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National Hub Airport Consortium

SMAAC is contacting citizen groups and municipal governments about joining in proposing National Airspace System revisions that would reduce average city-hub-city routes (miles and hours). This would:

  • save fuel and reduce emissions,
  • reduce FAA ATCT, TRACON and NextGen costs substantially,
  • increase safety margins, and reduce the airfare disparity and neighborhood impacts being experienced in major-hub-airport cities and metro areas.

The FAA development of Next Gen En Route to increase usable airspace (by allowing aircraft to navigate safely outside of FAA radar-transponder service areas) was based on about 70- 75 hub airports (2007). Now --and since about March 2010 --the FAA is attempting to adapt more airport-to-airport routes to 35 to 40 hub airports by increasing actual flight operations/runway/hour. 

The two expressions of the attempt are 1) using aircraft GPS navigation-autopilot routes for airport operaions and 2) complicating the development and deployment of NextGen. Both are uncertain, unmonitored, costly, risky and polluting. Lower departures and more routes, much more intrusive and polluting, are the ongoing result. The development and deployment of Next Gen Airport is delayed and is becoming unaffordable.

Anti-Airport-Noise groups have been protesting intrusive commercial overflights for decades. First at oft-used airports close to residential and other sensitive land-uses and later as national air traffic plans increased both active airport hours (night operations) and peak-hours. These groups share information through Aviation Watch and support each other generally.  SMAAC works with Congressional staff and numerous Representatives and Senators. 

Currently, FAA air traffic control changes caused numerous lawsuits, and these forced FAA and Congress to re-think policy and budget in FAA re-authorizations. 

Currently, we are talking with groups in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.

Welcome to the Special Metro Airports Analysis Consortium or SMAACUS!

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SMAAC Email Changes

As the result of a move and reorganization, SMAAC will no longer use for its central email services.

Please address messages to temporarily, or post a message through this website (registration required).

Plans are to create several webmail accounts when internet services are contracted.  


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Mayor Frey appoints Leili Fatehi to MAC

An attorney and environmentalist from the neighborhood was a good choice as the Mayor's appointment to the Metropolitan Airports Commission. In his answers to the 2017 SMAAC Survey of Mayoral candidates, Mayor Frey pledged that he would work with SMAAC on MSP issues and demand more open and accessible meetings of the MAC commission and its standing committees.

SMAAC members wanted a neighborhood activist that would connect MSP operations -- routes, airline schedules --safety and carbon emissions (climate change) with City health and economics. Also, the Mayor's commissioner should oppose noise mitigation-not-reduction policies and negotiate a closure of the Consent Degree so that overflight pollution in all of its ugly forms can be openly addressed in a long-term plan for air transportation in the State and Metro.

When citizens protest its pending decisions, the MAC too often huddles behind its staff to delay consideration. The probably illegal and certainly unwise 5-year delay of the MSP LTCP Update is a pretty clear signal that openess and transparency policies are pretty scarce at the MAC.

Please comment on this piece to start a discussion with Commissioner Fatehi and the District Commissioners.  The people living under frequently lower and louder overflights not only suffer. but are made to finance the suffering through high O&D fares when they or local businesses travel.

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MSP Long-Term Planning Delayed Again

We worked diligently with key MAC staff, but the only change was a more respectful dialog with staff. The first public discussion of MSP Environmental Impacts is now scheduled December 04, 2017 at the MAC Planning, Development & Environment Committee (PD&E) meeting. 

The Assessment of Environmental Effects (AOEE) in part of a larger agenda item, the 2018-2024 CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM. The only good news is that on-airport operations of all sorts are 'greener' --such as more electric vehicles reducing fossil-fuel use --although large new buildings and growth of airport operations still increases  total not-air-operations emissions. 

This MAC electric vehicle program and other reductions of carbon sources was publicized as a laudable accomplishment by comparison with other U.S. Airports.  SMAAC was pleased and elected officials were thrilled that something was being done.

GHG and other carbon emissions from overflights and air operations (landings, take-offs, taxiing) are mentioned, not assessed or quantified. Only a small increase in daily flight operations is projected for 2018. There was no follow-up on our question about possible changes in hourly use by airlines schedules or changes in FAA routes and procedures somehow evading the converging runways safety order of 2014 that led to the continued shading of long-term plans for hub expansion.

