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East Coast, Mountain West Traffic Flow Management Changes Planned for Coming Weeks

December 12, 2011

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is once again making changes to the national airspace this holiday season, accommodating expected fluctuations in traffic, both along the Eastern Seaboard and in the Rocky Mountains. While the programs being implemented are much the same as in years past, there are a few noteworthy changes designed to streamline the process.

East Cost Airspace

Perhaps the area least affected by changes in holiday traffic mitigation programs is the Eastern Seaboard. Although the airspace redesign effort is underway in the skies above New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, changes implemented so far affect departures to the west. Air traffic procedural changes to accommodate holiday traffic are aimed at traffic operating in the southern portion of that airspace, which has not yet been altered, said Dean Snell, one of several NBAA employees who staff the GA Desk at the FAA’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center. Before both Christmas and New Year’s, this primarily affects southbound traffic to Florida and the Caribbean. Conversely, after the holidays, northbound traffic into the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia airspace is most affected.

“There are two ways of accommodating the expected increase in traffic out of the New York area,” he continued. “One is to send traffic further inland. That increases the number of miles flown, but it greatly reduces delays. But if operators using the WHITE departure fix don’t want to travel those inland routes, they can choose the offshore routes.”

Prior to the release of military operation area (MOA) airspace, Snell said only the AZEZU playbook route is available to operators headed to Florida. However, AZEZU is dropped from the program and ATLANTIC is implemented once the VACAPES MOA is opened to civilian traffic, he said.

Rocky Mountain Airspace

Perhaps the most notable changes in the holiday air traffic management program take place this year at six airports in the Rocky Mountains.

“The FAA will again implement its slot program for arrivals at Aspen (ASE), Eagle County (EGE) and Rifle-Garfield County (RIL) in Colorado,” Snell offered. “But the days during which this metering operation will be in effect have been reduced.”

In years past, he explained, the slot program for arrivals into those popular airports has run during the two weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year’s. But this year, the program will be implemented only on those days immediately surrounding each holiday, as follows:

  • December 24 to December 27, 0800-1759 (MST)/1500-0059 (UTC)
  • December 31 to January 3, 0800-1759 (MST)/1500-0059 (UTC)

Non-scheduled, IFR flight operators will still be required to request arrival slots no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. Those reservations must be confirmed at least 12 hours prior to arrival. Slot requests made less than 24 hours ahead of time do not need to be confirmed. Slot requests and confirmations can be handled on the FAA’s e-STMP page.

For three other mountain airports that traditionally expect heavy traffic during the holiday season, the slot program has been eliminated altogether – for now – Snell said.

“They’re going to experiment with not having slot requirements this year at Jackson Hole, WY [JAC], Bozeman-Gallatin Field, MT [BZN] and Sun Valley, ID [SUN],” Snell said.

However, operations at those airports may be impacted by ground-delay programs implemented by the FAA if volume becomes too heavy. Still, Snell said this experiment could be extended to other airports, including some in Colorado, if it is successful.

NBAA’s GA Desk at Your Service

Operators can certainly find information on the various holiday routes and procedures by scanning the FAA’s web site, but NBAA’s GA Desk specially filters these initiatives for business operators and distributes them through the organization’s Air Mail system. For more information on how to subscribe, contact gadesk@nbaa.org.

Learn more about the NBAA GA Desk at www.nbaa.org/gadesk.