Changes In The Air

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New Washington TRACON Opens For Business...

The FAA opened a new state-of-the-art terminal radar approach facility last Saturday in Warrenton, Va., to serve the Baltimore-Washington area airspace. Called the Potomac Consolidated TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach Control), the FAA says the technologically advanced facility will consolidate five existing TRACONs and enable the airspace to be redesigned to allow for more efficient, direct flight routings. "Programs such as this are a key component in our effort to safely increase aviation system capacity by 30 percent in the next decade," said FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey. AOPA said the consolidation won't have any immediate impact on the Baltimore-Washington area Class B airspace. "The new tracon will improve communication and should lead to better general aviation access," said Melissa K. Bailey, AOPA vice president of air traffic. Plans call for more GA routes through the airspace, more overflight routes, and more direct south and east routes, AOPA said.

...Five Towers Combined...

About 60 air traffic controllers from Washington Dulles International Airport are now working at Potomac. Over the next four months, they will be joined by controllers from Reagan Washington National, Andrews Air Force Base, Richmond International and Baltimore-Washington International. When the consolidation is complete, the Potomac TRACON will have about 300 FAA employees who will handle about 5,000 flights a day in 23,000 square miles of airspace covering parts of five states. FAA controllers will continue to staff the control towers at the five airports. By allowing more direct routes through the simplified airspace, the FAA projects savings of about $25 million annually, mainly due to less fuel being burned. Eventually, the Class B airspace around Baltimore and Washington will get a redesign, AOPA said. Total estimated cost of the Potomac TRACON project is $95 million.

...While Towering Tower Finds Crowded Sky

If just thinking about the congested Washington-Baltimore airspace gives you the heebie-jeebies, turn your imagination to the teeming skies above New York and New Jersey. That metropolitan airspace is host to 8,000 flights per day. Now picture a proposed TV antenna tower for Bayonne, N.J., that would extend to 2,000 feet agl and poke into the approach and departure corridors for Newark, LaGuardia, and Linden airports. Some missed-approach procedures would also be affected. The $200 million antenna would replace the one that stood on the north tower of the World Trade Center, and would be the world's largest free-standing structure.

Last week, according to the Newhouse News Service, a New Jersey state official asked the tower's proponents to justify the plan in terms of public benefit. "There is currently no record to support the conclusion that siting the proposed tower in New Jersey, let alone at a particular site in New Jersey, is a sound public policy choice," Bradley Campbell, commissioner of the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection, wrote to the Metropolitan Television Alliance. The alliance, a broadcasters' group, has already had its proposals rejected in New York. Some local officials in Bayonne are supporting the project as a potential economic boon to the area. The proposed site is a former military port undergoing redevelopment.

NOTE: The FAA is soliciting comments from aircraft operators about the tower proposal until January 2. Comments should be sent to FAA's Eastern Regional Office, 1 Aviation Plaza AEA-520, Jamaica, NY 11434, and refer to Aeronautical Study No. 2002-AEA-3394-OE. The study is available here in Adobe's Portable Document Format, free readers for which are available at Adobe's Web site.