An airplane flying from left to right over a river. In the background are representations of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol building.

NextGen Implementation Plan Portfolio

Performance Based Navigation (PBN)
Addresses ways to leverage emerging technologies, such as satellite-based Area Navigation and Required Navigation Performance, to improve access and flexibility for point-to-point operations.

Our national monuments provide a majestic vista for airline passengers flying in to Washington, D.C. But before you get there, an invisible, though no less poignant, reminder of our nation's history greets approaching aircraft.

In August 2012, aircraft operating at Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) began using a set of precision-arrival routes named in honor of those we lost on September 11, 2001, and the women and men in uniform who have served our country from that day forward. The routes contain a series of 5-letter waypoints — points in the sky through which an aircraft must fly to remain on course - and together they spell out messages of support and remembrance for 9/11.

Aircraft flying the Freedom route from the northwest pass through waypoints named "WE" "WILL," "NEVER," "FORGET" "SEP11." Those flying the Troops route from the southwest pass through waypoints named "USA," "WE DO," "SUPPORT," "OUR" and "TROOPS." Depending on the runway configuration, aircraft might also pass through waypoints named "STAND" and "TOGETHER" or "LET'S," "ROLL," "VICTORY" and "HERO."

While honoring the past, these procedures are leading us into the future. They are part of an FAA initiative that takes a comprehensive approach to ease congestion and improve efficiency in busy metropolitan areas, such as Washington, D.C. — Baltimore, where multiple airports are competing for airspace.

Specifically, the Freedom routes are reducing flying miles, fuel burn and emissions. They are also reducing the number of stair-step series of descents that are required for a conventional arrival.

In the first month that the Freedom arrival procedures and similar procedures for Dulles International Airport were available, more than 70 percent of aircraft arriving in the D.C. area used the more efficient routes, a number that is expected to increase.

Flights using the new routes are seeing a significant reduction in the distance flown as well as an improvement in the performance of the aircraft. Current estimates show that airlines flying these new efficient routes can expect to save more than $2.3 million a year. The new routes will save 760,000 gallons of jet fuel per year. That will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 7,300 metric tons, which is like taking 1,500 cars off the roads in the Washington, D.C.-area every year.