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FAA is stinging from (deserved) criticism about certification of the B-737 MAXs without enough sensor reliabilty stress-testing, MCAS flight testing and MCAS simulator training emphasis in Manuals. The FAA reportedly found another software conflict of some kind according to the Seattle Times. Groundings may not be lifted this year.
Airlines that used the MAXs have canceled hundreds of daily flights, but many passengers are finding alternative flights and routes. Delta, for example, has had an increase at MSP. At MSP, a feedback loop --Delta is a big employer and buyer here --amplifies Delta short-term plans.
a] Delta does 70%+ of MSP flight operations and has by far the largest hub-connection fleet, the most income from passengers and many expenses from scheduling complexity, gate use and terminal space for baggage, cargo, counters, waiting rooms, TSA access, etc.
b] Delta doesn't fly B-737 MAX aircraft, and SW and AA haven't used MAXs at MSP. So MSP may be experiencing a temporary increase in passengers because of the grounding.
c] Delta bought some cheap MD-88, 90 aircraft and smaller CRJs a few years ago. Their fleet is being changed at MSP, older aircraft are being retired or sold off. New extended-range Airbus planes and slightly larger CRJs will need more tarmac and terminal space per aircraft, to be accommodated by closing some gates and expanding others.
These were smart moves for Delta because the hourly arrival capacity/hour at MSP is now 30% less than the MAC planned in 2010 because of CRO limits. FAA will be stiffening the CRO limits at MSP, according to a statement in NOC minutes (15 May meeting, July publication, approved without comment 17 July). The Tower, with MAC's tacit approval, has been experimenting with decreasing runway use intervals at MSP for years. The announced plan apparently reduces departures further to increase arrivals, but as we already new, arrival rates were usually smaller than the Delta connection-fleet banks and many flights are now scheduled well before 6 AM.
How smart it is for the Twin Cities metro economy, MSP overflight emissions effects and the MAC CIP and long-term growth depends on how much the new safety reality affects costs per passenger. There really should have been some public and open planning done since 2014 (when the MSP LTCP Update for 2015-2025 was due. Facility planning is supposed to be based (Minnesota Law) on metro Twin Cities economic growth over time (demographics, business and industry, etc.). Operational safety risks, passenger accommodation budgets, economic forecasts and other long-term planning needs are more important than noise exposure maps. it is foolish for the 6 cities represented on the NOC to attempt negotiate runway use rates hour-by-hour with the User representatives.
Any time you complain about unusual overflights in Minneapolis, unfortunate city, state and federal policies turn overflight complaints into noise complaints. Can air pollution or dangerously low or erratic flights be mollified by sound insulation? If you are complaining about an extra-loud overflight every night around 10 PM, you do not qualify for sound insulation. The disturbing noises you hear now only qualify for yhe MAC Sound Mitigation program if MAC models the exposure as 63 DNL, This usually means by being overflown about 1,000 times a month for three years running, with the average flight's overflight noise intensity ~at 95 decibels peak and over 65 dbA for 8 seconds as typically modeled.
Why is Minneapolis accepting this? The same reason the City supported MSP Expansion in 1996: the people wanted something done about noise and the business interests wanted to travel easily (not really possible anymore due to TSA) and attract visitors to stadia and convention centers.
As a bonus, the sound-insulation program provided good constuction jobs, fixed up homes and increased income tax, sales tax and propety tax revenues.
But you know, don't you, that: Quiet skies can be the "blanket" skies that increase climate change. Quiet skies are not necessarily clean skies, Quiet skies are not automatically safe skies, but the more skies are congested the less safe they are.
Skies are, however, being made noiser, more polluting and probably less safe by the FAA "eficiency" policy, a safety-risk-added, high airport cost and not-yet-ready high-tech program (Next Gen) so far badly missing all its promised security, cost and deployment schedule goals near any urban airport, and you indirectly pay for the costs in your airfare. Also, you or your insurer or the State pay the incremental health care costs caused by pollution and climate changes due to more, lower, or less-efficient overflights.
If you don't like it, help SMAAC. --And don't vote for candidates that support the airline-airport self-serving policies and high-profits.
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Kudoes to the Metropolitan Council for promoting clean enegy initiatives by cities and counties and public agencies (except MAC?).
For nine years, Met Council has not reviewed MSP plans to restore some hourly flight capacity and allow airlines to further concentrate connecting fleet operations in consecutive hours because these plans remain sequestered by MAC.
MetC hasn't accepted evidence that routing flights in MSP airspace at higher operational rates steeply increases fuel burn volume and reduces fuel efficiency. An estimated 40 percent increase in carbon particulates and GHG emissions per flight is associated with lower, slower and longer flight paths around MSP --to allow less than 10 percent more operations per hour. This is because there has been no Public Hearing on MSP Long-Term planning and capital investments and the likely environmental impacts and land use restrictions since 2010.
A slight increase in MSP use as a major hub probably would result in more carbon emissions than a total switch to wind and solar power for city requirements would save in, say, Minnetonka or Richfield.
The public is stymied trying to get information on B-737 MAX's taking off at U.S. airports after the groundings. Stranded B-737 MAX's began taking off at after it became clear that the technical issues and finger-pointing would not be quickly resolved.
The original fix idea --a software update --could be installed anywhere.
Now, the public is, naturally, worried about an urban crash by a "grounded" aircraft. In Orlando, a "MAX-8" had to quickly turn back and make an emergency landing.The Orlando Sentinal matter-of-factly wrote that groundings applied to commercial passenger flights only. That missed the point: the public wasn't told --or warned --that not-yet-fixed Max's would be flying over populated areas. Storage space is limited around airports generally and B-737 MAXs were parked at airline expense. So the airlines began "ferrying" them to cheaper airfields where now it is expected thagt sensor, control panels, swirches or motors may be replaced or modified.
