"Atlanta and Charlotte Metroplex Design & Implementation "
Michael Huerta, Atlanta, GA
February 29, 2012

Atlanta and Charlotte Metroplex Design & Implementation Kickoff

Today we are kicking off the design and implementation phase of the Metroplex initiative in Atlanta and also in Charlotte.

In the aviation business, our highways are in the sky. So this is our version of a groundbreaking, or an “airbreaking.”

Much of our Next Generation infrastructure is invisible to the public. Yet, the work we are embarking on is every bit as vital to our transportation network as a new highway or bridge might be.

I’d like to recognize our partners in this collaborative effort – namely Mark Bradley with Delta Airlines; Captain Ron Thomas, with U.S. Airways, the main carrier in Charlotte; George Peurifoy, manager of the FAA’s Metroplex program; Jeffrey Russell, the representative of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association who is working on Metroplex here, and Louis Miller, with the City of Atlanta, who as you know is General Manager of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  

This has been a collaborative effort among all parties. And because of this collaboration, we expect to modernize the airspace here much more quickly than we would otherwise. It usually takes between five and 10 years to develop and implement the procedures we are talking about. But under the Metroplex initiative here, we expect to finish this work in three years.

We are creating satellite-based procedures that will transform our national airspace system, making it more flexible and decreasing our carbon footprint on the environment. These new flight tracks will relieve bottlenecks, improve safety and efficiency, and foster the flow of commerce.

Here in Atlanta we are creating NextGen procedures at Hartsfield Jackson International that are more efficient and direct. We estimate that airlines flying into Atlanta will fly about 1.2 million fewer miles per year, based on the improved flight paths. Those paths, combined with other, fuel-saving descents, translate into a projected fuel savings of about 2.9 million gallons per year and 30,000 fewer metric tons of carbon emissions released into the air. This is the total savings for all aircraft and airlines using Atlanta’s hub airport.

In Charlotte, we expect to see even greater savings by increasing the availability of NextGen procedures there. Charlotte is newer to NextGen than Atlanta. That means the improvements there will be greater because we’re starting NextGen from a lower level there and bringing it up.

We expect that airlines flying into Charlotte will be able to cut about 2.5 million miles from their flights per year. The shorter routes, combined with other types of approaches, translate into a projected savings of 3.7 million gallons of fuel and 35,000 fewer metric tons of greenhouse gases emitted into the air.

Now in both of these cities, we anticipate these savings due to very precise Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures, which will reduce the number of miles aircraft must fly by allowing them to take more direct routes.

And we are creating environmentally friendly Optimized Profile Descents (OPDs), which allow aircraft to make managed descents at reduced engine power, thus saving fuel.  The way we descend now requires leveling off at each stage, like walking down the stairs. It’s the aviation equivalent of stop-and-go driving along the highway. But with these new procedures, aircraft kind of glide down, like sliding down the bannister. They use less fuel as they do so and reduce emissions and noise.

We are not only looking at Hartsfield-Jackson. We are studying how the airspace around the world’s busiest airport is interconnected with the airspace around smaller local airports. We are creating better, satellite-based flight paths for aircraft flying into airports in DeKalb County, Gwinnett, Cobb and Fulton. Those are the smaller airports – DeKalb-Peachtree; Briscoe Field; McCollum Field and Fulton County Airport at Charlie Brown Field. 

We will separate the flights paths around Hartsfield-Jackson from those to the smaller airports, so those aircraft can get into those reliever airports more easily.

We are doing the same thing for airports around Charlotte that support commercial flights – including Greensboro and Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina and Greenville-Spartanburg and Columbia in South Carolina.

Across the country, there are 21 different areas surrounding big cities or combinations of cities, where we know that we need to improve airspace. We need to improve the flow of traffic, increase efficiency, decrease fuel burn and make aviation greener.

The particular way in which we are accomplishing this here in Atlanta and Charlotte is by studying the problem and then designing and implementing new procedures that take into account the entire airspace in the metro area. We are also fast-tracking the work and taking about three years. We’ll follow this template at 13 different sites across the whole country in the airspace above many metropolitan areas. Other sites are being improved under more traditional processes.

And I’m happy you could come out today to learn more about what we’re doing in Atlanta and Charlotte.  We are moving the whole country – all of our airspace – into the Next Generation of air traffic control. And of course, as the busiest airport in the world, what helps Atlanta has a ripple effect that helps the whole country.

So thank you for coming out.