FAA looking to modernize busy Las Vegas airspace

Local News

Over the past three years, the FAA has been studying the Las Vegas airspace to find efficiences when it comes to air traffic.

Part of their findings include being able to produce predictable and repeatable flights tracks, reduce traffic controller task complexity, reduce fuel burn and emissions and improve on-time performance.

Airports being looked at include McCarran International Airport, North Las Vegas Airport, Henderson Executive Airport and Nellis Air Force Base.

Steve Wilkinson, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot, says the Las Vegas airspace is currently crowded.

At Tuesday’s Clark County Board of Commissioners meeting, the FAA will present potential NextGen Airspace efficiencies in the southern Nevada airspace. NextGen is the FAA’s program to modernize the nation’s air transportation system. 

“The less radio calls you make, the less are missed,” Wilkinson said. “It’s like a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle everyday.”

Look up into the Las Vegas sky day or night and chances are you see something flying over. While the airspace is crowded, the FAA says it’s safe, but not necessarily efficient.

The goal of NextGen is to simplify the operation in Las Vegas.

Wilkinson says better flow of traffic equals fewer delays.

“It’s just the next step in a long parade of changes to the FAA approach procedures and pilot procedures to the guys that are flying the airplanes.”

Wilkinson says having crowded airspace is a challenge in Las Vegas.

“The number of airports we have, the terrain around and actually within the confines of the valley and the speeds in which some of the airplanes, in particular Nellis have airplanes that are flying infinitely faster.”

With the NextGen program, pilots and air traffic controllers will gain better information and tools that will help passengers and cargo arrive at its destination faster.

“For the air traffic controller that makes it easy and for the pilots it’s a lot easier,” Wilkinson said. “It will be a safer than anything we’ve ever had.”

Wilkinson, a former airline captain, says for many years before he started flying they used radio beacons to navigate and now this program will be using satellite technology. This will allow for planes to operate at a very safe and efficient level, save fuel and make a quieter approach.

“The routes that they’re using will probably be some of the same in the future but it might be quieter  and you can tweak that route a whole lot easier when your using satellite navigation that when using radio navigation,” he said.

To find out more about the improvements and routes, the FAA has set up several informational workshops in the valley next week. You can click here for more information

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