FAA Activates East Coast Airspace Route Changes

Credit: Joe Pries

The FAA has unveiled new air traffic control (ATC) routes along the U.S. east coast intended to increase aircraft efficiency and reduce flight times.

The FAA says in a May 1 statement that the 169 new flight paths, roughly along the heavily trafficked Boston (BOS)-Miami (MIA) corridor, are “more direct” and designed to take advantage of GPS satellite navigation. The agency notes it has phased out “legacy routes built when aircraft largely relied on ground-based radar, limiting the directness of routes, instead of GPS.”

The new routes generally keep aircraft on a straighter north-south trajectory compared to the legacy routes, which often require inefficient flight paths based on the positioning of ground radar. The FAA says there will be “fewer converging points and more simple flows.”

The new ATC routes will operate primarily above 18,000 ft. along the east coast and offshore over the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. The agency projects airlines will have to fly 40,000 mi. fewer annually on north-south east coast routes, saving 6,000 min. of flight time per year.

“The change helps prevent delays by giving the agency more capacity to direct traffic to specific routes based on the aircraft’s destination,” FAA says. “When weather occurs, controllers will also have more flexibility.”

FAA Air Traffic Organization COO Tim Arel says the new flight paths “will reduce complexity and redistribute volume across all available airspace” and help ease delays and cancellations in what is expected to be a busy summer at U.S. airports.

He adds there was “strong collaboration” between the FAA and industry over a more than seven-year period before making the airspace changes.

Aaron Karp

Aaron Karp is a Contributing Editor to the Aviation Week Network.