Updated March 23, 2020
Business aircraft typically fly at different altitudes, and use different airports than the airlines, but pilots operating along the U.S. East Coast can nevertheless experience delays in this constrained part of the country.
Relief may be on the way, however, as the FAA implements sweeping changes over the next year to the airspace along the Eastern seaboard. Operators will see significant changes ahead of the project’s targeted November 2020 completion date. In October 2019, high altitude “J-routes” in the Atlantic Corridor were replaced with “Y-routes” optimized for performance-based navigation capabilities. In November 2019, low-altitude routes will be similarly replaced. By Jan. 30, 2020., all J-routes from Florida will be replaced.
Among the FAA’s goals for the Northeast Corridor Atlantic Coast Routes (NEC ACR) optimization project are enabling greater use of offshore route options, particularly during Severe Weather Avoidance Plan operations; reducing offshore vectoring and holds; and better segregating overflight traffic from busy arrival and departure corridors into New York and Washington, DC.
Ernie Stellings, senior manager at NBAA Air Traffic Services, noted several of these optimizations will directly benefit business aviation operations. “For example, among these changes will be creation of a new ‘super ultra-high’ ATC sector over Washington, DC that will reduce airspace restrictions and closures for traffic crossing the area above FL400,” he said.
Future airspace optimizations also will replace commonly used AZEZU offshore routing with more accessible options. Although AZEZU is frequently suggested by ATC to relieve airspace congestion between Florida and the NEC, not all aircraft have the equipment required to fly it.
Building on lessons from last year’s South-Central Florida metroplex project and other optimization efforts, FAA officials have met during the past several months with key stakeholders in the NEC project, including NBAA, to outline milestones and ensure operators are aware of these changes beforehand.
Stellings noted the agency also is working with flight planning services used by business aircraft operators to make sure they have time to make the necessary alterations to aeronautical charts prior to the targeted implementation dates.
“The FAA hopes to improve routing and decrease operational complexity through the nation’s busiest airspace,” he said. “This may be the biggest route change in 50 years; the eastern seaboard is the most congested airspace in the country, and it’s all being redone.”