The Houston Metroplex project took a step forward toward full NextGen usage on May 29 with the implementation of a number of new performance-based navigation procedures (PBN). The local controlling body, Houston Center, eventually plans to bring 60 new procedures online for George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston Hobby and a number of satellite airports in the area.
A glitch did appear during the roll-out when a charting error on some of the transitions was discovered. The FAA urged users to be certain the transitions line up with the standard terminal arrival routes (Stars) as charted before accepting them as new plates are distributed. Airport planners expect to replace most of the legacy Stars and standard instrument departures with the updated PBN versions, which are more fuel and time efficient–aircraft should be able to remain at idle thrust from the top-of-descent–and reduce carbon emissions generated per aircraft.
Should crews find themselves unsure of which arrival configuration might be in place for the Houston area at their estimated time of arrival, the default selection should be west arrivals since that system is used about 70 percent of the time.
A number of new coded departure routes also took effect last month and can be found with all applicable changes using the FAA’s Route Management Tool. Houston Center also published a Notam with procedural details for aircraft not equipped to take advantage of the PBN procedures.