The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today announced the successful implementation of the North Texas Metroplex NextGen project, a newly launched air-traffic system that will deliver more on-time flights for passengers while reducing pollution by thousands of metric tons each year.
“The North Texas NextGen Metroplex is an example for the entire country – of the difference we can make with the help of the federal government,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This major infrastructure project means more on-time arrivals for passengers, fuel savings for airlines and reduced emissions for the environment.”
The airspace improvements will reduce miles flown by as much as 1 million nautical miles annually, based on flight plans. This will save up to 4.1 million gallons of fuel and reduce carbon emissions by as much as 41,000 metric tons each year.
“Using NextGen satellite-based technology, the FAA and its workforce have collaborated with the industry to convert the busy and complex airspace around North Texas into some of the most efficient in the nation,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “The result is a solution that not only benefits the National Airspace System, it benefits the aviation industry, the environment and the traveling public.”
The North Texas Metroplex project is one of the largest implemented by the FAA to date. The agency implemented similar changes in the Houston area in May. More than a dozen such projects are underway or planned in metropolitan areas across the country, including Washington D.C., Northern California, Atlanta and Charlotte. A Metroplex is a major metropolitan area with multiple airports where heavy air traffic and environmental constraints can combine to hinder efficient air traffic movement.
The North Texas Metroplex initiative included a number of strategies that streamlined the airspace and helped reduce complexity for air traffic controllers and flight crews. As part of the program, the FAA developed 80 new procedures to take advantage of the precision of Global Positioning System (GPS) technology.
The strategies included:
- Creating Optimized Profile Descent (OPD) procedures into Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (D/FW) and Dallas Love Field (DAL). OPDs allow pilots to almost idle the engines while the aircraft descends at a constant rate, like sliding down a banister. Previous airspace procedures required planes to level off at certain points to allow for coordination between air traffic controllers. OPDs reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions
- Developing similarly efficient alternative routes that can be used when weather affects normal arrival and departure paths.
- Establishing departure and arrival routes that align airplanes on preferred paths, reducing the number of miles flown.
- Establishing a dedicated arrival route from the northwest into DAL, eliminating congestion in the airspace above D/FW.
- Creating GPS-based arrival and departure paths for Love Field, resulting in more precise flight paths over neighborhoods near the airport.
- Developing satellite-based departure procedures that provide predictable, repeatable flight paths that enable planes to climb steadily without leveling off from time to time, allowing them to reach a cruising altitude sooner.
The airspace improvements are part of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen. NextGen is a set of initiatives being implemented by the FAA in collaboration with the aviation community to ensure that the United States continues to have the safest, most efficient airspace possible for decades to come. In addition to air traffic procedures that save time and fuel and reduce emissions, NextGen is transforming the radar-based air traffic control system into a modern satellite-based system that will enable air traffic controllers to track aircraft with greater accuracy and reliability while giving pilots more information in the cockpit.
The collaborative regional partnership that made the North Texas Metroplex a success includes the FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.
“The successful rollout of new airspace procedures here in North Texas proves again that NexGen is happening now. It’s no longer just the future, it is also happening in the present, and that means good things for safe, efficient flights,” NATCA President Paul Rinaldi said. “NATCA is a proud stakeholder in NextGen implementation. Our members here in North Texas air traffic control facilities, like their colleagues nationwide, have shown great enthusiasm for new technology and have worked very hard to meet the challenge of safely implementing so many changes in their airspace and workload.”
“Mission Support Services and Flight Inspection Services employees represented by PASS are committed to supporting pilots and controllers with countless flight safety products and services,” said Mike Perrone, President of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists. “These employees have made incredible contributions to the North Texas Metroplex project and they are joining with other FAA safety professionals and stakeholders to bring NextGen to the next level in Texas and throughout the country.”
“American Airlines is pleased to have been an integral part of the North Texas Metroplex initiative,” said Robert Isom, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for American Airlines. “For the past three years, we dedicated resources and worked closely with the FAA, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and DFW Airport to complete this project. DFW is our largest hub with more than 800 flights a day. By utilizing these new procedures and the latest technology on our aircraft, we normally see a reduction of 300-500 pounds of fuel per flight which reduces our carbon emissions.”
“We certainly appreciate the efforts of the FAA to improve efficiency, lower fuel burn and emissions, and reduce delays,” said Chuck Magill, Vice President for Operational Coordination for Southwest Airlines. “Southwest is monitoring the impact of the Metroplex plan. While the results cannot be determined at this early juncture, we intend to continue partnering with the FAA to modernize and improve the air traffic control system so that the promise of NextGen is realized for the benefit of the traveling public.”
“We look forward to flying the shorter, more efficient routes into the North Texas airspace, which will help us provide better service,” said Capt. Sean Cassidy, First Vice President of the ALPA. “The collaboration among industry, government, and the users of the system to implement this vital technological upgrade illustrates that when we work together, with a stable funding source and a long-term plan, we can significantly improve the U.S. airline industry.”
“DFW Airport is very supportive of the effort to modernize the nation's air traffic control, as our Airport has served as an active test site for advanced air traffic safety and capacity enhancement technologies for many years,” said Sean Donohue, Chief Executive Officer of DFW International Airport. “NextGen will make air travel more efficient and safer for our customers, and it will allow our current aviation infrastructure to be better utilized.”
“Our pilots have been working to integrate the recent procedural changes. It remains the responsibility of pilots and controllers to operate safely in the new airspace 100 percent of the time,” said Capt. Keith Wilson, President, Allied Pilots Association. “Union safety committees, working with company flight management, have participated since the onset to ensure proper procedure design, aircraft capability and pilot proficiency, all aimed at improving operational efficiency.”