"NextGen Matters to New Jersey, Nation"
Michael Huerta, Holmdel, NJ
September 9, 2013

New Jersey Alliance For Action


Thank you, Steve [Morrissey, Managing Director of Regulatory and Policy, United Airlines]. I’m glad to be back. This conference shows us what can happen when government, business and labor are all pulling in the same direction.  This conference is about putting ourselves in the position to do just that.   

The Garden State has always been at the forefront of aviation. New Jersey is where one of the first air traffic control towers was built – in Newark in 1935.  New Jersey is where one of the first hard-surfaced airports was built – also in Newark.  And New Jersey is where we’re planning the future of our nation’s airspace system.  At the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey … we’re doing important testing and deployment of new technologies that are revolutionizing our aviation system across the whole country. 

The FAA is committed to enabling growth and change in aviation.  This requires investing in infrastructure.  President Obama has championed building and sustaining our nation’s infrastructure.  It creates good jobs now, and makes us more competitive in the global economy. 

Making all of this happen in tight fiscal times hasn’t been easy.  As you know, the FAA is operating under the across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester.  This fiscal uncertainty challenges our ability to make the investments that we need to support modernization.  This is not a sustainable course of action.  It’s no way to run a business … and it’s no way to run a government. 

The President has called on Congress to replace these indiscriminate and damaging budget cuts with a balanced approach that reduces the deficit while protecting critical priorities like funding for education and infrastructure investment.  It is critical for our country’s future that we get this done.

Now, when it comes to transportation, New Jersey has always had a tradition of visionary leadership.  You were one of the first transit authorities to provide rail, commuter and bus service throughout the state.  And just imagine New Jersey without its ports and bridges.  Just imagine New Jersey without the Turnpike and the Parkway.  Well, airways and airports are just as important, and you know that. 

Consider that aviation contributes to a $40 billion dollar a year tourism industry in this state.  Nearly $24 billion dollars of freight flows through New Jersey by air.  And 10 million U.S. jobs are enabled by aviation, 139,000 of those are right here in New Jersey.  Spending by the FAA alone contributes to more than 7,600 jobs in this state. 

To keep this commerce going, we need to make the right investments. 

Let’s start with airports.  Airports are an economic engine for our country.  Newark, Kennedy and LaGuardia are known as “the big 3” and that’s not just a local nickname.  As you know, they’re among the busiest airports in the nation.  When these airports hit a snag, the ripple effect can be 3,000 miles wide.    

The FAA has worked with the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey on a capacity planning study for these airports.  The purpose of the study – which is still ongoing – is to identify ways to accommodate future demand.   There’s no question that, in this area, you need to plan your efforts many years in advance, which is of course what brings us here.

In New Jersey, the FAA has invested over $200 million dollars in airport grants over the last five years.  These funds have supported a variety of projects.  For instance, we just finished a taxiway rehab at Newark Airport.  We also have runway safety enhancements underway at Newark and Trenton-Mercer Airport.

This fall, we’ll complete the first new runway in New Jersey in more than 25 years.  It’s a 3,600 foot Crosswind Runway at Ocean County Airport.  When the prevailing winds are coming in heavy from the northeast – as everybody here knows about – this new runway will help maintain safe and efficient operations.      

Of course, laying more concrete may be a difficult option, particularly in densely populated areas like the Northeast.  Fortunately, there are alternatives.   

The FAA is deploying a plan to modernize the airspace system.  It’s called the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen.  NextGen offers ways to expand air capacity at airports and get better and more efficient use of the infrastructure we already have.           

NextGen includes a suite of new air traffic technologies and procedures that will improve air traffic efficiency … and mitigate aviation’s impact on the natural environment … while ensuring that all safety needs are met.  Through NextGen, we’re moving from a radar-based air traffic system, which has served us well for the last 50 years … to a satellite-based system, which will serve us well into the future.   

This effort includes putting satellite-based navigation routes in place that let aircraft fly more direct flight paths.  This means flights take less time … burn less fuel … and emit less carbon dioxide.  The aviation community is seeing the benefits.  For example, Jet Blue is estimating a savings of about 18 gallons of fuel per flight just by using a more efficient satellite-based approach into JFK airport. 