That is the point: airport authorities do not consider overflight hazards their reponsibilty.
We uncovered more facts about the Orlando emergency landing:
1. Southwest had FAA (not airport authority) OK for ferrying B-737 MAXs to Victorville, CA, about 85 miles northeast of Los Angeles. SW and Boeing were collecting MAXs to be fixed and re-certified. Either the fix is more complcated than a software update or the grounded aircraft were in the way of airport operations.
2. The FAA is investigating the Olando incident, but Southwest said that "engine trouble" was the cause of the emergency.
3. Five B-737 MAX aircraft were grounded at Orlando International.
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SMAAC is very concerned that millions of dollars have been spent, and many millions more planned, for operations and facilties at MSP since the last-reviewed capital improvements program was funded. Indeed the 2011-2016 programs were soon amended implying changes to the MSP LTCP last approved in early 2011 (CIP numbers for 2011-2017).
Met Council and the airports commission acted improperly, and failed the public directly, by postponing the required TPP Public Hearing and indirectly by proceeding, perhaps illegally, with capital improvements supporting a much higher annual capacity than planned in prior LTCPs.
The situation was not improved by delaying MAC Chair and Commissioner appointments. Commissioners with expired terms are voting on budgets and not raising the issues of updating plans or transparency.
Public health and safety is theatened by oveflights at closer than needed intervals. Safety risk management (emergencies more likely ) and MSP facilities expense, if based on a high "surge capacity" will be a disservice to the Twin Cities economically. Surely State oversight and public discussion is needed.
MAC apparently still belives the 2014 CRO safety order will be revised, after 5 years: several amendments were proposed and rejected. Why have the MSP LTCP and the Metro TPP been postponed and public hearings delayed? Why shouldn't the public know specifically what public costs and benefits might result from restoring a few more scheduled arrivals per hour? The MAC's forecast of annual use by flights and passengers does not require additional annual capacity and Minnesota law would require, in our opinion, an amendment and an EI, since an MSP flight capacity limit was determined in 1996 law and the 1998 FEIS/ROD.
We think the 1998 theoretical operations per hour maximum (160 operations/hour, documented as 100 arrivals and 60 departures in NW flow) was speculative. The MAC never really figured out what to do as arriving aircraft accumulated in westerly flow. So what number of scheduled arrivals for the hub peak hourss is safe and affordable? The plan and justification should be public information.
What number is sufficient for economic growth? The approved capapcity plan indicated a 25% increase over 1995 use, or about 120 to 125 operations at peak hours. Who pays for MSP operations and infrastructure? The public. Who suffers from more GHG emissions per flight? Everyone. Who benefits? Not much discussed
We think the Governor needs these answers and getting them should be discussed with his MAC appointees.
A study in progress near Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEATAC) found concencrated ultra-fine particulates (UFP) timed with overflights. That is, more paticulate density (measured in a mobile sensor array) as a jetliner passed overhead.
The data allows aviation-produced volumes to be stated as a percent of the total volume and refine exposure (dosage) to small areas for correlation with health statistics. Mobility also allows measuring under routes used in different "flow" and runway use configurations.
The SEATAC study also expanded the USC study around LAX, with similar results.
SMAAC Note: FAA flight recordings can count flights over a small area and use height and speed data to derive the UFP density over time. If UFP emissions by density were modeled in the International Noise Model based on the above findings, there would be a high correlation with noise exposure intensity on the ground. Since intensity (loudness) is expressed as an expotential function and density, weight and volume for particulates are linear:
1. There would be a correlation of high-DNL (or ldn) and a much higher UFP density at modeled points.
2. Per flight, UFP density at a lower DNL contour would be proportionally higher.
3. This means that UFP densities would coincide with DNL values as mapped but are more likely the cause of increased adverse health outcomes than noise intensity.
Aviation Watch -- formerly Aviation Watch or AvWatch as a Yahoo Group is being re-organized. The blog is under construction but active at
SMAAC is temporarily hosting the blog and the AviationWatch@YahooGroups.com e-mail version may be restored.
For 2011 through 2017 at MSP "improvement" projects were approved and facilities built at MSP without updating the need for and purposes of many airfield and terminal facilities changes. Clues remain that passenger arrivals per hour are anticipated for two reasons: slightly larger aircraft and more flights arriving per hour (more than FAA currently considers safe, and more than can be accepted without accumulating aircraft at MSP).
MSP officials told SMAAC that, this year, a Draft Long-Range Comprehensive Plan Update and the Capital Improvments Plan as funded for 2020 and planned for 2021-26 will be reviewed by Met Council. Perhaps some internal agreemen tresolving the Converging Runway Operations safety order --maximum operations per hour in two flows, ground traffic and aircraft accumulation resulting from consecutive high-rate-hours in the same flow --has been reached with FAA and airlines.
A furteh complication for the MSP LTCP seems to be emerging: plans are based on forecasted passenger/flight "demand." No doubt, faults in the Boeing and FAA aircraft safety cetifications for the B-737 MAX 800, 900 revealed after the two disasters are a foreboding issue in polls about air travel plans. A new forecasting method was introduced for capacity planning in about 2012, without considering economic demand in the Metro, or the local-connecting passenger ratio, or lower public confidence in safe air travel.
So there is a lot to consider, we hope openly. It would be better if the MAC and Met Council insisted on openly planning flights with more attention to costs and public health and safety risks.