Jim Spensley

  • published FAA: Airlines Trump Health and Safety in News 2019-10-14 08:41:16 -0500

    FAA: Airlines Trump Health and Safety

    The FAA chose to ignore the impact of overflight pollution according to internal USDOT/IG documents originated by FAA. The troubled Next Gen air traffic control program elevated "industry (airline) expectations" over pubolic health and safety.

    CAUTION: While we believe that the premise is correct --FAA usually designs PBN/RNAV routes and procedures to increase hourly use of runways and other airport facilities --the IG study was of Metroplex implementations, multiple airports in urban areas.

    When Next Gen could not resolve air traffic congestion in "more complex" airport and large metropolises without increasing air pollution and safety risks, they doubled down on "efficiency policy."  During the last years of the George W. Bush administration, with the Next Gen program under development --and nothing else funded --FAA anticipated an expansion of routes, along the East Coast especially, and an "airline demand" for greater runway availability at many airports. Outside of the R&D departments, air traffic control management planned to "optimize runway use at minimum separations." 

    This is not news at MSP. FAA tried PBN routes at MSP soon after the September 2010 near-mid-air-collision, znd the MAC maintained the illusion that environmental reviews and noise mitigation would be continued. FAA publicity featured "optimized efficient use of airport facilities and airspace," and airlines characterized noise complainers as being against the efficient and optimized flight routes needed for economic growth.

    "Politicians either cynically or stupidly adpted the above views and did not question the MAC seriously when investigations of public health and safety or GHG were denied.



    In a bombshell and likely accidental admission, the FAA revealed the truth about how the MetroPlex and NextGen flight paths were designed 
    without noise, ground safety and public impact issues being considered.  The FAA was responding in writing to an audit conducted 
    by the Transportation Departments Inspector General.  The audit report stated that community noise issues were problems that were causing 
    delays with the FAA's implementation of the MetroPlex program across the Country.  The FAA's response to the audits findings stated that 
    after noise issues became problematic, it later changed it's processes to include those concerns in future design procedures.  But in doing 
    so, it admitted that the original design processes (which were used for the Sky Harbor NextGen flight paths) only considered optimization 
    of paths to benefit the industry.  Here is the text of the FAA response regarding noise concerns from page 37 of the audit report:

    "In order to address extensive community concerns about new noise exposure, procedures are designed and implemented that do not maximize 
    efficiency benefits, but do result in less noise exposure. When the Metroplex program began in 2010, the focus was upon optimizing routes 
    and airspace design. When community concerns were included in the design equation, optimization was no longer the only consideration. It 
    is an extraordinarily complex balancing act to provide both efficiency benefits to industry and to minimize new noise exposure in 
    communities. These are usually competing priorities."

    The FAA also went on to admit that the programs only intent was to make use of all available airspace which created new noise impacts 
    over areas that previously had not experienced flight path intrusions:
    "The intent of the Metroplex program was to make efficient use of all available airspace, which created new noise impacts. In many 
    communities, some neighborhoods experience less noise, and some more-relieved communities generally have not recognized the beneficial 
    noise reductions, while impacted communities strongly oppose the new or increased exposure."

    The title of the  audit report, issued on August 27th is "FAA Has Made Progress in Implementing Its Metroplex Program, But Benefits for 
    Airspace Users Have Fallen Short of Expectations".  The report goes on to say the the FAA is behind schedule in implementing the programs and 
    that benefits as promised are questionable.  Other statements from the report include:

    "Delays have occurred largely due to increased community concerns about aircraft noise."

    "Since 2014, further delays have occurred as FAA has implemented new PBN (Performance Based Navigation) procedures at more sites, largely 
    due to increased community concerns. For example, in fiscal year 2018, FAA cancelled the Phoenix Metroplex project due to litigation related to a previous PBN project."

  • published LTCP Survey Results in News 2019-10-13 20:03:25 -0500

    LTCP Survey Results

    Thank you for responding and particularly for submitting ideas for actions.

    1. Over 99% of the respondents had no idea that the MAC had reorganized, appointed a Long-Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) Stakeholders Advisory Panel, and embarked on an 18-month process. The “never heard of the panel’ including 3 Council Members in cities that assigned staff to be on the Panel.
    2. Most respondents wanted SMAAC to hold Forums (addressing GHG emissions in particular) and organize communications programs to engage the public, and through the public, elected officials. We have a few volunteers for forum arrangements, social-media networking, and caucus resolutions.
    3. Many respondents suggested alliances with Climate Change activists and environmentalists.

    The South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) notified the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) and the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) that the Council intends to engage the public in monitoring the development of the MSP Long-Term Comprehensive Plan for 2020-2040. The impacted travelers and the overflown populations should be more directly consulted, interviewed, studied and consulted.

