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The FAA Wants To Create New 'Highways In The Sky' Over Florida

This map shows the airports involved in the FAA's "Metroplex" proposal for Florida.
This map shows the airports involved in the FAA's "Metroplex" proposal for Florida.

The Federal Aviation Administration wants to change the way planes fly into and out of Florida’s busiest airports. It’s part of the first major overhaul of the nation’s air traffic control system in decades.

Since the start of the jet age in the 1960s, air traffic controllers have guided planes with the help of radar. The FAA says it’s time to move to a GPS-based system.

The agency is focusing on Florida because four of the nation’s busiest airports are near each other, including Tampa International Airport, said Ahmed Abdelghany. He’s a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

“The idea is to improve safety and efficiency and, of course, safety around airports and reducing maneuvering time and all these kinds of aspects,” he said.

The new system also involves new flight paths -- think of them as highways in the sky that planes use to take off and land. The FAA says the new patterns will improve safety in fuel efficiency, but opponents say the paths will lead to more jet noise around airports. One critic in Miami likened the proposal to “building an I-95 in the sky.”

The agency has faced legal challenges to similar proposals in Maryland, California, and Arizona.  Officials say noise will be part of an environmental review of the Florida plan.

The FAA is also taking public feedback at public meetings across the state. The first in the Tampa Bay area is scheduled for Monday night in Clearwater. You can find more information here.

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Bradley George comes to WUSF from Atlanta, where he was a reporter, host, and editor at Georgia Public Broadcasting. While in Atlanta, he reported for NPR, Marketplace, Here & Now, and The Takeaway. His work has been recognized by PRNDI, the Georgia Associated Press, and the Atlanta Press Club. Prior to his time in Georgia, Bradley worked at public radio stations in Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina.