NextGen Airspace Project Delivering Promising Results

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that NextGen is delivering promised efficiency for airlines and passengers in Houston.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that the implementation of the Houston Metroplex NextGen airspace redesign project has been successful, stating that it will deliver more on-time flights while reducing pollution at the same time.

According to the FAA, the airspace improvement project will "reduce distances flown by as much as 648,000 nautical miles annually, based on flight plans. This will save up to three million gallons of fuel and reduce carbon emissions by as much as 31,000 metric tons each year." Launched in 2012, the project was selected by the Obama Administration as one of the 14 high-priority infrastructure projects that were ideal for expedited completion. Despite an expected completion of three years, the project was completed in 30 months.

The initiative included the following strategies that have streamlined the airspace and reduced the complexity for air traffic controllers and flight crews:

  • 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. 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.
  • 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, reducing the number of miles flown.
  • Utilizing side-by-side arrival routes into George Bush Intercontinental Houston Airport to increase airspace efficiency and provide more direct routing.
  • 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.

"Since the start of the space program, Houston has always been a city with an eye on the future, a tradition that continues with the start of our NextGen program here today," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "The NextGen Metroplex we are implementing today is an example for the entire country–of the difference we can make with the help of the federal government and the way we get it done–six months ahead of schedule."

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