Collaboration Key to Washington OAPM Project
Thursday, August 23, 2012

Pictured left to right: Members of the Airspace and PBN Committee; Mark O'Neil, Jim Davis, Dennis Kelly, Eric Owens and Mark McKelligan

On Aug. 6, new procedural changes for the D.C. area’s Optimization of Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex (OAPM) project were implemented. Thus far, all signs point to this being a great example of NATCA/FAA/Industry collaboration success.

A total of seven new procedures have been implemented. They include two Area Navigation (RNAV) Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs), one RNAV Standard Terminal Arrival Route (STAR) and a Conventional STAR for Washington Dulles (IAD), and two RNAV STAR’s and a Conventional STAR for Washington National Airport (DCA).

Facilities involved include IAD, DCA, Washington Center (ZDC), Indianapolis Center (ZID), Cleveland Center (ZAU), and Potomac TRACON (PCT).

“This has been a productive, efficient use of our expertise,” said NATCA National Airspace Representative Jim Davis. “This program has been collaborative since day one.”

The FAA also praised the effort. A memo to Potomac TRACON operational personnel stated, “This implementation of new procedures was by far the most seamless one I have ever experienced.”

Davis said the Optimized Profile Descents (OPD) now executed by the aircraft utilizing the new procedures accomplish two key goals: first, they save a “tremendous amount of fuel for the aircraft,” he said, and second, they “allow [controllers] to be more productive, with fewer transmissions.” For example, Davis noted, one transmission of “descend via” takes the place of five “descend and maintain” transmissions. Additionally, in the Washington area, one transmission takes the place of eight with the new procedures.

“Without collaboration, we would not have been able to do what we did,” said Bennie Hutto, one of NATCA’s OAPM Article 48 Project Representatives and a key leader in the success of the Washington OAPM project. “They said we couldn’t do it; that we wouldn’t be able to put in seven new procedures in one year. But the team’s thought was, ‘These procedures have benefits for air traffic controllers and users of the airspace, so why wait?’”

Hutto gave a lot of credit to the FAA Service Centers for their support. Each Service Center has OAPM contacts.

“The team is proud of what has been accomplished but we know that without everyone working together, it would not have been done,” Hutto added.

One of the STARs into DCA is named TRUPS, pronounced “Troops,” and includes waypoints to honor the brave men and women of our armed forces. The other STAR is named FRDMM, pronounced “Freedom,” and includes waypoints to honor the fallen men and women of September 11th.

Overall, there will be 64 more procedural changes implemented over the course of the DC OAPM project.