US FAA begins optimization review of Charlotte airspace

Washington DC
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Officials from the US FAA have launched a review of airspace and procedures in the Charlotte metroplex in preparation for the next generation (NextGen) air traffic control system under development by the agency.

In a regular employee update US Airways states the optimization review of airspace around the carrier's Charlotte hub should take 12 to 18 months. Once FAA approves the proposed solutions, training on the new procedures will last six to 12 months.

US Airways explains some of the new procedures that could ultimately be used in the Charlotte airspace include new or different departure or arrival routes, constant rate climbs and descents or a realignment of airspace.

Alaska Airlines has been engaged with the FAA in a somewhat similar exercise in Seattle since 2009.

The carrier has conducted trials at Seattle-Tacoma International airport of required navigational performance (RNP) and optimized profile descents, and in July 2010 had submitted to FAA more than half of the procedures for review.

Alaska Air Group was an early adopter of RNP technology, and on 15 February company chief executive William Ayer during an address to attendees at the 36th annual FAA Aviation Forecast Conference stated Alaska's trials and a recent partnership between JetBlue and to FAA test automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) are a showcase of NextGen's benefits, and should help to eliminate the "chicken and egg" funding scenario between airlines and the government.

Ayer was referencing the fear by carriers that they will equip their fleets with NextGen technology, but the government will fail to deliver on the system. Conversely, he says, the government is leery to move forward until carriers commit to equip their aircraft.

"We need to get going on it [NextGen]," says Ayer.