ATM Modernization, Commercial

FAA, Stakeholders Kick Off Metroplex Initiative in Atlanta, Charlotte

By Tish Drake | March 1, 2012
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FAA, industry partners and a group of U.S. airlines, including Delta Airlines and US Airways, launched the Metroplex initiative, part of the Next Generation Air Transportation System, in Atlantic and Charlotte, N.C., in an effort to make air traffic control more efficient and help airlines improve on-time performance.

The Metroplex initiative – which includes the optimization of airspace procedures in the metroplex – will improve the flow of air traffic into and out of all airports in the Atlanta and Charlotte metropolitan areas. Metroplex initiatives are underway or planned in 21 metropolitan areas across the country, according to FAA. The Metroplex initiative is based on Performance-Based Navigation (PBN), which enables pilots to fly aircraft using radar or satellite coverage, or by utilizing the on-board flight management system.

“The Federal Aviation Administration and aviation industry are teaming up to make some of the busiest airspace in the world also the most efficient,” said FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta. “The end result for travelers will be fewer delays, quicker flights and an even safer, greener flying experience.”

“Delta is committed to working with key stakeholders to design and implement efficient procedures that benefit our customers and the communities surrounding the Atlanta Metroplex,” said Steve Dickson, Delta Senior Vice President – Flight Operations. Delta applauds efforts that through technology allow us to reduce our environmental impact setting the stage for the evolution to NextGen.”

The FAA estimates that 1.2 million fewer nautical miles will be flown in and out of Atlanta, based on current flight plan miles filed. This equates to 2.9 million fewer gallons of fuel used and a reduction in carbon emissions by 30,000 metric tons. For Charlotte, an estimated 2.5 million fewer nautical miles will be flown annually, based on current flight plan miles filed. 3.7 million gallons of fuel will be saved, with reduced carbon emissions by 35,000 metric tons annually.

“US Airways is committed to continually evaluating the ways we do business and how our business impacts the environment and the communities we serve,” said Robert Isom, US Airways’ chief operating officer. “Optimizing the airspace at our largest hub at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, where we operate more than 630 flights each day, will help us reduce our carbon emissions by up to 59,000 metric tons each year and save up to $17 million annually on fuel costs.”

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and Atlanta and Charlotte-area airports are also involved in this initiative.

The Metroplex work teams will explore and develop strategies to streamline airspace over Atlanta and Charlotte to help reduce airspace complexity for air traffic controllers and flight crews. The strategies include creating separate high-altitude flight tracks for Atlanta departures and Charlotte arrivals to allow aircraft to climb and descend without leveling off; expanding Optimized Profile Descent (OPD) procedures into Atlanta and Charlotte airports; shortening flight tracks by making them more direct; designing new satellite-based procedures for Atlanta reliever airports with air traffic control towers; creating separate flight tracks for flights arriving at Atlanta reliever airports, to separate them from flights to Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport; developing routes that will enable general aviation traffic to fly across the Atlanta and Charlotte metro areas while remaining clear of controlled airspace; and designing new satellite-based procedures for air carrier airports near Charlotte, including Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Greenville- Spartanburg and Columbia, S.C.

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