WASHINGTON, D.C. – Just in time for the busy holiday travel season, the Washington, D.C. Metroplex is the first in the nation to have three, state-of-the-art, satellite-based highways in the sky running side by side by side, each dedicated to one of the three major airports in the region.
While impacting airline traffic much more than general aviation, the three parallel Optimized Profile Descents (OPD) enable aircraft serving the capital area’s three major airports from the northwest to descend from cruising altitude to the runway in a smooth, continuous arc instead of the traditional staircase descent. This saves time, while reducing fuel and carbon dioxide emissions, FAA officials note. A traditional staircase descent burns fuel at each step. In addition, voice communications between air traffic controllers and pilots are greatly reduced since clearances required during each step of a staircase descent are eliminated.
The three airports benefitting from the NextGen arrivals are Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Dulles International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
The OPD into Baltimore/Washington opened this month, joining the existing OPDs into Dulles and National. Complementary, satellite-based departure paths are also being rolled out at the three airports, allowing aircraft to more quickly join high altitude traffic streams.
By improving traffic flow to the three major airports, the D.C. Metroplex initiative, a collaborative effort involving American, Southwest, United and labor unions, also enhances the safety and efficiency of flights serving Richmond International Airport, Andrews Joint Base Airport and at least nine smaller airports, FAA officials note.
Check out video “New arrivals into Washington and Baltimore”