Surface Management at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)

NextGen Implementation Plan (PDF)

Improved Surface Operations
Focuses on improved airport surveillance information, automation to support airport configuration management and runway assignments and enhanced cockpit displays to provide increased situational awareness for controllers and pilots; a key step is sharing airport surface information with authorized stakeholders.

At busy airports across the country the management of arrival and departures coupled with efficient and safe movement on the airport surface is a crucial part of managing an on-time airport. Improving those airport surface operations is one of the key NextGen initiatives. Through the use of collaborative communication tools NextGen is helping to create more efficient management of the aircraft on the ground.

On March 1, 2010 one of the main runways at JFK was closed for rehabilitation. In order to alleviate some of the congestion that the closing of this runway would cause, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey administered a departure metering program.

Administered by the Port Authority, this program uses historical data under various weather conditions to predict departure demand and determines 15-minute departure slots, two hours in advance. It then assigns these departure slots to airlines based on their scheduled number of departures. The airlines are free to assign any of their flights to the departure slots they were given. This gives the airline and airport operators the tools to make key decisions about the most efficient movement of the airplanes.

These improvements in departure queue management are based on using virtual queues that facilitate shorter physical queues of aircraft waiting to depart at the runway threshold. In such virtual queues, aircraft are assigned a departure order and time prior to entering an active taxiway. This means that while an aircraft might still be at the gate it has already been assigned a spot in the queue for takeoff. This new virtual queue reduces the amount of time that the aircraft will have to wait with their engines running. This decreases fuel burn and CO2 and other emissions.

Improved departure queue management also significantly contributes to reduced traffic congestion on the airport surface and generally improves traffic flows. This results in shorter taxi-times facilitates improvements in flight efficiency and environmental impact. Moreover, improved departure queue management also contributes to improved utilization of the effective capacity.

With the introduction of surface management airlines have opted to take delays at the gate instead of in the taxi queue. Gate departure delays increased by 5.6 minutes per operation during peak hours over the comparable months, and taxi-out delay declined by 1 minute on average per operation.

In addition, the flights on average spent less time in the airport movement area to travel the same average distance. All of these findings directly translate to less time sitting with the engines idling, burning less fuel and reducing emissions.