DFW Airport

New FAA Procedures Making North Texas Air Travel More Efficient

NextGen Rules Could Lead to More On-Time Arrivals

You probably haven't noticed it, unless you've flown into Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport or Dallas Love Field Airport the last two months.

Flights are moving a bit differently these days thanks to millions of dollars in new technology and procedures, instituted by the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta called it a redesign of the air space over the metroplex, impacting almost every airport, including DFW, Love, Fort Worth Alliance Airport, Fort Worth Meacham International Airport, Dallas Executive Airport, Addison Airport and Arlington Municipal Airport.

The major undertaking was a partnership between the FAA, the air traffic controllers' union, pilots and the airlines. While it took three years to pull off, passengers may not really notice any changes.

At the Fort Worth FAA Control Center on Wednesday, it was a celebratory mood as Huerta and other officials celebrated the NextGen procedures 60 days after the 80 changes went into affect, Sept. 18.

"This redesign of the airspace makes for a much more efficient system, overall," Huerta said.

The procedures were complicated, but included creating GPS-based paths into and out of Love Field, changing routes from the northwest into Love to eliminate congestion in DFW's airspace, developing efficient routes into and out of the airports, as well as alternatives during weather issues and using satellite technologies to have "predictable, repeatable flight paths" for planes taking off and optimized profiles for landing. In other words, it set up a better way around the skies.

"As we're coming in you get a lot less vectors, you get a lot less radio transmission and stuff like that," said Capt. Brian Will, director of airspace and avionics modernization for American Airlines. "So, it's really been beneficial."

The benefits, according to the FAA, include a reduction in a million nautical miles flown a year, a drop of carbon emissions by 41,000 metric tons and 4.1 million gallons of fuel saved by the airlines.

American Airlines' Chief Operating Officer, Robert Isom, said AA planes will save 300 to 500 pounds of fuel per plane.

"With the new aircraft, technologies and procedures, we should reduce our fuel bill by $10 million annually," Isom said at a press conference.

That savings could be passed on to the flying customer, who might notice more on-time arrivals more than anything with these changes. But Huerta said you will notice a difference in the landings in North Texas, as you'll glide in like you're sliding on a banister versus leveling off while changing altitude.

"The engines will go all the way back to idle and we don't want them [passengers] to panic, because the airplane is doing what it's designed to do," Huerta said.

And those changes will make the skies safer, more environmentally friendly and more efficient.

Huerta said changes like this can typically take a decade. For North Texas, it took just three years because of the cooperation of air traffic controllers, pilots, airlines and airports. The FAA said it, alone, spent $5.5 million on the changes.

North Texas is one of about a dozen metropolitan areas that have had airspace re-tooled with NextGen procedures. Huerta said the metroplex project was the most ambitious to date.

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