News Article - April 29, 2010

  The planned $22 billion upgrade of the nation’s airways that is expected to make a significant contribution to southern New Jersey’s economy is testing one of its core technologies just 60 miles away. Air traffic controllers at Philadelphia International Airport can now use satellite-based Next Generation systems to land aircraft, and companies are expected to see gains as a result, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday.

  FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto said one reason Philadelphia was chosen as one of the nation’s four NextGen test airports is because US Airways and package shipper UPS both have hubs there and are both taking advantage of its capabilities. He said UPS outfitted more than 100 of its aircraft to use the NextGen system at its hub in Louisville, Ky., another of the test airports, “because it knew it would recoup its investment with the money saved on fuel burned.”

  With existing ground-based radar, planes must descend in steps on the way to landing, wasting a lot of fuel in the process, he said. With NextGen’s precision GPS, aircraft can take a direct approach to the runway. UPS said so-called continuous descent allow its aircraft to use idle power to glide down, making less noise, burning less fuel and creating fewer emissions.

  The company’s tests suggest such landings reduce noise by 30 percent, nitrous oxide emissions by 34 percent, and save 40 to 70 gallons of aviation fuel per approach. Other aspects of the system are being developed at the William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County. Nearby, the NextGen Aviation Research and Technology Park is under construction, preparing to host companies working with the Technical Center that are expected to support 2,000 high technology jobs.

  Takemoto said Philadelphia also was chosen as an important NextGen test site because there’s a lot of air traffic and there are already issues in the area with use of telecommunications spectrum. “These signals (between planes and controllers via satellite) are sent through that spectrum, and we want to make sure everything’s fine with the bandwidth.” The FAA said the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast system at Philadelphia covers 60 nautical miles out from the airport and 10,000 feet up. Planes en route to the airport that use the system will be able to reduce their distance from each other from the current 5 nautical miles to 3, saving time and money.

  Safety benefits are expected, too, with controllers getting updated aircraft positions each second instead of every 41/2 seconds under the existing ground-based-radar system. “The whole point of NextGen is getting aircraft to fly from point A to B faster, more efficiently and with less impact on the environment,” Takemoto said. He said he expects Philadelphia controllers to begin using the new system at night when traffic is lighter and then to gradually work it into all periods until it’s going round the clock. The other airports testing the ADS-B system are in Houston and Juneau, Alaska, he said. The system is expected to be available nationwide by 2013.

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer