Washington Airspace Gets Cleaner and More Efficient

New satellite based paths make flights in and out of the capital more efficient.

The FAA has implemented NextGen technology in the Washington, D.C. area, activating new satellite-based paths into the three busiest airports in D.C.'s airspace: Washington Dulles International Airport, the Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. "These new and improved highways in the sky mean increased safety, more on-time arrivals and departures, reduced fuel consumption, and reduced pollution-causing emissions," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The new paths use Optimized Profile Descents (OPDs), which allow airplanes to fly smooth approaches rather than the step-down paths traditionally used while flying into these busy airports.

Since the airplanes can now continue a smooth descent rather than add power at each stepdown, the FAA predicts the implementation of the NextGen system in the Washington area alone will result in 2.5 million fewer gallons of fuel burned, translating into 25,000 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the environment. The elimination of the stepdowns will also reduce the number of communications between pilots and air traffic controllers, the FAA said.

In addition to the OPDs, satellite based departure routes are being implemented that will bring the airplanes to their targeted altitudes more efficiently.

The FAA expects the new routes to produce more on-time arrivals during the busy Thanksgiving weekend. In addition, to help relieve traffic congestion through the holiday weekend, the Department of Defense has released unused military airspace in the Washington area to civilian traffic.

This video shows how the new OPD paths work.

Get exclusive online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.

We welcome your comments on flyingmag.com. In order to maintain a respectful environment, we ask that all comments be on-topic, respectful and spam-free. All comments made here are public and may be republished by Flying.