JetBlue gets FAA agreement to fly NextGen ATM routes

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has signed a NextGen agreement with JetBlue Airways that will allow the airline to fly more precise, satellite-based flights from Boston and New York to Florida and the Caribbean, beginning in 2012.

NextGen is the transformation of the US national airspace system from a ground-based system of air traffic control to one based on satellites, designed to enhance safety and reduce congestion. The announcement follows President Obama’s State of the Union Address in which he stressed the importance of targeted investments within the USA.

“In his State of the Union address, President Obama called for targeted investments that harness American innovation to strengthen our nation,” remarked US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “NextGen is a critical investment in the future of our transportation system, one that uses the latest technology to transform our airspace to make aviation safer, more efficient and more environmentally friendly.”

Under the agreement, as many as 35 of JetBlue’s A320s will be equipped with automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) avionics over the next two years, enabling them to fly in two major routes off the East Coast even if traditional radar coverage is not available. The improved accuracy, integrity and reliability of aircraft surveillance under ADS-B will allow JetBlue to take advantage of these routes at all times since the satellite-based system tracks the precise position of aircraft.

The agreement will also allow JetBlue to fly a new route to the Caribbean, and could lead to the development of two new, shorter ADS-B-only routes to the Caribbean from Boston, New York and Washington. The FAA will collect valuable NextGen data by observing and conducting real-time operational evaluations of ADS-B on revenue flights.

“NextGen will help improve the travel experience for passengers and give airlines more flexibility to find the most efficient way to reach their destinations,” claimed FAA administrator Randy Babbitt. “This agreement will allow us to collect important data to further demonstrate the benefits of NextGen.”

“As the youngest major airline in the United States, with a majority of our operations in the Northeast – arguably the most congested airspace in the world – JetBlue enthusiastically joins the FAA in this effort to begin rebuilding the skyways,” said JetBlue CEO Dave Barger. “Our investment today will yield dividends far into the future, not just for JetBlue but for all airlines. Our customers and crewmembers deserve our best efforts.”

The FAA has agreed to pay $4.2 million for the ADS-B avionics. JetBlue will provide flight operations, pilots, and aircraft maintenance and will pay for the cost of aircraft downtime while the ADS-B avionics are installed. JetBlue will also fund the necessary training for dispatchers and flight crews, including simulator time. The airline will demonstrate the cost savings of ADS-B technology and potentially equip the rest of its A320 fleet at its own expense with ADS-B avionics.

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