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FAA Commemorates 911 With Nextgen Arrival Profiles Into National Airport
By Jim Douglas

September 11, 2012 - No one who was working at the Department of Transportation 11 years ago will forget the morning of September 11, 2001. Whether it was the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic controllers, who helped bring every aircraft in U.S. airspace safely to ground, or the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy's midshipmen, who went into the chaos of Lower Manhattan to support the maritime evacuation of Wall Street workers, 9/11 is permanently etched into the Department's memory. 

The September 11 attacks were a series of four suicide attacks that were committed in the United States on September 11, 2001, coordinated to strike the areas of New York City and Washington, D.C. On that Tuesday morning, 19 terrorists from the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda hijacked four passenger jets.  

The hijackers intentionally piloted two of those planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City; both towers collapsed within two hours.

The hijackers also intentionally crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and intended to pilot the fourth hijacked jet, United Airlines Flight 93, into the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.; however, the plane crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after its passengers attempted to take control of the jet from the hijackers. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, including the 246 civilians and 19 hijackers aboard the four planes. 

To commemorate that day, the FAA's Washington Metroplex Team has named two arrival sequences to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to honor those who died that day and those who have served our country from that day forward.  

Each arrival sequence, FRDMM (Freedom) and TRUPS (Troops), is part of our new NextGen descents, which use satellite-based information to make more efficient arrivals and departures at airports. The sequences contain a series of five-letter waypoints – points in the sky through which an aircraft must fly to remain on course – and together, they spell out messages of support and remembrance for 9/11.   

Aircraft flying the Freedom route to National from the northwest pass through waypoints named “WEEEE,” “WLLLL,” “NEVVR,” “FORGT” and “SEP11.” Those flying the Troops route from the southwest pass through waypoints named “USAAY,” “WEEDU,” “SUPRT,” “OOURR” and “TRUPS.” Depending on the runway configuration, aircraft might also pass through waypoints named “STAND” and “TOGETHER” or “LETZZ,” “RLLLL,” “VCTRY” and “HEROO."  



This not the first time a waypoint has been designated to recall 9/11. A waypoint published last year over Shanksville, Pa., was named “GARDN” (Guardian) in honor of United Flight 93, which crashed after passengers fought with hijackers for control of the plane and prevented it from reaching Washington, D.C.  

The men and women of America's airways were also deeply affected by the events of September 11, and airline pilots and crews have responded strongly to these new waypoints. Recently, for example, on a morning flight from Detroit to Reagan National, a Delta Air Lines pilot came over the Public Address system and began sharing the story of the new arrival procedure with his passengers.  

As the flight crew began their precision descent into the capital area, the pilot read aloud the names of the waypoints they would be passing through prior to arrival: HONNR, BRVRY, COURG; MORLL PLDGE: WEEEE WLLLL NEVER FORGT SEP11, ALWYZ FRDMM. 

"As he was reading them," reported one passenger, "the people were all quiet, and we all stopped talking or reading or whatever else we were doing. Everyone just listened. We could hear the pilot starting to get choked up as he talked about how proud he was to read those points off as we entered DC." 

The FAA’s Metroplex initiative is creating satellite-based procedures to transform our national airspace system, making it more flexible and decreasing our carbon footprint. NextGen flight tracks, like the procedures commemorating 9/11, will relieve bottlenecks, improve safety and efficiency, and foster the flow of commerce. NextGen will deliver more on-time and fuel-efficient flights, and continue to ensure that the system remains the safest air transportation system in the world. These descents are also powerful proof that we at DOT remember 9/11 365 days a year.
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