• At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the NextGen RNAV off the ground procedure enables a 15-20 percent increase in departures per hour.
  • American Airlines is saving $10-$12 million in annual fuel costs at Dallas/Fort Worth using RNAV off the ground.
  • Dallas/Fort Worth has had a 40 percent decrease in pilot-controller verbal communications, reducing the risk for miscommunication.
NextGen departures mean only one minute between takeoffs. Conventional takeoffs are three minutes apart.
1 nautical mile between take-offs
3 nautical miles between take-offs

Airports referenced in this story

NextGen Implementation Plan (PDF)

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.

Throughput is the average number of flights that pass through an airport on a daily basis. When you increase the throughput during busy periods, more passengers and cargo get off the ground and to their destinations on time. At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the FAA has put in place a NextGen procedure that triples the number of departures the airport can accommodate, a significant increase in the airport's throughput.

American Airlines, which accounts for 80 percent of Dallas/Fort Worth traffic, has seen a 10-20 percent increase in its departure throughput on an average day using the NextGen procedures.

"If you can increase throughput by 1 percent, you uncork the champagne," said Captain Brian Will, American Airlines' director of Airspace Modernization and Advanced Technologies. "Ten to 20 percent, this was an off-the-charts benefit."

The NextGen procedure makes it possible for flights to take off with less distance between each aircraft — 1 nautical mile compared to the standard 3 nautical miles. This enables an increase of 15-20 percent of departures per hour when the airport is congested compared to conventional methodology, said Blane Doege, FAA's traffic management supervisor at Dallas/Fort Worth Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON).

The majority of aircraft operating at Dallas/Fort Worth are equipped to fly this Area Navigation (RNAV) procedure, which uses satellites and on-board equipment to ensure that the aircraft navigate and remain on a precise path. RNAV procedures for both departures and arrivals are available at many airports around the country. The difference at Dallas/Fort Worth is that the RNAV procedure starts on the runway and continues as the aircraft ascend into high-altitude airspace, whereas conventional RNAV procedures begin once the aircraft is airborne.

RNAV off the ground is especially helpful during peak traffic hours or when traffic picks up following periods of bad weather, such as thunderstorms. Once the weather clears, "we can get airplanes out faster than before RNAV off the ground," said Will.

Because flights don't have to wait as long on the taxiways with their engines running to take off, RNAV off the ground means aircraft burn less fuel. American Airlines is saving $10-$12 million in annual fuel costs at Dallas/Fort Worth, said Will.

Less fuel use also means reduced exhaust emissions. "We are significantly reducing the impact that flights have on our air quality," said Jim Crites, Dallas/Fort Worth's executive vice president of operations.

Another RNAV off the ground benefit is that there is less communication necessary between controllers and departing pilots. With conventional departures, controllers tell the pilots what their heading will be and the pilots acknowledge the heading instruction by repeating it back to the controller. The RNAV procedure has a pre-determined flight track programmed in the aircraft's flight management system, which reduces the number of verbal communications required and the risk of miscommunication. With the NextGen procedure, Dallas/Fort Worth has had a 40 percent decrease in pilot-controller verbal communications.

This means controllers can give additional time to other traffic that requires more complicated verbal instructions, said Greg Juro, FAA traffic management officer at Dallas/Fort Worth TRACON. Whereas in the past, other pilots waited for instructions while controllers worked with departing aircraft, those pilots now receive instructions at an opportune time, Juro said.