July 10 -- Thanks to collaborative efforts at several facilities in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, planes are now able to leave Philadelphia International Airport more efficiently.
The FAA put three new dispersal headings in place at the airport at the end of Mayas part of Stage 2b of the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace Redesign.
The new headings put the FAA in compliance with the record of decision that resulted from the environmental impact study done to assess the impact of the airspace redesign.
Dispersal headings allow planes to fan out after departure, reducing the time a flight has to wait before taking off behind the flight ahead of it.
Philadelphia already had four dispersal headings. Those were implemented as part of Stage 1 of the Airspace Redesign.
But the new headings should give controllers additional opportunities to send off departures with only 6,000 feet between them, rather than the three miles required when two planes are taking off toward the same heading, according to Robert Novia, the project manager for the redesign.
The new headings that make up Stage 2b of the project required extensive changes to the airspace around Philadelphia, according to Jay McDonough, the airspace manager at Philadelphia Tower and TRACON, and the facility's management representative for the redesign.
The departures now take off on paths that had been used by planes headed to the airport, he said.
Those arrival routes had to be shifted south, putting them in airspace that wasn't handled by Philadelphia TRACON.
Through extensive coordination and cooperation with Washington Center, Atlantic City TRACON and Dover RAPCON, the necessary airspace was shifted from those facilities to Philadelphia.
Creating new arrival routes and changing airspace boundaries did more than just accommodate the three additional dispersal headings, according to Jason Boyde, the NATCA vice president at Philadelphia and the facility's union representative for the redesign.
“When we redesigned the arrival routes and modified airspace, we were able to shave up to 15 miles off the paths flown by some flights headed to and from Philadelphia,” he said. “Collaboratively, we tried our best to add the necessary airspace and change procedures to increase efficiency and reduce delays.”
“The implementation of Stage 2b follows the successful launch of Stage 2a in October 2011,” Novia said. “Both milestones were achieved through the efforts of our recently established Management/Labor collaborative workgroup. This gives us confidence that we have the right ingredients in place for continued success.”
Because the changes were substantial, controllers at Philadelphia went through several hours of training to get ready for the new setup, McDonough said.
Now controllers in the tower will be able to release more departures per hour than they had previously, which should reduce delays at the airport.
“They'll be able to use the dispersal headings more efficiently to get departures out,” McDonough said.
By allowing planes to fly toward different headings after takeoff, the dispersal headings will prevent plane after plane from following the same path, reducing the noise impact to residents of the neighborhoods underneath those flight paths.
There are now three dispersal headings to the west and four to the east. The headings will be in use from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.