February 4, 2011

JetBlue signs NextGen agreement with the FAA

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Randy Babbitt and JetBlue represented by Dave held a press conference at DCA yesterday to announce a NextGen agreement that will further efforts to upgrade the nation’s air transportation system. The announcement follows President Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he stressed the importance of winning the future by partnering with the private sector to out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world.

The announcement was about an NextGen agreement that we signed with the FAA that will allow us to fly more precise, satellite-based flights from Boston and New York to Florida and the Caribbean beginning in 2012.

Under the agreement, up to 35 of our A320 aircraft will be equipped with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) avionics over the next two years, enabling us to fly in relatively uncongested corridors in the skies off the East Coast. The agreement will allow us to fly a new flight path to the Caribbean, and could lead to the development of two new, more efficient 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.

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

The Washington Post
Press Release
Huffington Post

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December 6, 2012

Unpacked: Instrument Landing Systems

Welcome to Unpacked, where we demystify hot topics in the airline industry! This time we’re talking about instrument landing systems (ILS).

When you think about how planes take off and land, a couple of factors likely come to mind: pilots and air traffic controllers. Oh yes, and planes. Less obvious, though no less important are instrument landing systems (ILS), or ground to air radio technology that connects pilots and air traffic controllers and helps navigate planes when it comes to landing. These systems have been around for a long time. In fact, ILS is the primary system still in use today that the FAA has classified as a precision approach system.

Image courtesy of Bruce Guenter on Flickr

ILS more specifically provides lateral and vertical guidance for a plane on approach into an airport via a very precise fixed ground-based signal between two antennas, sending a signal to the pilot to aid in landing the plane. This is a very useful piece of technology when we’re looking at low visibility due to fog or other weather. Instrument landing systems also provide tools that help pilots navigate on the ground like in-pavement lighting, touchdown zones lights, runway edge lights and high speed taxi turnoff lights, and transmissometers, which are weather instruments that use lights to measure visibility (try saying “transmissometers five times fast!).

The two ILS antennae are affixed to the runway, one (the localizer antenna) at the opposite end of the runway from where the plane is approaching to provide lateral guidance to help the pilot line up with the center of the runway; the second at the other end, approximately 700 to 1,000 feet down the runway off to one side. The latter is known as a glide slope antenna, which sits facing upward at a three-degree angle in most cases to provide vertical guidance as the flight descends to the runway. The final piece of important technology used to assist with landings is the approach lighting system. These lights are used to guide the aircraft safely to the runway. These lights are usually placed on a series of gradually decreasing towers at the end of a runway, and you’ve probably seen them flashing if you’ve ever driven past an airport late at night.

Flooding at LaGuardia after Hurricane Sandy

There are three types of instrument landing systems currently in place, Category I, II and III. Each type respectively allows the pilot to land in lower visibility. For instance, a Category I instrument landing system can guide a plane about 200 feet from the ground before the pilot needs to see the runway; Category II can guide a plane within 100 feet from the ground; and Category III – the most advanced of the systems – has the precision to safely guide the plane to touchdown on the ground with as little as 600 feet of visibility.

The more precise the system, the more expensive it is to maintain or replace. A Category III system, for instance, is more challenging for airports to obtain and maintain because it’s the most costly of the three. Many smaller airports only provide a Category I system. Also, in order to use Category II and III instrument landing systems, airlines are required to provide additional flight crew training and aircraft equipage requirements. (JetBlue maintains certification for Category III approaches on both our Airbus and Embraer fleets.)

If it’s a sunny day or clear night with high visibility, the ILS isn’t really needed. It’s those rainy, snowy, or foggy, low visibility travel days that make ILS an integral part of operations and missing or broken equipment can mean delays or diversions for flights that then don’t have the navigational aid to land in those less than ideal weather conditions.

LaGuardia flooding the day after Hurricane Sandy

That brings us to Hurricane Sandy, where heavy winds and flood waters damaged the instrument landing equipment at the New York airports, including Newark, LaGuardia and JFK. At LaGuardia in particular, an FAA inspection after the storm revealed that the signal wasn’t taking them to the runway the right way. In fact, they found at the far end of the runway, a pier where the antenna sits had been damaged and was actually moving with the tide. That leaves LaGuardia with one only runway with a fully functional ILS.

The good news is that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the FAA have been on top of addressing and repairing the damage, and we’re looking at most of the technology getting fixed by the end of the year. In the interim, we’re looking at the possibility of delays or diversions in times of low visibility.

