Last week, on a visit to Memphis, I was fortunate to have the opportunity of touring the FedEx World Hub at Memphis International Airport. The FedEx facility covers more than 800 acres and is operated by more than 11,000 FedEx employees moving an average of over 1.5 million packages through the hub each day.
What I saw is a terrific example of using innovation to improve transportation.
With more than 10,000 arrival and departure flights every month, FedEx and Memphis International have been on the forefront of implementing the Federal Aviation Administration's Next Generation (NextGen) air transportation initiative. NextGen has made possible a significant improvement in FedEx's ability to move airplanes in and out of Memphis. For example, by working together on just one new NextGen approach last fall, government and industry have increased the airport's capacity by 17 percent.
This new approach--a re-categorization (ReCAT) of separation standards--allows aircraft to safely arrive and depart slightly closer together than before. As a result, the company has eliminated departure gate holds and departure queues, reducing taxi times per flight by almost three minutes during the morning departure rush. Not only does this increase the hub's capacity by nine flights per hour; it also results in fuel savings, and more minutes to sort customer packages.
That means that aircraft stay safely separated, and you get your packages sooner.
It is essential that we prepare for the next generation of aviation with a system that will make air travel more efficient, convenient, and predictable. As demand for our nation's increasingly congested airspace continues to grow, NextGen improvements allow the FAA to guide and track aircraft more precisely on more direct routes--enhancing safety, reducing delays, saving fuel, and reducing aircraft noise and emissions.
It's exactly the sort of innovation we will need to keep developing if we want to make American transportation more efficient even as the number of people and the volume of freight we move increase in the coming years.
In 2009, aviation added $1.3 trillion to our national economy and accounted for 5.2 percent of the gross domestic product. It generated more than 10 million jobs, with earnings of $394 billion. The NextGen investments we're making now help ensure that aviation will continue to be a significant contributor to U.S. economic recovery today and into the future
Improvements, like the ones FedEx has made in Memphis, are a great example of the success we could see across the country if Congress can work together and provide the resources needed to keep moving these innovations forward.