June 1, 2020

The FAA continues to proceed with a series of sweeping airspace optimizations to reduce traffic congestion in some of the busiest sectors across the country. A recent NBAA News Hour had updates on these projects and what remains on the horizon.

“We’ve seen the agency implement changes in places like North Texas, Northern and Southern California, Cleveland to Detroit, Atlanta, Charlotte, Denver [and] the Atlantic coast down into Florida,” said moderator Heidi Williams, NBAA director of air traffic services and infrastructure.

The Florida Metroplex initiative launched last November, with additional changes to instrument departures and arrivals in and out of Florida airports still to come over the next 15 months. The Northeast Corridor Atlantic Coast Route (NEC ACR) optimization will enable greater use of offshore route options. The initiative will also reduce offshore vectoring, particularly during severe weather, and better segregate overflight traffic from arrival and departure corridors in the New York and Washington, DC areas.

Joey Tinsley, co-lead on the NEC ACR for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), said they’ve benefitted from lessons learned in the Florida optimization. “They did a great job down there, but we always strive to figure out what went really well and what we can possibly do better next time,” he said.

Another valuable lesson has come through stronger engagement between the FAA and flight planning providers. Vicki Turner, FAA co-lead for the NEC ACR, thanked NBAA for its work to connect the two sides at last year’s NBAA-BACE. “We’re now able to understand how they put the information out to their customers,” she added. “Once we got the right information to [the providers] it made the implementation much better.”

Business aviation pilots may further assist with this process by updating their aircraft’s FMS with the new procedures on the day of implementation. “I’d also ask pilots to spend a little more time on the NOTAMs on their route,” said Christian Karns, NATCA co-lead on the Florida Metroplex project. “They may see the routes they used to file have now been NOTAM’d out, so controllers won’t have to issue reroutes.”

The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has also prompted changes to the optimization process. As one example, the FAA typically holds a series of community meetings to advise local leaders and citizens of the changes, “but unfortunately, with the pandemic, we are holding virtual meetings for the first time,” Turner said.