The New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas have the busiest, most complex airspace in the world and on any given day, one-sixth of the world’s air traffic flows through that area. For the past 10 years, airports in New York — LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International — as well as Newark Liberty International and Philadelphia International have ranked as the most delayed in the nation. Delays at these airports have a ripple effect throughout the entire country that affects passengers as well as the economy.
Air traffic congestion nationwide is expected to cost $46 billion to the nation’s economy in just three years. That figure includes the estimated costs to airlines and passengers, loss of service to people who wish to travel, and more than 200,000 lost jobs in aviation and other industries. By 2011, New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia are expected to handle 15-20 percent of all the air traffic in the nation.
As the FAA transforms the existing air traffic system to the Next Generation System, it will explore technologies, procedures and other innovative ways to bring more efficiency and capacity into the system. Many aspects of the aviation system have changed significantly over the years, but the New York airspace has remained largely unchanged since the 1960s. In 1998, the FAA created a plan to redesign and improve the efficiency and reliability of the airspace structure and air traffic control system from southern Connecticut to eastern Delaware.
New Airspace Redesign Plan
Record of Decision
Since the FAA began working on the airspace redesign, it has held more than 120 public hearings in five states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut. After extensive analysis, research and study of all of the comments received on the project, the Agency made a final decision. The Record of Decision identifies the Integrated Airspace Alternative as the new redesign plan. The FAA studied four alternatives over the course of nine years before making a final decision. The Integrated Airspace Alternative was determined to best meet the purpose and needs of the project.
The current airspace is a layered structure, consisting of terminal and en route airspace. Each layer encompasses a finite piece of airspace defined by lower and upper altitude limits and geographic boundaries. The Integrated Airspace plan will alter the structure that now exists over the five-state area. It will combine high-altitude and low-altitude airspace to create more efficient arrival and departure routes. This concept will improve reduce delays and maintain safety at the same time.
The change calls for new flight patterns over five states and new procedures that will affect more than 15 FAA facilities.
Operational Benefits of the Integrated Airspace Plan:
- When aircraft are more efficiently directed to and from the major airports in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, the FAA estimates a 20 percent reduction in airport delays over a five year period – the estimated time it will take to complete the implementation.
- The redesigned airspace will save approximately 12 million minutes of delay annually. Since the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia areas will handle a great deal of the nation’s air traffic, the inefficiencies addressed in this plan could yield up to $9 billion dollars in benefits to air carriers, passengers, and local businesses in 2011.
- The plan also reduces fuel consumption and carbon emissions. Once completely implemented, it is expected to reduce annual operating costs (largely fuel consumption) by $248 million and severe weather delay costs by another $37 million.
- The FAA predicts that more than one half million fewer people would be exposed to noise under this plan than if we do nothing at all.
History of the Redesign
Due to growing demand, the airspace redesign project was created in 1998 and fully funded by Congress in 1999. In January 2001, the FAA issued a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate the environmental effects of the airspace redesign. This redesign would develop new routes and procedures to take advantage of improved aircraft performance and emerging air traffic technologies. The redesign would not include physical changes or development of facilities. The draft EIS was published on December 20, 2005. The FAA announced the preferred alternative (the Integrated Airspace plan) on March 23, 2007. The Noise Mitigation Report, published on April 6, 2007, gives the strategies that under the preferred alternative would further reduce noise impact. The final EIS notification was published in the EIS on August 3, 2007. In full accordance with the statutory requirements, the final EIS was delivered to the Environmental Protection Agency on July 27, 2007. The final EIS expands on the draft EIS by identifying the preferred alternative for the project. It also includes detailed strategies to address potential noise impacts from the preferred alternative, and responses to the numerous public comments that were received.
The EIS considered four airspace redesign alternatives:
- Future No Action — assumes no changes to the existing airspace;
- Modifications to Existing Airspace — includes modifications to current routes and procedures to improve efficiency in the current airspace system;
- Ocean Routing Airspace — proposed by the New Jersey Citizens for Environmental Research, which moves all flights departing from Newark International Airport over the Atlantic Ocean before turning in the direction of their final destinations; and
- Integrated Airspace — integrates the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control’s airspace with portions of surrounding Air Route Traffic Control Centers’ airspace to operate more seamlessly.
Detailed information about this project is available at the following website: www.faa.gov/nynjphl_airspace_redesign.