"Pioneering Advances in NextGen"
Michael Huerta, Denver, Colorado
April 29, 2014

State of Denver International Airport


Thank you, Kim [Day]. I’m happy to be here.

?When this airport opened in 1995, it really was an investment in the future. The vision was to build a different kind of airport … one that could operate in a wide variety of weather conditions … and one that would have room to grow. And it has been a great success story. Denver International Airport is the fifth busiest airport in North America, serving more than 52 million passengers in 2013. For the country, Denver International symbolizes the benefit of long-term strategic thinking. I want to congratulate Denver on its foresight.

?Today, DIA remains an investment in the future. The FAA is proud to support these efforts. And we’ve always had a proud partnership with the people here. I’ll give you two great examples. Mayor Hancock has joined the FAA’s Management Advisory Council, or MAC, as we call it. The MAC’s purpose is to advise the FAA on the key strategic questions we face. Questions like “what does the future of aviation look like?” And “what kinds of services will the FAA need to provide in the future?”

?We also have a NextGen Advisory Committee, which Kim Day has been a part of. This committee advises us on our modernization efforts … and helps us to establish greater collaboration with the aviation industry.

?These two committees are essential as we look to shape national policy on aviation. We’re thinking about how the decisions we make today will shape aviation for decades to come.

This idea that we are shaping aviation today for future generations is really the foundation of my agenda as administrator of the FAA.

We are in the midst of a process that I'm sure the initial creators of DIA went through as well. They saw potential, they had a vision and they had a whole list of challenges and issues that stood between them and their goal of creating a world class airport.

At the FAA we are experiencing daily the changes and growth in our aviation industry. We need to ensure that the FAA has the right structure, a trained workforce and the global standing to both support the industry and guide it into the future. This is no small task.

?As part of this effort, one of my priorities is to deliver benefits to the aviation system through technology.

This may seem like an obvious priority for the agency. I'm sure all of you are thinking that–wouldn't it be odd if the FAA Administrator didn't focus on technology?

But–I'm not just challenging the FAA's workforce to embrace and promote technology. I'm demanding that the technology brings benefits and does so quickly. With the budget environment being what it is in Washington we can't invest in technologies that don't bring a return. I also cannot ask airlines to invest if they aren't seeing the benefits.

There is no better place to talk about technology than right here at DIA.

?Users here at Denver are enjoying the benefits of NextGen technology. This effort includes expanding the use of satellite-based NextGen procedures, which allow equipped aircraft to fly on more direct paths across the country and in congested airspace.

?Here in Denver, we have 51 of these satellite-based NextGen procedures. We estimate that the use of these procedures will save operators up to $9.8 million dollars per year, by using up to 3.2 million gallons less fuel.

?For just one airline, the savings are estimated between 14-21 gallons of fuel for each satellite-based arrival flown into Denver International. This may not sound like a lot. But when you consider that United did about 120 of these arrivals into DIA each day last year, that’s a savings of up to 1,700 gallons of fuel a day! With the price of jet fuel around three dollars a gallon, the savings can really add up.

?These more precise procedures also help us to deconflict traffic heading to neighboring airports. This means that flights to and from DIA … Centennial … Rocky Mountain … and other nearby airports can take off and land more efficiently.

The Denver Area Navigation Project is one of the largest collaborative efforts ever undertaken in the National Airspace System. Through cooperation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), our airline partners, industry, and local government, Denver has executed the largest area navigation/required navigation performance (RNAV/RNP) airspace redesign ever accomplished.

?This is good progress and we intend to build on it right here. So watch this space for even further efficiencies in Denver's airspace. You all are serving as a model for collaboration and I know it will only continue to bring further success.

Let me briefly tell you about some other key NextGen initiatives. One of NextGen’s core technologies is Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, or ADS-B, which enables us to track aircraft much more precisely than we can with radar. I’m proud to say that, as pledged, the FAA completed the baseline installation of our ADS-B ground infrastructure last month. When it’s fully implemented, and operators are equipped, we’ll be able to make more efficient use of our nation’s airspace.

?One of ADS-B’s benefits is that we can track aircraft in places that don’t have radar coverage, like in the mountains or over water. Here in Colorado, you’ve seen the benefits of a similar technology called Wide Area Multilateration, or WAM.

WAM improves access to ski town airports like Eagle, Montrose, Hayden and several others in bad weather. As you know, a lot of those flights carry passengers coming to and from DIA. You can think of ADS-B as giving us the benefits of WAM on a national level.

?Also, here at DIA, 55 ADS-B units were installed on ground vehicles, including fire trucks and snow plows. These units became operational this past fall, supported by an FAA airport grant. Like the transponder on an aircraft, these units allow the control tower and the airport operations center to see the ground vehicle’s position. With a tablet computer, the ground vehicle operators can see their own position as well. This capability helps to ensure the safety of the vehicle operator and the aircraft on the airport surface. Here in Denver, it’s especially helpful during the snow plow season.

?Another improvement to surface operations comes through a NextGen program called SWIM – System Wide Information Management. We’ve made it easier for airspace users to access live surface information from most of our largest airports. They can go to one portal and access very detailed information about aircraft location on runways and taxiways in an easy to use format. This “bird’s eye” view of the airport surface allows airlines to better manage their operations, particularly during adverse conditions. An efficient operation minimizes delays and reduces environmental impact by reducing exhaust and noise.

The technologies I've described are yielding benefits–benefits that will only increase as the technology matures and our procedures and processes become even more nimble.

Beyond efficiency though, I am very eager to see what role future technology will play in making our extremely safe aviation system even safer.

My top strategic priority at the FAA is to make aviation both safer and smarter. We’ve reached a point where commercial airline accidents are exceedingly rare. The FAA and the aviation community have worked together to produce this result and it's one we should be extremely proud of. Our focus now is on preventing accidents before they have a chance to occur.

?We’re living in a time where we have access to a wealth of safety data. We’re obtaining data from several sources including voluntary, confidential safety reports by air traffic controllers, technicians, pilots and other aviation professionals. We also have automated air traffic data gathering tools. And we benefit from the exchange of safety data with the aviation industry.

?Our goal is to make use of this data so we can identify areas of highest safety risk. As we do this, we’ll be in a position to more effectively target our efforts and resources toward these higher risk areas. We’re building on efforts already well-established and well underway as part of the FAA’s proactive safety approach.

Given DIA's proactive and collaborative approach I know you all share our commitment to doing everything we can to work together to promote and ensure the safety of our aviation system.

?DIA is a place where innovation happens. Whether it's safety or efficiency or the greening of aviation, I know that if big things are happening, DIA is likely leading the pack. In the wide open spaces of the Rocky Mountains, there’s always been a belief in limitless opportunity. This can-do spirit is what created Denver International. And with the leadership here, I’m confident that this airport will go from “great to greater.”

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