"South Florida Metroplex"
Michael Huerta, Orlando, Florida
September 20, 2012

Press Conference


Thank you, Dave, for that kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to be here today with all of you. JetBlue Airways is a leader in recognizing innovation when it comes to aviation.

I also want to thank Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and our airport partners at the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority who believe in this work and support it.

All around the country, we are embarking on a major transformation of our national airspace called NextGen. And we are bringing these benefits to Central and South Florida.

Our air traffic control system has served us very well since the 1950s. We operate the largest and safest air traffic control system in the world. But we are always looking for ways to improve that. We are taking advantage of the greater precision and safety that satellite-based systems give us. This is the foundation for NextGen. The whole world is moving in this direction.

Why?

Because radar can’t see through terrain and it does not operate in real time. There is a slight delay in knowing exactly where each aircraft is located.

GPS is satellite-based and therefore it is not blocked by physical obstacles. It makes tracking aircraft more precise.

If you think about it, radar is a very safe system. It has served us very well.  But viewing a radar image of what is happening in our national airspace system is a lot like looking at an impressionist painting.

It’s a little fuzzy. Not exactly precise.  You can see everything that is going on, and you have your landmarks. But just contrast that image with where we’re going with NextGen. It is like transitioning from that impressionist painting to a high definition TV that is very precise.  

This improvement is critical, based on the projected increase in air traffic nationwide in years to come. It gives us a clearer picture of where each aircraft is located, and it allows us to increase the safety and efficiency of our operations.

And that is what we’re talking about today. We are improving the air space in Central and South Florida and transforming it with satellite-based navigation and procedures.

Now, much of our Next Generation infrastructure is invisible to the public. That’s because the procedures that we design are in the sky – not on the ground. Yet, the work we’re embarking on is every bit as real and important to our transportation network as a new highway or bridge.

These benefits will come, in part, from extremely precise aircraft procedures that will reduce the number of miles aircraft must fly by allowing them to take more direct routes. Flights can do this because we’ll have a more precise account of their exact location.

We’re also creating environmentally friendly procedures which allow aircraft to reduce engine power as they descend from cruising altitude. The way flights descend now requires leveling off at each stage, like walking down the stairs – and this burns fuel. Using these new procedures, aircraft almost glide down, like sliding down the bannister.

When you combine both of these procedures together we’ll really get from Point A to Point B more quickly and save fuel, cut emissions and reduce delays.

We have estimated the benefits of this work to six of Florida’s busiest airports in the center and southern part of the state:

  • Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood
  • Miami
  • Palm Beach
  • Orlando
  • Tampa
  • Ft. Myers (Southwest Florida)

I know these cities do not seem close to each other when you think about driving distances. But when you look at the airspace above the state of Florida – these airways are all interconnected.  They form what we call a Metroplex. 

By making these improvements, we expect that each year, airlines flying into these cities will save a total of at least eight million gallons of fuel. They will cut CO2 emissions by nearly 80,000 metric tons. That is like taking nearly 16,000 cars off of Florida roads each year. And they will save at least $23 million in fuel costs annually.

We also estimate that 5.4 million fewer nautical miles will be flown in and out of Florida based on current flight plan miles filed.  

Those are tremendous benefits to the efficiency of Florida’s airspace.

But wait.  There’s more.  

We are not only looking at the large airports. We are also taking into account how to improve access to the smaller executive and reliever airports around the state.

Sometimes bottlenecks at the big airports can affect aircraft going to smaller, regional airports. We are improving access to airports like:

  • Boca Raton
  • Daytona Beach
  • Kissimmee
  • Marco Island
  • Naples
  • Orlando Executive
  • Orlando Sanford
  • Sarasota/Bradenton
  • Witham Field in Stuart, Martin County

The Central/South Florida Metroplex is the most complex area we have started to improve so far. It has the largest number of airports and a unique mix of general aviation traffic, all located in close proximity. This Metroplex effort is unlike what we have studied to date.  

But we are already far along in making improvements to many other Metroplexes around the country, such as Houston, North Texas, Atlanta, Charlotte, Northern California, Southern California and the Washington, D.C. metro area.

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.

Everywhere we do this work it has been a collaborative effort among all parties – FAA managers and air traffic controllers, the airlines, airports, local governments and business and general aviation.

And because of this collaboration, we expect to modernize the airspace 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, we expect to finish this work in three years.

Thank you for joining us today to learn more about what we’re doing in South/Central Florida.  We are moving the whole country – all of our airspace – into the Next Generation of air traffic control.

The improvements we’re making in Florida will modernize the airspace and improve the way Florida’s airports welcome tourists, business travelers and commerce to this great state.

Now, I’d like to call on Bill Cranor, Director of Air Traffic Systems for JetBlue to talk briefly from an air carrier’s perspective about the Metroplex.

Following Bill, Victor Santore, the Southern Regional Vice President for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, will provide perspective on the Metroplex work.   

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