by Mary Ellen Eagan
Discussion of NextGen and NEPA issues was a hot topic at the U.C. Davis Noise and Air Quality Symposium earlier this month – not only in “formal” sessions and presentations, but informally over dinners, cocktails, and networking sessions. Jason Schwartz of the Port of Portland presented a great graphic which summarizes the central role of airports in this discussion:
Of critical importance – and a potential significant benefit from the perspective of FAA officials tasked with rolling out performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures as quickly as possible – will be the role airports can play in outreach. I believe this will be the key to maximizing understanding and minimizing controversy (and thus avoiding costly and lengthy environmental processes).
As shown in Jason’s slide, airports are uniquely positioned to understand the technical issues and urgency of industry to implement the procedures as well as the concerns of the community and elected officials to preserve their quality of life. Airports can bridge this gap by engaging both sides in a constructive discussion and evaluation of environmental impacts (and benefits!) resulting from implementation of PBN. We have been involved in such discussions at Denver International Airport, which FAA hopes to use as a model for collaborative engagement for its integrated National Airspace and Procedures Plan (otherwise known as the “Metroplex Project”).
The FAA is taking a major step to loosen key bottlenecks in metroplexes, the busy metropolitan areas where multiple airports and competing airspace lead to less-than-efficient operations. The FAA intends to design integrated airspace and new procedures to de-conflict arrivals and departures in an initiative that will reach 21 such areas by 2016.
The goal of the Metroplex Project is to implement more efficient operations in metroplex areas. Study teams with representatives of the FAA and the aviation community will provide an expeditious but comprehensive front-end strategic look at each metroplex. They will analyze operational challenges, assess current and planned airspace and procedures efforts, and explore new opportunities for solutions that are tailored individually to each metroplex. Once a study team has come up with the right changes for its metroplex, a design and implementation team will develop the changes and put them in place. The first two metroplex areas – North Texas and Washington D.C. – have been identified as prototypes for early analysis. The FAA has completed the initial concept studies for each and soon will be entering the design phase similar to the recent effort at Denver. The next five metroplexes identified for study are: Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte, N.C., Northern California, and Southern California.
For a great summary on NextGen Implementation, read this report from FAA.
HMMH will be assisting the FAA to prepare NEPA documents for the upcoming metroplex studies. I look forward to working with airports – the local experts – to identify important community and local government representatives and strategies for outreach.
As Chad Leqve of Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport pointed out on several occasions during the symposium, the rollout of PBN procedures presents a rare opportunity to achieve meaningful noise reduction over noise-sensitive communities. We should not squander that opportunity.