Here in New Jersey, we currently have 91 of these satellite-based procedures at 33 airports in the state.  That includes Newark, Trenton-Mercer, Atlantic City and Teterboro. 

We’re taking care of the smaller and general aviation airports as well.  We have specific satellite-based approach procedures that enable aircraft to land during low visibility conditions.  And with these procedures, there’s no ground infrastructure needed … it’s so economically beneficial at airports that cannot afford expensive ground-based Instrument Landing Systems.    

Satellite-based navigation also allows us to more efficiently design the airspace.  I’ll give you a few examples.  Two years ago, we were able to separate Newark and LaGuardia’s traffic from traffic bound for Washington Dulles airport.  It may sound surprising that there are traffic jams involving airports in different states … however, those airports have intersecting air space.  Because of NextGen, those streams of traffic are no longer butting heads.  As a result, people can get where they’re going more efficiently. 

Another example is what we call the “Kennedy Wrap.”  We’re routing a portion of Kennedy departures over Long Island Sound, over Connecticut, and then over Northern New Jersey.  At this point, they’re at 25,000 feet – higher up … and a lot quieter.  By reducing the air traffic complexity west of the New York metro area, it also helps us make operations more efficient for Newark, Philadelphia and other airports.      

At Philadelphia, satellite-based navigation means that more planes can safely and efficiently depart from the airport. Aircraft taking off on northbound departures are seeing a savings of about seven nautical miles per takeoff.  And all departing aircraft are seeing a savings because we can reduce the separation between successive departures from three miles to about one mile.  Together these improvements result in less taxi time and less fuel burned per aircraft.  So it’s more cost effective and greener.

Satellite-based navigation is yielding big gains today.  And there’s a lot more coming.  We’re going to start tapping the benefits of satellite-based surveillance.  It’s called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B.  ADS-B relies on GPS to determine an aircraft’s exact position.  A radar sweep takes several seconds.  ADS-B is instantaneous.  This means we can more efficiently separate aircraft, while maintaining safety.    

Another core component of NextGen is Data Communications, or Data Comm as we call it.  Data Comm allows air traffic controllers and pilots to exchange digital messages.  This means less congestion on the airwaves.  Not only will this tool make air traffic operations more efficient, it will also reduce the likelihood of communication errors that can occur from voice exchange. 

We have trials underway at Newark and Memphis airports … where we use Data Comm to issue departure clearances.  We’re working with several airlines including FedEx, UPS, United, British Airways, and Lufthansa.    

Early results look good.  In the Newark trial, aircraft equipped with Data Comm are saving several minutes off of their departure times, in comparison to planes only equipped with voice communications.  This makes a big difference, especially at busy airports like Newark.

As you can see, NextGen offers a variety of benefits throughout each phase of flight – departure, en route, and arrival. 

In addition to these benefits, we’re looking at ways to improve the flow of aircraft on the airport surface.  Everyone, including the passenger, wants the plane to move from the gates and ramps out to the taxiways and runways as efficiently as possible.  We’re making surface movement data available to the airlines and other aircraft operators.  When they can see the aircraft’s exact location on the surface, they can optimize the efficiency of their operation.  We have the capability at Newark and other major airports. 

The airlines that take advantage of this data say it helps them reduce tarmac delays, ensure more on-time arrivals and departures and helps them more effectively manage operations during inclement weather.  And of course, better surface flow means less fuel burn as well.

So I always get asked, “What’s the bottom line with NextGen?”  It represents a transformation of our aviation system and our aviation infrastructure. 

By 2020, we project that NextGen will provide a 41 percent reduction in delays compared to what would happen if we did nothing.  That’s a reduction of 16 million metric tons in carbon emissions.  That’s 1.6 billion gallon cumulative reduction of fuel use.  But look at it another way.  If I offered you a way to cut delays by 40 percent at the Lincoln Tunnel, would you do it?

Of course you would and we must ensure we keep these critical efforts on track. 

Everyone at this conference wants to keep New Jersey in high gear.  The FAA is proud to be part of this effort.  We look forward to working with all of you in the months and years ahead.

Thank you.  

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