The Federal Aviation Administration has slowly been implementing its new satellite-based Next Generation Air Transportation System, known as NextGen, at airports across the country, and soon the air-traffic control system will be put into place in Southern California.
The first phase of the project, in what the FAA calls the Southern California Metroplex, started last November with airports updating their systems so they could transfer to NextGen. By next month, the aircraft flying into and out of the 21 airports in the region will be equipped with the new technology.
NextGen is designed to make flight paths more time and fuel efficient, as well as make plane arrivals and departures safer, said Elizabeth Cory, a spokeswoman for the FAA, during a community outreach event at the Burbank Community Services Building Monday night.
“You know about the congestion on your highways, and of course, we have congestion in the skies,” she said. “So what we’re doing is we’re remapping, creating a more efficient flow that we hope will improve on-time performance in all types of weather and get people in and out of the airspace more quickly.”
Cory said the switch from a radar-based to a satellite-based system was implemented to make routes more direct.
Currently, planes navigate the skies via waypoints established many years ago. With the new system, the aircraft can be given better routes, Cory said.
“You can also accommodate a greater level of safety because you have more control and more visuals of who’s in the airspace,” she said. “You have a better control of your air traffic in terms of knowing who’s where and knowing where they are at all times.”
Though the new system is geared toward better flight paths and efficiency, there have been instances throughout the country when residents are upset with the new routes, claiming that NextGen has increased noise around airports.
In Northern California, for example, thousands of Palo Alto residents filed noise complaints with the San Francisco International Airport in 2015 after the new system was implemented.
Rob Henry, a project manager for the Southern California Metroplex project, said that was due to routes being shifted over an area where there were no flights in the past.
Henry said that will not be the case for Burbank because most of the routes will remain the same after NextGen is operational.
“We’re staying within historical flight tracks,” he said.
In October, several Burbank residents voiced concerns about NextGen, mainly fearing that the system would increase the number of flights to and from Hollywood Burbank Airport.
Cory and Henry both said that the system is not intended to increase the number of flights at any airport and that more flights are dictated by the economy and airlines.
Burbank resident Oscar Merlo had those concerns early on, but said that he is relieved a bit after hearing about the project from FAA officials and not the city or Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.
Burbank resident Kevin Muldoon concurred with Merlo, adding he still has his guard up in terms of what the airport authority members will do at Hollywood Burbank and the number of gates a planned 14-gate terminal will have in the future.
“It’s still going to be a wait-and-see,” Muldoon said. “You can never say never.”
Anthony Clark Carpio, firstname.lastname@example.org