The airline industry as a whole has started serious discussions around and plans to upgrade navigational technology to swap the old ILS ground-based technology for new satellite technology (GPS) that a hurricane or any other weather cannot knock out. Known as NextGen, we’re already flying using a new procedure known as RNP to get into the New York airports which allows for more on-time departures and arrivals as we reduce our dependency on ground-based navigation systems. Learn more about our plans with NextGen and our new RNP AR approaches into JFK.

Learn more about the past, present and future of Air Traffic Control

Check out our previous editions of Unpacked and stay tuned for the next up!

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September 20, 2012

Partnering With the FAA to Reduce Emissions in the Florida Air Space

Today, Acting Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta and our CEO Dave Barger announced a collaborative NextGen effort that will make flying into and out of many of Florida’s major airports more efficient for passengers, air traffic controllers and airlines.

The Metroplex initiative is based on satellite navigation, which the FAA calls Performance-Based Navigation (PBN), also a key component of NextGen.  PBN enables pilots to fly aircraft using satellite coverage, or by utilizing the on-board flight management system.  PBN allows shorter, more direct routes that reduce flight time and fuel consumption, and result in fewer carbon emissions.

We’re proud to work with the FAA on this and similar important initiatives that help streamline navigation in the air and ultimately make for a better and more efficient travel experience for airlines and the customers we serve.

Check out the below video of our Flight Standards Manger and A320 Captain Joe DeVito as he explains how the new technology works using our very cool flight simulator.

Learn more about the past present and future of air traffic control and our involvement with NextGen

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September 6, 2012

Unpacked: The Past, Present and Future of Air Traffic Control

Welcome to Unpacked, where we demystify hot topics in the airline industry! This time we’re talking about the past, present and future of air traffic control.

Even if you don’t know much about air traffic control, you’ve probably heard the term, and you probably know something about a person on the ground who talks to planes in the sky. But how does it all work? What does it all mean? Let’s cue David Bowie for inspiration and begin our countdown into the world of air traffic control.

Air traffic control, or how people on the ground help navigate planes in the skies, is a bit of the chicken versus the egg debate. Whereas many of our highways were built in the U.S. in the 40′s and 50′s in order to encourage and accommodate the increase in cars on the road, the opposite is the case with air traffic.

Planes took to the skies with increasing frequency in the 60′s and 70′s and the infrastructure followed. That means the highways in the sky that we’ve built can’t handle the amount of traffic that they see very well. That’s why your plane might be on time arriving into the New York or Washington D.C. air space (the most congested in the country) but circle for 20 or 30 minutes before it’s able to land.

The current system for monitoring flights consists of ground radar technology, which means people all across the country (and the world) are watching and talking to planes that come in and out of the air space within that region. The air traffic controller on the ground receives an indication that a plane has entered the air space and calls to that plane using the radar technology (a signal travels from the ground to the cockpit, to that little black box that you may have heard of) and the pilot sends a message back saying, “Hi, yes, I’m here. I’m JetBlue Flight 383 headed for Los Angeles.” The signal takes 12 seconds to travel from the ground to the plane, a lapse in time that can lead to delays.

By 2020, all U.S. airlines are required to update their technology to accommodate a much-improved satellite-based navigation technology, called Auto Dependent Broadcast (ADB). Signals will be sent from satellites to all planes and to those folks in air traffic control on the ground ten times faster, within two seconds time. The new satellite navigation means that every cockpit will also be equipped with the technology to see other planes in their air space, creating additional situational awareness.

The initiative is being fueled in large part by the intelligence gathered on the Next-Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) airspace modernization program as well as the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC) of which Dave, our CEO, is currently the Chair. We’ve long partnered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on its role in upgrading the nation’s air traffic control system. We’ve assisted in providing data, equipping aircraft with NextGen systems, and utilizing new satellite-based streamlined approaches into our home at New York’s JFK airport. We’re excited by the FAA’s initiative to upgrade the air traffic control system, which promise greater efficiency for our crews, and a better experience for our customers.

We’ll be equipping 35 of our planes by early 2013 with the new ADBS technology. That means we’ll be the first of our kind in the congested New York air space to utilize the navigation equipment for the 21st Century. The new technology allows for increased flexibility with flight routes, including the ability for planes to fly around one another more easily, potentially creating new roads in the air and alleviating some of that congestion. That also means shorter flying times, fewer delays, and less fuel burn which is better for everyone in terms of pricing and the environment.

Check out our previous editions of Unpacked and stay tuned for the next up!

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July 31, 2012

Dave Goes To Washington

20120731-141817.jpgOur CEO Dave Barger was in Washington D.C. again today, but this wasn’t just any regular visit. He joined fellow honorees at the White House to be recognized as a Transportation Innovator in the White House’s “Champions of Change” series. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood kicked off the day’s events, recognizing Dave’s leadership in the joint Federal Aviation Administration-industry effort to implement the Next-Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) airspace modernization program.

