FAA: Changes coming to commercial air travel


March 19, 2012 5:02:35 PM PDT
Commercial air travel is about to change. The Federal Aviation Administration is moving away from radar technology to satellite navigation. The FAA says the changes will make air travel more efficient and reduce pollution, and passengers could see some benefits as well.

Acting FAA Director Michael Huerta wants to redesign the aviation system to be more in line with 21st century technology. He and other aviation partners were in Oakland Monday to announce the FAA's Metroplex initiative which will also include SFO, San Jose International, and the Sacramento Airport.

They say using satellite-based technology will be more precise and efficient because the flight plan will be more direct. "The system that we have today is a radar-based system and radar-based systems is a technology from the last century, and it gives us a very safe and a very good view of what's happening in the system, but it is not as precise as the satellite-based systems that exists today," Huerta said.

By having more precise flight plans, the FAA estimates the airlines will save $2.3 million a year in fuel costs at those four airports combined. The changes won't happen overnight. It's in the designing stage now, which will include input from the FAA, the airlines, and the air traffic controllers. It's expected to be up and running in three years.

Metroplex initiatives are under way in 21 metropolitan areas across the country. Again, it's really about saving fuel, while reducing emissions. The airlines say if they can lower the cost of fuel, they will pass on the savings to customers. Some passengers told ABC7 they were skeptical about that, but they do like the fact that the system is expected to improve on-time performance.

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