North Carolina was “first in flight” when the Wright Brothers took to the skies at Kitty Hawk, and now it’s leading the way to the next generation of air traffic control. NextGen procedures are helping flights operate more efficiently at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), improving on-time performance and decreasing emissions.
The Charlotte Metroplex project includes new arrival and departure procedures for CLT and surrounding airports in North Carolina, South Carolina and southern Virginia. Procedural changes in Charlotte are at altitudes between 3,000 and 14,000 feet and do not affect the airport’s voluntary noise abatement procedures.
Metroplex initiatives such as this are a key element of the FAA’s NextGen air traffic control modernization, which is replacing decades-old ground-based navigation with more precise procedures based on satellite navigation. Similar projects are in place or underway in 12 major metropolitan areas nationwide.
Based on July 2015 data, the FAA estimates the changes in Charlotte will result in 28,000 fewer metric tons of carbon in the air each year, which is equivalent to removing more than 5,000 cars from the road. Airlines will consume 3.3 million fewer gallons of aircraft fuel, valued at about $9.4 million.
Charlotte Douglas presents unique challenges, with limited space for aircraft to maneuver after they push back from the gate. Taxiways also are congested as aircraft move to and from the runways. The FAA, in collaboration with air carriers and the airport, is working with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop the nation’s most sophisticated system for managing arrivals and departures. When completed, the airport will be among the most efficient in the country, reducing the amount of time that airplanes spend on taxiways generating noise and emissions.
Charlotte is among the first airports to use Data Communications, which operates much like text-messaging between air traffic controllers and flight crews for routine communications such as clearances, instructions, advisories, and flight crew requests. Data Comm enhances safety by enabling controllers to give more timely and effective clearances. Better communication improves controller and pilot productivity, which enhances airspace capacity and reduces flight delays. Air traffic controllers currently use radio voice communications to give clearances and other flight information to pilots.
Charlotte is building on its legacy as a leader in aviation thanks to the technology and innovation from NextGen.