Collaboration on Airspace Redesign Producing Benefits
Friday, June 24, 2011
(The article below is a joint report between ATO Communications and NATCA; another example of positive developments stemming from the collaborative process.)
To move airplanes more efficiently in the Northeast, the FAA has introduced three-mile separation standards to several sectors at New York Center and shifted eight controller positions at the New York TRACON.
The changes, which went into effect in early May, are a partial implementation of Stage 2a of the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace Redesign. The rest of Stage 2a will be completed in the fall.
The partial implementation of Stage 2a brought eight additional radar feeds into New York Center. With the extra radars, the FAA now has the ability to reduce the standard separation below 18,000 feet in 11 sectors to three nautical miles from five nautical miles.
The reduction in separation “gives us the ability to more efficiently move traffic,” said Robert Novia, manager of the Airspace Redesign. “Even with the Stage 2a changes, there’s still a lot of crossing and swapping out of flows that controllers have to do that they’re going to be able to do more efficiently since we have three-mile separation instead of five.
“This part of the country has more concentrated and more numerous radar sites than most parts of the [national airspace system],” Novia said. “Our more robust surveillance coverage in the Northeast enables us to meet the radar and automation criteria for three- mile separation over a broader area covering multiple sectors in the New York Center”
Later in the redesign process, the project will seek approval for three-mile separation up to 23,000 feet throughout much of New York area airspace.
During the partial implementation, the FAA also repositioned the workstations for eight positions at the New York TRACON. Now controllers whose airspace shares a common boundary, and who handle a large amount of traffic transiting that boundary are sitting side by side in the Liberty, Newark and LaGuardia areas.
“We now have the associated scopes situated in the same way as the airspace,” said Timon Kalpaxis, a controller at New York TRACON and the lead NATCA representative on the Airspace Redesign collaborative work group. “This re-positioning has the potential to increase benefits for internal coordination and communication, resulting in a more efficient traffic flow.”
The shift is the beginning of the airspace integration effort. Eventually, the FAA plans to rearrange New York TRACON and New York Center so that all controllers handling common boundaries will be sitting near each other.
Kalpaxis said the gradual approach to Airspace Redesign will give controllers time to adjust to the changes and allow the work group to assess their impact.
“The human factors aspect of it is pretty substantial,” he said. “So the idea is to let that settle in, and assess how it's going.”
So far, the controllers are getting acclimated quickly, Kalpaxis said.
“Controllers are very adaptable by nature, and these men and women excel when it comes to incorporating improvements,” he said. “They did a tremendous job of being able to change gears and pick it up and go.”
The remaining changes for Stage 2a include a new departure fix to the west of New York City, a departure procedure for John F. Kennedy International Airport that will reduce complexity and make more efficient climbs possible, and new arrival streams for Washington Dulles International Airport to separate that traffic from other en route flights in the area.
Those changes are currently planned for Oct. 20.