Regional Issues - Southwest Region

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New Routes, Procedures for IAH/HOU – Another Step Toward NextGen – Effective May 29

May 22, 2014

The Houston Metroplex project, which will be implemented on Thursday, May 29, is the first of several that will utilize performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures as a step towards fully implementing NextGen. Implementation of the new procedures will be monitored at the FAA Air Traffic Control System Command Center (ATCSCC), Houston Center (ZHU), Fort Worth Center (ZFW) and Houston TRACON (I90).

Full utilization of these new performance-based navigation procedures is expected to maximize benefits including fuel efficiency, time efficiency and reduced carbon emissions. As a reminder, these procedures contain profile descents and climbs that require descend via/climb via phraseology, according to NBAA Air Traffic Services Specialist John Kosak.

ZHU will be implementing more than 60 new procedures for George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and William P. Hobby Airport (HOU), as well as several satellite airports in the Houston area. First, airport planners will replace most of the legacy (non-RNAV) STARs and SIDs for both airports and the satellites. The new optimized profile descent STARs should improve fuel efficiency by, in many cases, allowing aircraft to maintain idle power from the top-of-descent to the final approach.

The new SIDs are designed to more quickly get aircraft in to the en[hyphen needed]route environment, Kosak said. Operators should begin filing the new routes, STARs and SIDs for flights operating after 1:30 a.m. (CDT) on May 29.

Additionally, there will be a significant number of new, preferred routes that will deliver aircraft to the appropriate STARs, depending on where they are coming from in the NAS, and which direction they are landing at IAH and HOU. This is another new concept for some operators as they will be using specific STARs, depending on whether IAH and HOU are landing to the east or west.

If an operator is uncertain which configuration the airport might be using upon arrival, the standard procedure will be to file for the west configuration. The west configuration is preferred, and as a result is used more than 70 percent of the time. If the configuration changes while the flight is en route, ZFW will amend arrivals from the northwest while ZHU would amend the rest.

There will also be many new coded departure routes (CDRs) and playbook changes as a result of these updated procedures. All of these new preferred routes and CDRs are already published in the FAA’s Route Management Tool. The new playbook routes will be updated and available on May 29 in the FAA's National Playbook.

A NOTAM has been published through ZHU that has detailed instructions for operators that are unable to file or fly the new STARs and SIDs due to aircraft position and/or ability to update flight management systems.