 We'd bet a bundle that the questions we asked will not be discussed in the public meeting.  In 2015 and 2016 the AOEE hearings heard nothing, and written testimony was disputed by MAC staff. SMAAC was the only speaker in 2016, given 4 minutes as if the public hearing was not worth the Members' time. Our comments took longer, but it was clear that no questions were going to be asked on the record.

 If you think public meetings are important, then demand that these critical meetings be opened up and held on an accessible site and at a more reasonable time. Come to the December 4th meeting (10:30 at Twrminal One inide security. And call Steve Cramer, the PD&E Chair at 612-656-3811, the Governor [651-201-3400] and Email MAC Chair Dan Boivin at  Their promises of off-site Commission meetings and transparency were empty.




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Bird Strikes at MSP

THIS WEEK another 'bird strike departing MSP' was reported, but not deemed very important by MSP officials or local news media. This time the aircraft had to return to MSP for repairs. 

LAST WEEK, it was reported that a damaged Delta B757 was photographed on the ground at Chicago Midway Airport. The plane had been chartered by the Oklahoma Thunder NBA team. The head of the Delta Media Office in New York, Elizabeth Wolf, issued a statement that it was "likely" the damage to the radome was caused by a bird strike during the approach to Midway, and then it landed "without incident."

We emailed Delta: Pardon us, but surely she should regard a birdstrike at low altitude an incident

MSP Runway 12R departures often cross low over the Waterfowl Preserve southeast of the airport.  Geese, and cranes are migrating this time of year and eagles are around. 

Speculation was that the chartered aircraft carrying the NBA Thnder team strrck a bird departing MSP damaging the weather radar and consequently flew into a storm en route as reported by the passengers. Pictures of the damage to the radome were taken by passengers and some attributed the hit to passing through a storm enroute.
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SMAAC's 2017 Fall Forum Report

Minneapols Mayoral Candidates Survey

SMAAC's 2017 Fall Forum ran as a Blog for 6 weeks (Oct 15 to Nov 7, City Election Day). During this period,  the 6 pages were opened more than 500 times per day (22,681 views).

In mid August, 12 of the filed candidates were contacted [See Note 1.] and 9 agreed to answer questions about MSP [See Note 2].

A panel of voters reviewed the candidates' answers “blind” (a number rather than a name) as a start for the Forum/Blog. The panelists "read through" the candidates' answers as an essay.

One thing that emerged was a frequent reference to "openess and transparency," but little objection to the postponement of public hearings and EAs, or MAC meetings inside MSP security (without discussion on the record). And, based on the history of noise complaints around MSP, the panel looked for comments about noise metrics and mitigation measures, but did not find them. The panel, almost unanimously, ranked the responding candidates in this order: Ron Lischeid, Tom Hoch, Betsy Hodges, Troy Benjegerdes, and Jacob Frey


The 2013 Converging Runway Operations safety order drastically reduced MSP maximum airport flight operaions per hour. The last MSP LTCP Update, in 2010, did not reflect changes made after the September 2010 near-mid-air collision; Met Council approved the update on the condition that changed operations would be included in the 2014 Update (for 2015 to 2035). Meanwhile,  $millions in MSP capital improvements were undertaken in 2011 to 2017 without a LTCP Public Hearing by Met Council or an Environmental Assessment. The MSP 2018 capital budget for LTCP projcts is proposed at $81 million, but no date has been set for public hearings at Met Council. The amount spent by Federal agencies (FAA) is staggering, given that no finalization of the Converging Runways Operations planned operations per hour max and then cost of the needed safety has yet been announced publicly.

Generations of South Minneapolis residents have been subjected to health risks from overflight noise and air pollution. Compromises were made about operational safety as increases in peak-hour opeations at MSP were made in consecutive MSP expansions in the 1970s’, 80s’ and 90’s. Minneapolis and State government agreements with the Federal Aviation Administration to expand MSP deny that carbon emissions from commercial aviation add to climate change and other public health problems.

The issues raised by our Mayor Election Survey need ongoing attention through the Metropolitan Airports Commission member appointed by the Mayor.  The City's central policy for MSP support economic growth. This is complicated by public health and safety issues. The Mayor's MAC Commissioner should speak vigorously and often on behalf of the thousands of impacted City residents. 

