To help reduce delays, the FAA and U.S. Air Force are exploring ways that civilian flights can regularly use airspace that is normally reserved for the military.
The Adaptive Airspace Concept is designed to relieve delays on commercial and general aviation flights when thunderstorms, a large number of flights or other constraints limit the number of planes that can pass through commercial airspace.
During periods of heavy air travel, such as the days before and after Thanksgiving and Christmas, the Department of Defense has already turned over portions of special use airspace to the FAA to ease air traffic delays. Last Thanksgiving, the FAA created “express lanes” for commercial flights using military airspace on the East and West Coasts, and in the Midwest and the Southwest.
The Adaptive Airspace Concept is examining a more permanent way to use this airspace.
One of the ideas under consideration is expanding the Air Force’s available airspace and subdividing it into boxes. That way, the Air Force could shift its operations into boxes of sky the FAA doesn’t need, and let civilian traffic fly through the boxes that allow for the most efficient movement of airplanes, reducing delays.
Currently the Air Force is the only military participant in the program, though the other branches of the military are watching and may participate if the effort proves successful.