Redesign Aims to Reduce Delays Out of New York
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two major changes aimed at moving flights out of the New York area more efficiently went into effect last Thursday, along with a third adjustment that should help traffic fly more smoothly through the region's en route airspace.

The full implementation of Stage 2a of the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Area Airspace Redesign is the result of collaboration between the FAA, NATCA and system users, who worked to make sure the airspace remained safe while seeking to gain the maximum delay reduction.

“If it wasn't [sic] for the collaboration, I don’t think the project would have gone as smoothly as it has,” said Kevin Delaney, an operations manager at New York Center and the facility’s management lead on the collaborative work group for the airspace redesign project. “The collaborative effort has made a big difference.”

The delay reduction that Stage 2a hopes to achieve will not just benefit the Northeast. Nearly 50 percent of the country’s delays occur at Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International, Philadelphia International, LaGuardia and Teterboro Airports. And a third of all U.S. flights are affected by delays in the New York and Philadelphia areas.

To be sure, some of those delays are the result of weather, but 86 percent of delay minutes in the NAS due to airspace constraints happen in New York.  An increase in the efficiency of that airspace should save air travelers across the country a lot of time.

One of the advances for New York area departures expands the gate for westbound traffic from four to five fixes. The new fix, called NEWEL, will help to better distribute demand across the access points to the en route structure.

The new fix also gives controllers another option for rerouting flights out of the area during severe weather.

“I think the changes will help the controllers manage the departures through the West gates,” said Paul Galligan, a support specialist at New York Center who worked on the implementation of Stage 2a. “And I think the airlines will see less disruption to their flights going through that area.”

The other advance for departures is designed to help blend traffic flying west from Kennedy with departures from Newark, LaGuardia and Teterboro.

The new procedure brings Kennedy departures east over Long Island before turning them north and then west toward their destination. Under the change, the intent is for planes to have unrestricted climbs and align with other westbound flows (albeit at much higher altitudes), allowing controllers at New York Center to more easily integrate them further downstream with flights leaving the other three airports.
Previously, Kennedy departures left the area on a more direct route, but crossed the paths of flights leaving the other three airports. Space had to be built into those paths for the Kennedy departures to fly through, which often translated into departure delays.

The third change implemented Thursday creates a dedicated RNAV arrival route for flights headed to Washington Dulles International Airport from Boston Center.

Those flights used to have to cross the paths of planes headed in and out of New York. The crossings added complexity and inhibited the climbs of departures. With the new arrival route, both New York departures and Dulles arrivals should be able to move through the airspace without getting in each other’s way.

The full implementation of Stage 2a also features the creation of three new high altitude RNAV routes, or Q routes, and the realignment of another Q route. The new and adjusted routes reduce the converging of en route flows that resulted from dependency on ground-based navigational aids.

“The ability to develop routes that are not dependent on ground-based infrastructure, instead using satellite-based navigation, allows us to create a more optimal design,” said Robert Novia, project manager for the New York airspace redesign effort. “The additional capabilities offered by NextGen technologies will continue to enhance the redesign as we move forward with implementation of future stages.”

The changes of Stage 2a were not easy to accomplish. They required extensive coordination between three busy facilities: New York Center, Boston Center and New York TRACON. Boundaries at all three facilities were changed, 22 sectors were affected and 21 procedures were amended or created. Over 1,800 amendments to coded departure routes, preferred routes and playbook procedures were made to accommodate the changes.

“It's very easy to come to work and only worry about the people you share the parking lot with, and forget about everybody else,” said Robert Peck, support manager at New York TRACON. “It's demanding to get more than one facility working together. But it’s been critical. The efforts and ideas the other facilities brought to the table have certainly made [the redesign] successful.”

But the collaboration on the project has not only taken place between the facilities. NATCA members and management representatives have also worked together to make sure Stage 2a improved the airspace over the New York area.

“Collaboration with the union has been very important for the success of the project,” said Donald Ossinger, an airspace and procedures specialist at Boston Center and the facility co-lead for the airspace redesign. “Union members have great ideas on how to work the traffic and manage the traffic throughout the airspace.”

“What's really impressive to me is the spirit of everyone involved in the project,” said Timon Kalpaxis, a controller at the New York TRACON and the lead NATCA representative on the Airspace Redesign collaborative work group.  “It's been impressive to watch them work. If all participants in the system are working together, things get done in a much more efficient manner. Everybody has pitched in and worked together."

Ossinger also highlighted the contributions of Technical Operations employees and automation specialists who made the implementation possible.

The changes put in place Thursday build on the partial implementation of Stage 2a that took place in May and brought eight additional radar feeds into New York Center, giving the FAA the ability to reduce the standard separation below 18,000 feet to 3 nautical miles from 5 nautical miles in 11 sectors.
The partial implementation also moved the workstations for eight positions at New York TRACON, increasing internal communication, coordination and efficiency.

The next phase of the project is Stage 2b, which provides full dispersal headings for departures leaving Philadelphia International Airport. The dispersal headings are aimed at improving departure efficiencies and are scheduled to be in place in 2012.