Potomac centre starts airspace shake-up

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Controllers have begun working in the US Federal Aviation Administration's new Potomac consolidated terminal radar approach control (TRACON) centre, in the first step towards redesigning the Baltimore-Washington area airspace to allow more efficient direct flights.

One of four options for the airspace redesign will be selected in January for implementation later this year. The $95 million Potomac project will consolidate five existing TRACONs and allow the removal of rigid partitioning of individual airspace for the region's four airports.

The redesigned airspace is expected to save users $25 million a year, largely through lower fuel burn resulting from the ability to climb directly to more efficient altitudes, instead of being forced to stay lower to pass through the fixed "gateways" between each airspace sector.

Controllers from Washington Dulles TRACON have moved to the new centre and will be joined over the next four months by controllers from the terminal sectors at Washington National, Andrews AFB, Baltimore-Washington and Richmond International. The centre is equipped with the latest version of Lockheed Martin's Common ARTS air traffic control system.