JetBlue has long partnered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on its role in upgrading the nation’s air traffic control system. We’ve assisted in providing data, equipping aircraft with NextGen systems, and utilizing new satellite-based streamlined approaches into our home at New York’s JFK airport. We’re excited by the FAA’s initiative to upgrade the air traffic control system, which promise greater efficiency for our crews, and a better experience for our customers. The importance of this to JetBlue is demonstrated by Dave’s own commitment to the project.

In addition to his role as Chief Executive Officer for New York’s Hometown Airline, Dave Barger also serves as the Chairman of the NextGen Advisory Committee (NAC), a policy-level Federal advisory committee tasked with creating consensus for NextGen priorities based on the program’s capabilities and constraints. He has also served on the Department of Transportation’s Future of Aviation Advisory Committee (FAAC), providing information, advice, and recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation on ensuring the competitiveness of the U.S. aviation industry and its capability to address the evolving transportation needs, challenges, and opportunities of the global economy.

Dave was joined by fellow crewmembers from our NetGen team, Bill Cranor, Bill Allen, Joe DeVito, and Joe Bertapelle for the event. You can read more details here.


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June 20, 2012

First FAA-Certified Carrier to Fly Special RNP AR Approaches!

We’re the first Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-certified carrier in the United States to utilize the new satellite-based Special (Non-Public) Required Navigation Performance Authorization Required (RNP AR) approaches to Runways 13L and 13R at our home base at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport with our fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft.

These unique Special Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) procedures are designed to utilize a constant vertical descent in conjunction with a precise curved flight path to the runways, resulting in the following efficiencies:

  • Stabilized approach path;
  • Shorter flight times for customers;
  • Reduced noise levels and greenhouse-gas emissions and,
  • Increased fuel savings by as much as 120 pounds, or 18 gallons, per flight.

The RNP AR approach procedure will allow us to utilize a decision altitude while in a slight turn to the runway, the first airline in the United States to harness this special capability. This allows for lower landing weather minimums, increasing runway utilization at JFK. These procedures will be a key component in making JFK operate independent of the other NY-area airports and reduce delays at JFK, LaGuardia (LGA), Newark Liberty International (EWR) and Teterboro (TEB) airports in certain poor weather conditions.


We began designing and testing the JFK special instrument procedures in 2004 in partnership with the FAA and MITRE Corporation. Our cadre of more than 2,300 pilots have been trained and certified at our flight simulator training facility in Orlando to fly RNP AR procedures across the National Airspace System.

In addition to these milestones, in 2008 we became the first and remain the only Airbus A320 operator in the country to receive FAA authorization for RNP AR approaches, followed by RNP AR certification for our entire fleet of Embraer E190 aircraft in 2010.  We maintains all of our fleet types certified for RNP AR and plan to extend the unique capability at JFK to our Embraer E190 fleet in the near future.

To further advance our active role in upgrading the nation’s air traffic control system, in 2011 we also announced a partnership with the FAA to provide data and conduct real-time operational evaluations for the organization’s Next-Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) airspace modernization program.  Through FAA-funding, we’ll equip up to 35 of our A320 planes with Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) Out avionics that will provide air traffic controllers with precise positioning of the aircraft using GPS satellite signals, enabling our aircraft to fly more direct routes off the East Coast.  This capability, when combined with the new FAA En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) System, will begin field trials next summer. We’re currently awaiting final aircraft certification.

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June 8, 2012

Dave Attends RTCA Annual Symposium

Our CEO Dave was in Washington earlier this week to speak at the RTCA’s Annual Symposium – an important industry event where aviation leaders came together to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the NextGen technology that will help reshape operations in the future.

RTCA, Inc. is a private, not-for-profit corporation that develops consensus-based recommendations regarding communications, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management (CNS/ATM) system issues. RTCA functions as a Federal Advisory Committee. Its recommendations are used by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the basis for policy, program, and regulatory decisions and by the private sector as the basis for development, investment and other business decisions.

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April 11, 2012

The Writing Isn’t Always On The Wall

“Numbers don’t lie, but they sure can deceive.” – The Globe and Mail

Some numbers are written in stone – we know there are seven days in a week, ten toes on the average pair of feet, and 70 cities that JetBlue flies to. Other numbers, though, like the world population, Elizabeth Taylor’s marriages, or the number of times you think about [FILL IN BLANK WITH SOMETHING YOU THINK ABOUT A LOT] in a day, are harder to confirm because they are moving pieces with myriad variables. Among other numbers that are more difficult to pin down are some of the stats that rank airlines.

