The newest phase of the FAA's NextGen airspace redesign, tagged the "North Texas Metroplex" project, took effect September 18 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with the addition of a number of new arrival and departure procedures. The new procedures replace the older standard terminal arrival routes (Stars) and standard instrument departures (SIDs) at Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) and Dallas Love Field (DAL) airports.
Additionally, new procedures also took effect at Addison Airport (ADS), McKinney National Airport (TKI) and Fort Worth's Meacham International Airport (FTW), as well as en route airspace controlled by neighboring Forth Worth Center.
"The new optimized profile descent Stars should improve fuel efficiency by allowing aircraft to remain at idle power from the top of descent to the final approach [fix]," commented John Kosak, an air traffic services specialist with the National Business Aviation Association. The new SIDs should also expedite aircraft joining the high-altitude en route airspace structure.
The North Texas Metroplex team is requesting that operators submit feedback reports to provide insight into how well the new procedures work.
The North Texas Metroplex redesign follows a similar upgrade of Houston's terminal airspace earlier this year. Similar airspace upgrades to Cleveland Center and the Northern California Tracon's airspace are scheduled to take effect later this year.
UPS is making a series of safety enhancements in the aftermath of the September 9 NTSB hearing into the crash of UPS Flight 1354 at Birmingham, Ala., in August last year.
During the hearing, the NTSB's Steve Magladry explained that the Honeywell enhanced ground proximity warning system (EGPWS) on the freight airline's Airbus A300-600 was operating as designed, but that a free software enhancement available from Airbus had not been installed on the aircraft. That update, he said, could have improved proximity alerts by sounding a "Too Low, Terrain" alert 6.5 seconds earlier than did the version installed on the accident aircraft.
"Flight simulator sessions indicated that the aircraft could have avoided terrain had a CFIT [controlled flight into terrain] avoidance maneuver been executed within 2.4 seconds of this earlier alert," according to Magladry.
UPS told AIN via e-mail that the company plans to "build upon the lessons learned from this accident and work to improve operations and safety" and improve its "training and automation standard enhancements, call-outs, pilot monitoring duties, stabilized approaches and [no-fault reaction to] go-arounds."
NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said the aircraft's excessive rate of descent close to the ground (1,500 fpm) might have negated the value of the earlier alert. "But it [the software update] would have given the crew the opportunity to avoid this crash." Mentioning a 2010 IATA-published safety article about EGPWS, Sumwalt commented, "To get the most CFIT risk reduction possible, the airlines need to give GPS position direct to the EGPWS unit, which UPS did not do, and to keep the latest software and database up to date, which UPS did not do."
The FAA released an updated advisory circular AC 91-79A last week to help pilots and aircraft operators more easily identify, understand and mitigate the risks of runway overruns. The AC was also developed to assist operators in creating their own standard operating procedures (SOPs) to help reduce those risks.
Runway overruns account for approximately 10 incident or accidents annually, many resulting in fatalities, according to the agency.
Another reason for the update, according to the NTSB, is to give more comprehensive guidance on the risks associated with a tailwind approach and landing, particularly on wet or contaminated runways.
The AC focuses on scenario-based training and testing of pilots and flight crews to help prevent runway overruns. The FAA warned, however, that to increase a pilot's recognition of the higher risk involved in the landing, targeted training and checking during initial pilot certification and recurrent training must be practical, and not merely an academic exercise.
Both organizations remind pilots and operators that they are responsible for following company SOPs and understanding their aircraft's limitations.
The task force set up in early August by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to assess risks to aircraft operating in conflict zones has defined a work program with two immediate objectives. The task force, which was set up in the wake of the apparent shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, includes industry representation by the International Air Transport Association, the Flight Safety Foundation and the International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations.
The group's first pilot project, agreed at an August 26 meeting in Montreal, will explore how the Notice to Airmen system already in place between ICAO states and operators could be better used to share urgent and critical conflict-zone risk information. The second will investigate a new centralized system for the prompt sharing of conflict-zone risk information.
"These recommendations will help ensure the safety of civilian passengers and crew, no matter what airline they are flying on or where they are flying," said task force chairman David McMillan.
ICAO will deliver the task force's preliminary findings to the 203rd Session of the ICAO Council in October.