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Project Experience: Houston Optimization of Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex (OAPM)

The Challenge

The FAA developed the Optimization of Airspace in the Metroplex (OAPM) effort to address issues with airspace delays and congestion Metroplexes (geographic areas serving multiple airports in the same metropolitan area) across the U.S. and to study and recommend procedural changes that could be implemented for improved efficiency.  The FAA has formed contractor support teams to provide NEPA guidance and prepare environmental analyses to support the OAPM projects under its Engineering, Analysis, Research & Support (PEARS) contract.  As part of the PEARS support team, HMMH led two of the first Environmental Assessments (EA): the Houston OAPM EA and the North Texas OAPM EA.

The Houston OAPM project was prioritized by Presidential memorandum, Speeding Infrastructure Development through More Efficient and Effective Permitting and Environmental Review (August 31, 2011) and tracked on the Federal Infrastructure Projects Permitting Dashboard.

The Strategy/Solution

The Houston OAPM EA was released to the public in January 2013, approximately one year after the HMMH team started. It involved the design of new or modified RNAV/RNP procedures in order to improve operational efficiency with PBN technology, increase flight path predictability, and decrease required controller/pilot voice communication. The Metroplex study area included several commercial and general aviation airports serving the larger metropolitan region. FAA’s Design & Implementation team designed the proposed procedure changes and HMMH performed analyses of their potential impacts on noise, air quality, fuel burn, and other environmental resources.  The resulting procedures were ultimately implemented June 2014.