arrival and departure routes for the
city’s two major airports will be replicated nationally,
meaning that travelers will reach their destinations
more quickly and safely than ever before.”
estimates that as a result of the Houston Metroplex airspace
initiative, airplanes will fly 648,000 fewer nautical miles
annually, based on flight plans. This and other NextGen
procedures will save up to three million gallons of fuel and
reduce carbon emissions by as much as 31,000 metric tons each
Metroplex is a major metropolitan area with multiple airports,
where heavy traffic and environmental constraints combine to
hinder efficient movement. Metroplex initiatives are under way
or planned in 21 metropolitan areas across the country including
Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Washington D.C. and
NextGen, the FAA and members of the aviation industry are
teaming up to make some of the most complex airspace in the
country some of the most efficient,” said Acting FAA
Administrator Michael Huerta.
in January, the Houston Metroplex initiative is well into the
design phase on a number of strategies to streamline airspace
and help reduce complexity for air traffic controllers and
flight crews. The strategies include:
- Creating Optimized Profile Descent (OPD) procedures into George Bush Intercontinental and William P. Hobby airports. OPDs allow pilots to almost idle the engines while the aircraft descends at a constant rate, like sliding down a banister. Current airspace procedures require planes to level off at certain points to allow for coordination between air traffic controllers. OPDs reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
- Creating more efficient routes between Houston and the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex areas to shave miles off of each flight through this busy corridor.
- Developing similarly efficient alternative routes that can be used when bad weather affects normal arrival and departure paths.
- Establishing departure and arrival routes that align airplanes on preferred paths, which will also reduce the number of miles flown.
side-by-side arrival routes into George Bush Intercontinental Houston
Airport to increase airspace efficiency and provide more direct routing.
satellite-based departure procedures that would provide predictable,
repeatable paths that are designed to allow planes to climb without
leveling off, which brings them to a cruising altitude sooner.
Metroplex was also selected by the Obama Administration as one of 14
high-priority infrastructure projects that are ideal for expedited
completion. Rather than taking three years to complete, this project
will be completed in two years through environmental streamlining and
improvements are part of the FAA’s overall NextGen program, which is
transforming the radar-based air traffic control system of today to a
satellite-based system of the future.
A key component of NextGen has been in use over the Gulf of
Mexico since January 2010. Aircraft equipped with a technology called
Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) are able to
constantly broadcast their location, altitude and speed, allowing the
FAA to provide radar-like services to areas that previously had no radar
coverage, such as the Gulf.
regional partnership includes the FAA, the National Air Traffic
Controllers Association (NATCA), United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and
the Houston Airport System.
effort is critical to the safety and efficiency of our aviation system,
and Houston – one of the nation's busiest airspaces – is a great place
to showcase this initiative” said NATCA representative Keith Brown. “Metroplex
will make air travel a better experience for everyone. NATCA is proud to
be partnering with the FAA to create the best and most technologically
advanced aviation system in the world."
“We are proud to
be an innovator in the Metroplex project in Houston, home to United’s
largest hub,” said Jay Ellzey, United’s vice president of operations
collaborative effort between United and the FAA is a win-win—not only
have we designed more efficient operations that benefit our customers,
the project also creates a greener airspace.”
Airlines is committed to the design and implementation of safe and
efficient flight procedures that benefit the traveling public and the
communities surrounding the Houston Metroplex,” said Captain Chuck
Magill, Southwest Airlines Vice President of Flight Operations.
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