Our Chief Operating Officer Rob along with members of our leadership team met with the Department of Transportation (DOT) today to talk about the integrity of reporting in its monthly Air Travel Consumer Reports. The reports rank the major airlines on everything from baggage handling performance to customer complaints and on-time arrival rates.

We’re all about honest conversations and we feel our customers deserve that same level of transparency from everyone so they can make a truly informed decision when they choose what airline to fly with. Did you know that a sizable number of the flights that most airlines sell are operated by regional carriers whose numbers do not get reported? So if you book a flight with a major airline out of New York, it’s possible that you’re flying with another carrier that has completely different stats that don’t reflect the carrier you booked with. Bottom line is that none of us are getting the full picture.

We know we have room to improve with on-time performance, and that’s something we’re working on with the help of our 14,000 crewmembers on each and every flight. To combat congestion in the Northeast, where the majority of our flights operate in to or out of, we’ve teamed up with NextGen to lead the industry in identifying new flight corridors for the future of air travel. There are, though, some valid concerns that the numbers as they’re currently reported don’t tell the whole story.

On the brighter side, we know the stats that site us as the airline with the fewest number of bumped passengers is correct because we’re the only guys who don’t overbook our flights.

As a major airline with a small-company feel, JetBlue stands up for our customers and crewmembers, is forthcoming about our shortcomings, and fights the good fight for accurate representation.

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March 7, 2012

Announcing New Leaders in Operations and Inflight

We’re pleased to announce a new leadership structure for our Operations teams, designed to serve our customers and crewmembers and with even better planning and execution.

Jeff Martin has been named Senior Vice President – Operations for JetBlue, reporting to Chief Operating Officer Rob Maruster, and will be responsible for our safe, efficient and productive operation. In this newly created position, the following departments will report to Mr. Martin: Flight Operations, Technical Operations, Operations Planning & Analysis, and NextGen initiatives. Mr. Martin comes to JetBlue after a 22-year career with Southwest Airlines, most recently as Vice President, Operations Coordination where he oversaw the operation of over 3,200 daily flights and a fleet of 550 aircraft. Mr. Martin is also a pilot who flew the line at Southwest his entire career there, even as he took on a multitude of leadership roles of increasing responsibility. He also served in the Unites States Air Force flying KC-10′s prior to beginning his commercial aviation career.

Mr. Martin graduated with a BS degree in Marketing from Pittsburgh State University. He and his wife Susan will be relocating from Dallas to the New York area and will work out of our new Long Island City Support Center. He is also currently in the process of completing his Airbus A320 type rating and certification.

Alex Battaglia, formerly Vice President-Airports, will continue to report to Mr. Maruster with expanded responsibilities. Mr. Battaglia will now oversee Airports and System Operations (SOC), an area he has led since June on an interim basis.

Mr. Battaglia joined JetBlue in 2007 as Vice President of our JFK Operations in New York. His role expanded to Vice President, Airports in 2009. Mr. Battaglia came to JetBlue after a 24-year career with Delta Air Lines in roles of increasing responsibility, culminating in the position of director of JFK Operations.

Also today, Rachel McCarthy was named Vice President, Inflight Experience, effective April 2. Currently serving as Director, Inflight Field Operations, Ms. McCarthy will report to Robin Hayes, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. She will be responsible for cultivating the environment that helps JetBlue’s Inflight crewmembers evolve and deliver the award-winning JetBlue Experience.

Ms. McCarthy joined JetBlue in 2009 as director, Product Development, where she was responsible for creating and implementing a number of innovative products and services, including JetBlue’s Even More Space, EatUp snack boxes and the launch of JetBlue’s partnership with ViaSat, the company powering the airline’s upcoming inflight connectivity offering. Ms. McCarthy began her airline career in 1987 and has held a number of commercial roles of increasing responsibility at Delta Air Lines and United.

Ms. McCarthy succeeds Vicky Stennes, who will retire from JetBlue effective March 31. Ms. Stennes served as JetBlue’s Vice President, Inflight Experience since the role was created in 2003.

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February 12, 2012

Dave visits Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Last week, Our CEO Dave joined several aviation industry leaders and fellow members of the NextGen Advisory Committee for a roundtable discussion with students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University on the school’s campus in Daytona Beach, Fla. The panelists discussed the future of our air traffic control system and other significant issues facing today’s aviation industry.

Joining Dave on the panel were Margaret Jenny, President RTCA; Patrick Ky, Executive Director SESAR; John Mengucci, President IS&GS Civil Lockheed Martin; Sherry Carbary, VP of Flight Services Boeing; Victoria Cox, Assistant Administrator NextGen/FAA; Sue Baer, Director Aviation PANYNJ; and Dr. Agan Sinha, Senior Vice President The MITRE Corporation.

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