    SMAAC messaged the MAC’s Planning, Development, and Environment Committee and FAA Great Lakes Regional Air Traffic Control Administrator that the public’s proper participation included questions & answers about environmental, safety and health risk changes in overflights and at MSP. The changes implemented in 2010 precipitated a ten-year delay in presenting the 2015-2025 LTCP for a Metropolitan Council Public Hearing.

    The message also noted the appearance of FAA Administrator Rebecca MacPherson, who has made several visits to MSP to explain the next-to-final step in air traffic management, leaving 5-year gap. Safety changes at MSP involving landings on R-35: Runway use rates (or the interval between flight operations) are complicated by the number of runways in use and, in ‘northwest flow’ by the possibility of an aborted R-35 approach risking a collision or low altitude emergency maneuvers by entering airspace occupied by aircraft departing MSP after take-off on the parallel runways.

     Paraphrased text of the email:

    MAC: Dealing with the public's questions during the planning process could make the Met C Transportation Policy Plan Hearing delay more acceptable. Public health and safety and the environment questions abound about the LTCP; economic impacts need more attention. 

    The LTCP and 20 years of capital improvements will depend on EITHER the forecast daily operations being planned with balanced safe operations/hour and low safety risks OR being planned with the intent to pursue more runway-use “efficiency” and more flight capacity with whatever Next Gen systems may be deployed here and deal later with safety and too late for environmental remediation..

    The two choices mentioned echo the choices considered in the dual-track studies and debated for many hours during and after legislative hearings. Those were, are: limit use and consider public health and safety, environmental impacts, and compatible zoning in the cost of flight operations before adding capacity or not. The difference is now we know the external costs are huge and the airport costs are unpredictable.

  • commented on About 2019-09-28 17:54:32 -0500
    Many thnnks to the respondents. We published a new page on the CRO situation. We hope cities and agencies appointed to the LTCP “Stakeholder’s Advisory Panel” are relentless about safety and climate change costs being considered; the airline appointees will be relentless about excluding environmental impacts (increased GHG emissions from closely-scheduled operations) and slow to commit to using new (different) aircraft and upgraded avionics for safety.

  • published Who are the MSP "Stakeholders? in News 2019-09-08 13:34:39 -0500

    Who are the MSP "Stakeholders?

    0The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) set up a Stakeholder Engagement Department and a Stakeholder's Advisory Panel on the MSP Long-Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP). The Panel is dominated by airlines and others doing business with the MAC, a few city members --seasoned for servile cooperation by noise oversight committee routine --and a handful of government agencies and NGOs. No public or neighborhood panelists. 

    Several public engagement events are planned to "inform citizens" about the LTCP progress and "listen to comments." If you've been there and done that, were your comments used in any way? The events focus on various parts of the LTCP, but are not yet scheduled.

    A few years ago, to impress the Legislature and the Governor, an MSP  Vision Statement and Strategic Plan for a well-appointed and expensive destination airport --serving passengers with daily Delta flights to places Minnesotans and most destination passengers visit less than once a month.  The slickly presented Strategic Plan was apparently considered safe and healthy enough, although this wasn't mentioned.

    It's clear the Converging Runway Operations (CRO) delay was used to submerge the MSP 2014 Long-Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) Update and at least the 2017-20 capital projects, floating long-term goals without revealing details to the public directly or to the Met Council and Legislature formally, for appropriate economic growth forecast (O&D passenger use of MSP), financial, or environmental review.

    The CRO details now --stiffer safety-at-peak-hours restrictions --will:

    1. be more to Delta's competitive benefit;
    2. increase fares to pay airline fees;
    3. increase total noise;
    4. use PBN/RNAV route and limit vertical-approach technology to plan arrival rates;
    5. increase air pollution per flight with a greater GHG and overall pollution volume as passengers increase.

    A MAC staff opinion is that the Minnesota Legislature intended that the MAC defer off-site public health and environmental impact statements to the FAA/EPA.  The FAA doesn’t do EAWs at specific airports. Neither MPCA or MAC is responsible for EAW/EIS or public health studies of flight operations. It appears the Evironmental Quality Board has endowed MAC with EAW authority for capital projects and immunized them against appeals.

    A second assumption is that the small site will remain safe enough even if average hourly use increases to the annuaized equivalent of 800,000 to 1 million operations per year and 60 million passengers. That being the case --without a serious accident --the costs will be 3 or 4 times higher than moving to a larger site in 2001 would have been and 2 or 3 times the cost of building a second airport. now.  All of these 3 options are a risky capital investment as airline demand is fickle, not promised: airlines fail financially, real air travel demand is fare and service dependent, and the public may demand a lower public health and safety risk or more attention to GHG releases and global warming.

    Aren't those assumptions worth consideration in developing the LTCP?  We think so. Drafting a plan for 18 months to be considered for 18 minutes in its only pubic hearing seems less transparent and informative than it should be considering the projected cost over 20 years.

  • followed Donate 2019-06-20 14:09:06 -0500