"Houston Metroplex "
Michael Huerta, Houston, TX
June 19, 2014

Press Event

Thank you, for that introduction Mr. Secretary. It’s great to be here in Houston to celebrate this important milestone.

Houston Center has a long history. This facility was built when President Johnson was in office, and Lady Bird Johnson’s influence can still be felt here today.  She insisted that the facility have an open courtyard, and to this day, employees can enjoy a break outdoors at tables with umbrellas near a fountain.

In the early 1960s, The Houston Post reported that the city planned to build Houston Intercontinental 22 miles northwest of downtown, to accommodate “super jets” and the future of aviation. At the time, the city predicted that William P. Hobby would become a general aviation airport. The amount of growth that would come to Houston was hard to imagine.

Back in the mid 1960s, Houston Center handled roughly 500,000 operations per year. Today, this center handles 2 million operations – mostly high altitude aircraft from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and the Gulf of Mexico – aircraft that are coming to and from Houston, or just passing by.

The Houston Airport System now handles about 780,000 operations per year – nearly double the load in the 1970s. And 51 million commercial passengers travel through these airports.

NextGen is delivering significant benefits to the complex airspace around Houston right now. We are creating new airways that will relieve bottlenecks, improve safety, and foster the flow of commerce. And these improvements are coming to more than a dozen major metropolitan areas across the country.

We have flipped the switch on 61 new NextGen procedures in Houston. We estimate these procedures could save airlines $9.2 million dollars in fuel each year. These procedures allow aircraft to descend to the runway from cruise altitude with engines almost at idle. It saves a lot of fuel because it’s like sliding down the banister rather than walking down the stairway, one stair at a time. A traditional descent requires an aircraft to level off at each new altitude, burning up fuel at each new step. We’ve optimized the departure routes as well, to make optimum climbs and shorter routes. These departures also save fuel.

These new routes also save track miles. We estimate airliners will fly 648,000 fewer nautical miles each year in Houston, based on flight plans.

Together, these new procedures and routes could save 3 million gallons of fuel each year. And we estimate they could save 31,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering our atmosphere.  That’s like taking 6,000 cars off the streets of Houston. NextGen improves efficiency and makes aviation greener.

This project takes into consideration the flight paths into not only the large commercial airports – Intercontinental and Hobby – but also Ellington, David Wayne Hooks Memorial and Sugar Land Regional – and other satellite airports – to make the entire system work better.

I want to reiterate what the Secretary said, and I want to thank the many people who worked so hard to modernize Houston’s airspace. It took teamwork from all areas – controllers, pilots, environmental specialists, managers, airlines and airports, to achieve such a great outcome in such a short time.

Back in the 60s, President Johnson and leaders in Houston had a vision to create a better air transportation system for future generations. We are carrying that commitment forward, with the Houston Metroplex and the new Houston Tracon, which has state-of-the art NextGen equipment.  

I want to thank everyone involved for the work you have done to help us lay the groundwork for a modern air transportation system that will benefit generations to come.