Today the American aviation industry is strong, and it’s getting stronger. More people are flying, and more cargo is shipped around the world. This is a remarkable turnaround from where we were a few years ago.
And that is precisely why the Federal Aviation Administration has been working so hard over the last four years to continue the roll-out of NextGen initiatives. There is no other project more important to American aviation than NextGen—the FAA's next generation transformation of our National Aerospace System--and we’re making it happen now.
One critical part of NextGen is improving the flow of air traffic for an entire region or Metroplex. The FAA has identified 21 areas across the U.S. where several commercial and general aviation airports serve a single, large metropolitan area.
In those regions, airspace congestion and other factors combine to reduce efficiency, often to the frustration of air passengers. But improving air traffic at one airport can have an unanticipated effect on other airports in the same region.
By looking at the metroplex as a whole, the FAA provides solutions on a regional scale, rather than focusing on a single airport or set of procedures. The optimization plan takes into account all airports and airspace that support each metropolitan area as well as how air traffic in those areas interacts with other metroplexes. It considers a wide range of factors including safety, efficiency, capacity, access, and environmental impact.
As part of our Metroplex initiative, flights approaching the Washington DC area started using satellite routes in August and immediately began saving fuel and reducing emissions. The new routes will save $2.3 million in fuel costs in the first year of operation – it helps airlines save money on fuel, and it helps consumers with more efficient flights.
In other NextGen progress, ERAM, the new backbone of the air traffic control system, is used by controllers in more than half of the country now. And by the end of this year, we plan to have more than 90 percent of the ground radio stations in place to receive satellite information. This will improve the safety and efficiency of how we control aircraft.
In the last four years we have added thousands of satellite procedures that make flying more predictable and precise. We have also shortened the routes in and out of our airports. And we’ve worked to get planes on and off the ground more efficiently.
In Atlanta for example, we improved operations by creating 16 new high occupancy exits for departures; saving the airlines using them $35 million in fuel per year.
The bottom line is that FAA is using the latest technology to improve capacity, ensure safety, and enhance predictability in our nation's skies. With NextGen, American aviation is better positioned to take on global competitors, support economic growth, and keep America moving.