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Tue, May 20, 2003

Potomac TRACON Up and Running

The FAA's new, technologically advanced air traffic control (ATC) facility is now fully operational in Warrenton (VA). Called the Potomac TRACON (Terminal Radar Approach CONtrol), the new facility consolidates five TRACONs and will enable the FAA to redesign the local airspace for improved flying efficiency in the Baltimore-Washington area.

"The Potomac TRACON exemplifies how we plan to chart a new century of safe and efficient air travel throughout the nation," FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey said. "Programs such as this are a key component in our effort to safely increase aviation system capacity by 30 percent in the next decade."

In early April, controllers from Baltimore-Washington International Airport began working at Potomac. They joined controllers from Dulles International, Reagan Washington National, Andrews Air Force Base and Richmond International airports, who moved to Potomac beginning last December. With the consolidation now complete, about 300 FAA employees at Potomac are handling an average of 5,000 flights a day in 23,000 square miles of airspace covering parts of five states – Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. FAA controllers continue to staff the control towers at the five airports.

Efficiency coming to region:

Later this year, the FAA will begin implementing a redesign of the Potomac airspace in the Baltimore-Washington area. Under the current design, which has been in place for about 20 years, the local airspace was rigidly portioned among the four airports. That resulted in fixed routes for
safety reasons as airplanes flew from one airport’s airspace to another. Removing these barriers will allow aircraft to fly more direct routings, reach higher altitudes more quickly on departure and stay at higher altitudes for a longer time on arrival. The benefits include savings to the airlines and other aircraft operators through lower fuel consumption and reduced noise to residents.

In January, the FAA issued its final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the redesign of the airspace. The airspace redesign will not affect current final approach and departure routes, which are generally within five miles of the airport.

When implemented fully next year, the new routes in the redesigned airspace will save the users of the local airspace –- airlines, private pilots and the military services -– an estimated $25 million annually, due largely to less fuel's being burned. Reduced fuel consumption also means less air pollution from aircraft engines.

The cost of the Potomac TRACON –- land, building, equipment and airspace redesign -- is about $110 million.

FMI: www.faa.gov

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