The airspace that serves the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia metropolitan areas is the busiest, most complex airspace in the world and has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s. Newark, LaGuardia, Kennedy and Philadelphia are among the most delayed airports in the nation, ranking in the top 10 delayed airports for the past 10 years. Because one third of the nation’s air traffic passes through the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia metropolitan area airspace every day, delays there can have a ripple effect on air traffic across the entire country.
The New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Redesign will enhance safety, reduce delays and accommodate growth. The project will upgrade the airspace structure over the five-state project area in an environmentally-responsible way, and lay the foundation for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).
The FAA is implementing stages of the project over several years. The agency completed Stage 1 in May 2008. The following is an update on the remaining stages of the redesign.
The FAA has developed an additional fifth departure route for westbound flights leaving the New York metro area to augment four existing westbound departure routes. Starting on October 20, 2011, the new route will allow planes leaving all of the New York area airports to access westbound high altitude routes more quickly and will help relieve current traffic management restrictions that cause delays.
The same day, the FAA will start using a new departure procedure at John F. Kennedy International Airport. This procedure will enable flights headed westbound from JFK to exit the New York area more efficiently and quickly.
Before the new procedure was available, aircraft that filed flight plans for high altitude, westbound routes had to converge over a single point in Robbinsville, New Jersey before they were fanned out on separate routes. During peak westbound traffic periods, this choke point caused ground delays at New York area airports. The addition of a new access point helps alleviate this situation.
Under the new “JFK Wrap” procedure, west-bound flights will first follow a path to the east after taking off from JFK, and will turn to the north and then to the west, across New Jersey. In northwestern New Jersey, flights will be directed to multiple points to access the National Airspace System’s high-altitude, west-bound route structure.
By then, the flights will be at an altitude of 20,000 feet. According to the FAA’s environmental analysis, the routing from New York to New Jersey will not create any new significant noise impacts, including the portion of the route over Nassau County shortly after departure from JFK.
These changes will make the New York air traffic operation more flexible and will ease air traffic congestion and complexity.
In the graphic below, the new JFK Wrap departure procedure is shown as a dotted red line and the current departure procedure is shown in solid red.
As part of a third change under Stage 2A, on October 20, 2011 the FAA will modify an arrival route for high-altitude flights from north of New York that are headed for Washington Dulles International Airport.
The modified Dulles arrival route will ease New York area congestion by segregating Dulles-bound traffic from New York Metro area westbound departures. This helps New York area departures climb more quickly and requires fewer directions from air traffic controllers.
The FAA expects to complete implementation of this stage by May 2012, when the remaining dispersal headings will be available to fan aircraft to the west or east at Philadelphia International Airport. These changes will improve efficiency, reduce noise impacts for communities under the flight paths, and eliminate the short-term significant noise impacts related to the airspace redesign project.
Currently Philadelphia International Airport air traffic controllers can use two dispersal headings when aircraft are departing to the west – 245 and 268 degrees. A third heading – 230 degrees – will be available when Stage 2B is implemented.
Controllers also will be able to use two additional dispersal headings for planes departing to the east at 112 and 127 degrees. Currently air traffic controllers can use three headings to fan aircraft when they depart to the east – 081, 085, and 096 degrees.
As part of this stage, the FAA will change departure and arrival flows south and east of the New York metropolitan area, as well as departures to the east from Philadelphia. The agency will also change overflight routes between the Washington and Boston Air Route Traffic Control Centers.
The FAA will change departure and arrival flows northeast, north, and west of the New York metropolitan area, as well as north and west departure and arrival flows for Philadelphia International Airport. Overflight routes among the Cleveland, Boston and Washington Air Route Traffic Control Centers will also change.