MSP is a major source of GHG and particulate air pollution.  An estimated 0.5% of all US carbon emission to the atmosphere are from MSP operations, more that some of the largest coal-fired power plants.
The noise settlement is a positive but insufficient response to increased overflights at MSP from 2007 to 2014. Noise exposure modeling did not reveal the fact that louder flights were a consequence of the late 2010 to 2014 because more routes were added.
Modeling also fails to show how peak-hour flights increase ground noise by often reducing the rate of ascent for safety at peak-hours.
The Mayor's MAC Commissioner should champion safe, sufficient and affordable air transportation for local passengers [Note 3]. MSP capital expenditures --financed by airport revenue and enterprise bond --are a key reason local passengers pay premium fares and more airport fees --for capacity beneficial mainly to connecting passengers. This disparity has significant negative effects on economic growth: MSP capacity is more costly to build and maintain as a busy hub and the costs are passed on to Origin and Destination (O&D) passengers as higher fares. The hub operations have grown as a percentage of daily flights not only requiring more flight capacity at peak hours but also increasing MSP operations and facilities costs to keep up.
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Minnepolis Mayor Forum Live

Many voters and candidates needed to know why new detailed plans for an expanded MSP connection hub, changed by the 2013 converging runway operations safety Order, are not yet published. One stimulation was the 3-year postponement of the 2015 MSP Long-Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) Update.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) staff said, wrongly, that the indefinate delay was requested by Minneapolis.”  

Meanwhile several hundred million dollars in MSP capital improvements were undertaken in 2011 to 2017 without a LTCP Public Hearing by Met Council. And there is so much talk about open government and transparency in political campaigns!

SMAAC was unable to reach a few candidates*; a couple chose not to participate, and nine candidates agreed to participate. The nine were sent questionnaires an answer were due October 10. Although SMAAC extended the schedule a few days, only 5 candidates responded. SMAAC will, 

We were unable to reach a few candidates; a couple chose not to participate, and nine candidates agreed to participate. The nine were sent questionnaires an answer were due October 10. Although SMAAC extended the schedule a few days, only 5 candidates responded. SMAAC will virtually “place empty chairs” for the four candidates not responding and report what the five respondents said. The blog will soon “go live” as a public forum and comments will be exchanged about MSP.

A panel is reviewing responses “blind” —a number rather than a name, and the panel report will introduce the Forum/Blog.



* Some canddidates' filing forms wre missing or had incorrect phone numbers or email addresses.

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Congress Extends 2012 FAA Funding --Again

"What this means for MSP and Minnesota is less affordable and more polluting fllght operations." SMAAC News Release

“Congress has provided more than $7.4 billion dollars for NextGen since 2004. Results are the problem. According to the FAA’s own calculations, the return on the taxpayers’ $7.4 billion investment has only been about $2 billion in benefits. And we’ve still got a long way to go.” US House Transportation Committee Chair, Bill Shuster (R, CA).

Shuster also noted that the lawmakers haven’t helped much in terms of providing steady, long-term funding for the FAA, as there has been no Transportation Appropriations bill since 2006. Since then, Congress has passed 42 continuing resolutions, and 23 short-term extensions for the FAA over a five-year period prior to passing a long-term FAA authorization bill in 2012.

In a statement, SMAAC asked the MAC Commissioners to discuss how reviews and city comments on the latest 7-year capital imprements plan (CIP). The response was to make the topic an undiscussed "consent" item.  On October 4th, SMAAC President Jim Spensley briefed Met Council staff on our concerns, but was told that Met Council would wait (indefinitely) for the MAC to release the 2015 to 2035 MSP  Long-Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) and consider the Aviation parts of the Transportation Policy Plan.

MSP safety risks are not a good thing for politicians to notice. If they knew about the possibility of a crash and did nothing, that would not sit well with voters. This explains why legislators accept, rather than question, MAC plans to expand MSP as a major hub despite high costs. Anyone who thinks Minnesota actually benefits from more hourly capacity is deluded.

Note: SMAAC established its own contacts with FAA and NTSB senior staff in 2005 with the aid of then House Transportation Committee Chair Jim Oberstar (D, MN8).   At the September 25, 2017 MAC meeting, Spensley quoted the retiring FAA head of Air Trafic Operations, David Gizzard:

"Some argue that we need to keep the current (National Airspace System) structure in place and invest more in it. Unfortunately, that's the equivalent of throwing good money after bad. Congress is already several billion dollars behind in getting systems for which they appropriated taxpayer money. The problem is the inert procurement and financing structure that hinders (NextGen); In fact, the situation has gotten so bad that the FAA can't recruit new controllers. This is an unsustainable status quo.


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