NextGen is the Federal Aviation Administration’s remedy for an outdated system for managing air traffic. The new system has already been implemented at a handful of the largest airports in the US.
According to the FAA, NextGen reduces carbon emissions, speeds up departures, and could potentially save billions in fuel costs. The FAA estimates that in Washington, where new flight patterns were introduced last year, airlines will reduce their annual fuel consumption by 2.5 million gallons.
A $29 billion initiative to modernize the country’s air traffic control system, NextGen will do away with the World War II Era’s satellite navigation system. Developers and advocates expect NextGen will allow planes to fly more direct routes, save fuel, improve safety, and expedite the take off and landing processes. Officials say it has helped speed up departures by 48 percent at Atlanta’s international airport.
NextGen, with its change in flight patterns and list of hopeful possibilities, has resurrected an old problem: airport noise. Since the system’s implementation, airport noise complaints have increased significantly in several areas, including Phoenix, Palo Alto, and the District of Columbia.
DC Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D) does not support the steps the FAA took to notify residents of the changes in flight patterns and what impact these changes would have. She said, “DC has become a poster child for what is happening all over the country.”
Residents frustrated by the increased airport noise have turned to airport anti-noise groups and the courts. Several government officials, including John McCain and California Reps Anna G. Eshoo, Jackie Speier, and Sam Farr, back the Quiet Skies Coalition. Both the city of Phoenix and a coalition of community groups in the District have filed complaints with the federal court.
Urged by Congress, the FAA has begun taking a more proactive approach to introducing NextGen, by having sit-down meetings with communities that will be affected in the present and future. FAA administrator, Michael P Huerta, said, “We are very concerned about doing everything we can to be responsible as we can about noise.”
Though agency officials claim that their environmental and noise studies in areas affected by new flight patterns showed NextGen would have little to no impact on communities involved, residents argue otherwise. One family who lives in a neighborhood near Reagan National Airport in DC reported that their pre-school aged child cannot sleep through the night due to the noise. Another reported that more than a dozen planes flew over an elementary school in 20 minutes, disrupting the learning environment with significant noise.
Norton believes that the FAA’s uses outdated measures in its studies, and with improvements, the noise produced by NextGen flight patterns can be reduced in the future, though probably not soon enough for those already irritated by the increase. “The same technology that was so smart to get you NextGen is smart enough to get you a quieter NextGen,” she said. “This is not the hardest problem in NextGen…It is simply the problem that NextGen didn’t pay attention to.” For more information, [Click Here].
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