NATCA Cites Collaboration as Key to Successful Rollout of New Washington, D.C., Metroplex Airspace Improvements
Monday, November 24, 2014

CONTACT: Doug Church, 301-346-8245

WASHINGTON - The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) said today that collaboration with the FAA and other aviation stakeholders has been key to the success of NextGen modernization projects and will result in new airspace improvements in the Washington, D.C., Metroplex to improve travel for the holidays. This follows the FAA's announcement that the Washington, D.C. Metroplex is the nation's first to have three, satellite-based highways in the sky running side by side by side, each dedicated to one of the three major airports in the region; Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Dulles International Airport, and Washington National Airport.

NextGen estimates predict that airlines will burn at least 2.5 million fewer gallons of fuel each year while providing more efficient flights that will save time too. The three parallel Optimized Profile Descents (OPD), which are part of the upgrades, will enable aircraft serving the capital area’s three major airports from the northwest to descend from cruising altitude to the runway in a smooth, continuous arc instead of the traditional staircase descent. A traditional staircase descent burns fuel at each step. In addition, voice communications between air traffic controllers and pilots will be greatly reduced since clearances required during each step of a staircase descent are eliminated.

Progress on this and other Metroplex airspace projects, including recent successful implementations in Houston and North Texas, have been marked by great collaboration that started with NATCA and the FAA.

“The D.C. Metroplex Team has set the standard for the entire Metroplex project; they were the first team to implement and this is another step in their phased approach,” NATCA National Airspace Representative Jim Davis said. “The D.C. team created the Metroplex implementation ‘playbook’ and it has been continuously improved.”

Davis said is it important for the FAA to work closely with all stakeholders on the planning and implementation of new technologies, including Metroplex airspace procedures and other improvements.

“Collaboration is extremely important in successfully changing the way that we operate the NAS, and achieving the expected benefits from new technologies and procedures is only possible if we actually use the procedures, as intended,” he said. “That means that we need ownership and buy-in from the individuals that are responsible for the operation.  Collaboration, among FAA, NATCA, and industry is the only way that we can ensure the full knowledge base and diverse perspectives of key stakeholders are brought into the planning and implementation processes, at the right time and at the right level.”