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Performance Success Stories

The World On Time with NextGen

Map of usa with plane routes

Airports referenced in this story

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.

Two million packages go through FedEx's World Hub at Memphis on an average day. They arrive at Memphis International Airport on 230 flights and wind their way across 82 miles of conveyor belts to be sorted by some of the 11,000 people who work at the 862-acre facility located alongside the airport and shipped back out to millions of customers across the U.S. and around the world.

On-time delivery is the promise of a FedEx package. To keep packages moving and costs down, FedEx's aircraft are flying new time-saving arrival and departure routes into Memphis.

Implemented this summer, these Area Navigation procedures, which enable more direct time- and fuel-saving routes, rely on satellite-aided positioning to provide more flexibility on where flight paths can be located. There are seven new GPS-enabled arrivals at Memphis that allow aircraft to approach the airport from all points of the compass with engine power at near idle.

"Our measurement of fuel savings from the new arrival procedures has just begun," said Dan Allen, senior manager for FedEx air traffic operations. "However, our fuel savings expectations are in line with what other operators have reported with similar procedures: about 500-700 pounds, which equates to 100 gallons of fuel per flight."

Adopting innovative solutions is not new to FedEx. The shipper realized significant benefits when its Memphis hub collaborated with the FAA in a 2009 trial to demonstrate the effectiveness of a NextGen data sharing and scheduling tool called Collaborative Departure Queue Management (CDQM).

FedEx shares with air traffic controllers the location and readiness of aircraft scheduled for departure. When the demand for departure exceeds the available capacity, CDQM uses that information to recommend the number of aircraft that should enter the movement area (taxiways and runways) in 10-minute windows, which means that aircraft wait at the gate with engines off until they can taxi to the runway and take off. Sitting at the gate with the engines off, each aircraft saves fuel, which saves money, and there is an equivalent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, which reduces air pollution at the airport.

During the CDQM demonstration, FedEx saved several hundred minutes of taxi time during each bank of departures.

The next phase of precision departure scheduling at Memphis started earlier this year. This new prototype technique, called Collaborative Departure Scheduling (CDS), is more discreet in that it recommends a specific time for each aircraft to enter the movement area rather than having a group of aircraft entering within a certain block of time. FedEx uses its own tools to translate the entry time assigned by CDS to assign a specific time for each aircraft to push back from the gate.

"We are helping the science of departure scheduling progress with CDS," said Allen. "We are confident that FedEx's participation in research here will help departure scheduling improve throughout the National Airspace System."

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