FAA announces effort to enhance safety, increase efficiency and reduce aircraft emissions in Florida airspace

Acting Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta today announced a collaborative NextGen effort that will increase safety and efficiency while reducing aircraft emissions for the passengers, air traffic controllers and airlines flying into and out of many of Floridas major airports.
The announcement was made at JetBlue University, the carriers training center, where simulators demonstrated examples of NextGen procedures and routes. CEO and president of JetBlue Airways Dave Barger joined Acting Administrator Huerta for the announcement, and is chair of the NextGen Advisory Committee, an industry advisory group that works with the FAA as part of NextGen.

The NextGen Metroplex initiative demonstrates the progress that can be made when the public and private sectors collaborate to deliver benefits for the flying public, the aviation community and the national economy, said Huerta. Were excited about the improvements NextGen is bringing to Florida. The end result for travelers will be fewer delays, quicker flights and an even safer, greener flying experience.

As part of the FAAs NextGen modernization program, the Metroplex initiative will improve the flow of air traffic into and out of airports in the Miami, Orlando and Tampa 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 numerous metropolitan areas across the country and will help airlines improve on-time performance and reduce emissions generated by aircraft.

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 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.

As the largest domestic airline based in New York, the busiest airspace in the world, JetBlue will continue to take an active leadership role in advancing the next generation of airspace management in partnership with the FAA, said Dave Barger, CEO and president of JetBlue Airways. These new procedures will increase traffic flow predictability while reducing our environmental impact, allowing us to provide more efficient travel for customers.

The FAA estimates that more direct routings and more efficient aircraft descents into the Florida Metroplex will save eight million gallons of fuel annually, which equates to a reduction in carbon emissions by nearly 80,000 metric tons and an estimated $23.0 million saved in fuel costs. In addition, the FAA estimates that 5.4 million fewer nautical miles will be flown in and out of Florida based on current flight plan miles filed.

This collaborative partnership includes the FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, JetBlue Airways, American Airlines, US Airways, NetJets and other aviation stakeholders including business and general aviation interests. The Florida Metroplex study area includes six airports: Orlando International, Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Fort Myers. Satellite airports, including Boca Raton, Daytona Beach, Kissimmee, Marco Island, Naples, Orlando Executive, Orlando Sanford, Sarasota Bradenton and Stuart (Witham Field), are also part of this NextGen initiative.

The Florida Metroplex work teams will explore and develop proposed strategies to streamline airspace to help reduce airspace complexity for air traffic controllers and flight crews. The strategies include:

  • Creating separate flight tracks for departures and arrivals to allow aircraft to climb and descend more efficiently.
  • Expanding the development of Optimized Profile Descent (OPD) procedures into the 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 reliever airports.
  • Developing routes that will enable general aviation traffic to fly more efficient routes through congested airspace.

NextGen is the transformation of the radar-based air traffic control system of today to a satellite-based system of the future. New procedures and technologies will significantly improve safety, capacity and efficiency and will reduce fuel burn, carbon emissions and environmental impacts.
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