Oct. 9, 2014

Following rollouts earlier this year of procedure and routing changes in airspace over Texas, an unprecedented series of optimizations will begin next month as the FAA proceeds with extensive changes to airspace nationwide. Perhaps the most significant change is the Windsor/Toronto/Montreal (WTM)/Northeast U.S. Airspace Redesign, a collaboration between the FAA and Nav Canada, with the latter entity leading the project.

“The FAA understandably prefers to roll out these changes in line with charting cycles, so as a result we have a lot of major changes coming on Nov. 13,” said NBAA Air Traffic Services specialist John Kosak.

In all, these changes encompass skies controlled by eight air route traffic control centers (ARTCC), with the most significant changes occurring in U.S. and Canadian airspace encompassing Toronto, Windsor and Montreal, Canada; Boston, MA; Washington, DC; and New York. Routes as far south as Tennessee and South Carolina will also be affected.

“Just in ZOB (Cleveland ARTCC) alone, we’re looking at 17 amended jet routes, 20 deleted jet routes, 21 brand new ‘Q’ routes, nine amended Q routes and four deleted Q routes,” Kosak added. “In all, the changes will affect more than 400 pref routes, and all coded departure routes and playbook routes related to those.”

As seen in previous airspace changes enacted over Houston and Dallas, TX, these new procedures emphasize the elimination of “stair-step” climbs and descents in favor of area navigation standard instrument departures (RNAV SID) and standard terminal arrival routes (STAR).

Despite the enormity of these changes, Kosak emphasized that the ultimate impact to operators should be relatively minimal. “Nav Canada is quick to point out that any new routings developed under this plan don’t represent any major changes to existing traffic flows,” he explained. “The biggest changes involve the ongoing move from ground-based navigation to a NextGen structure.

“That said, flight crews must understand that if they have an equipment issue that doesn’t allow them to accept an RNAV routing, they must note that inability to meet those requirements on their flight plan,” Kosak said.

Additional changes coming Nov. 13 include a transition that will affect more than 80 procedures in Boston Center (ZBW) airspace. These will include 12 new and 17 amended Q routes, 14 amended jet routes, and 28 route deletions effective Nov. 13.

On the same date, Washington Center (ZDC) will see five new SIDs and STARs between Baltimore-Washington International (BWI), Dulles International (IAD) and a satellite airport.

West Coast Airspace Changes

On the West Coast, the first of four planned revisions to airspace handled by the Northern California TRACON (NCT) will take place, including one updated RNAV procedure, an optimized profile descent STAR for Sacramento International Airport (SMF) and four new RNAV SIDs for San Francisco International (SFO) and one RNAV SID to Oakland (OAK.)

Further revisions to charted procedures over northern California will follow, with each subsequent charting cycle, Kosak added, with more adjustments coming to other regions over the next few years in line with other systemwide changes related to the transition to NextGen.

Further details on these changes will follow an Oct. 8 user meeting in Detroit, MI. NBAA Air Traffic Services will post information about these changes when they are available.

“The new procedures not only enhance efficiency in the national airspace system; they also mean better performance and efficiency for operators,” concluded Kosak.