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FAA Announcement of Data Comm Use at MSP

In a show-off of new flight-planning technology, Twin Cities reporters were taken around the MSP Air Traffic Control Tower (ATCT) and a Delta Airlines jet on April 11. In a News Release, FAA said the Data Communications advance “... enhances safety and reduces delays by improving the way air traffic controllers and pilots talk to each other” and “is alive” (sic) at MSP.

The text-communication supplements radio voice-communication with formatted digital text messages.  Controllers can send clearances, revised flight plans and advisories by selecting a message form, inputting text, and transmitting.  Before departing an airport, each aircraft posts an airport-to-airport flight plan requesting runway clearance and route approvals from FAA.

 ATCT personnel add departure instructions using a computer to send the information to an aircraft. Flight crews confirm the instructions and may add the departure clearance (runway used) information into the aircraft’s flight management system. According to FAA, this is a benefit, especially when visibility is limited, in that “valuable” time is saved by “equipped aircraft,” preventing the “delays” experienced by aircraft relying solely on voice communications.

What is the percentage of aircraft using MSP with, and actually using, Data Comm? Are voice communications often misunderstood?  That is, to the extent that operational safety is affected significantly?

The FAA release, itself a canned form with the airport name added, claims “Data Comm is expected to save operators more than $10 billion over the 30-year life cycle of the (National) program and save the FAA about $1 billion in future operating costs.” These claims are far-fetched.  The Data Comm contribution to Next Gen is a small (seconds at most) time saver per flight, when used. At MSP and other hubs, close scheduling increases safety risks, noise and pollution. Given the MSP plan to maximize hourly arrivals without over-accumulating departures, Data Comm might give airlines and the ATCT a false confidence that departures can be controlled within a few seconds during interlaced multiple-runway operations.

In a not-thoughtful or questioning article, the Star-Tribune parroted the FAA release; They quoted a Delta Airlines Captain who is at best mistaken about reduced carbon emissions.  Any reductions in noise and pollution by less time “lingering on the tarmac” is minor compared to the increases per flight. At peak hours, which are increasing at MSP, most flights consume more fuel because both arrivals and departures are more often rushed and operate inefficiently. The delayed on the ground aircraft may or may not have their engines on, and if not rushed could taxi and take-off using less fuel.

The Captain'says: Nearly 300 aircraft in the (Delta) system have been outfitted with the Data Comm technology, (and) 250 aircraft in the pipeline. Note} Delta has 892 aircraft in commerscial operations.

(The Delta Captain claims) …  environmental benefits, ... reduced .. time (that) aircraft linger on the tarmac. "Obviously that’s a benefit to Delta economically, but it also has a huge impact to the environment in reduced carbon emissions.”

Star-Tribune, April 12, 2017

 

 

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Demand a true public meeting on MSP Noise, Safety and Pollution

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Lawsuits Challenge Airport Route Changes

SMAAC responded to a post at Aviation Watch saying that FAA’s sweeping NextGen program for LAX and Southern California, adds 99 new routes.

Culver City and Newport Beach lawsuits are part of a growing number of legal challenges around the country that dispute the
findings of the environmental review for "Metroplexes". Cases are pending in Boston, New York, Phoenix and the Bay Area.

The complaintants focus on environmental and public health impacts and neglect the costs of safety and airport "surge" capacity.  

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Forum on MSP Air Traffic June 16th Announced

US Rep. Rick Nolen, MN-8, a Member of the House Transportation Committee and Aviation Subcommittee, will address National Airspace System and Next Gen (Air Traffic Control) plans and progress as they affect MSP.
Since 2011, FAA at MSP several times changed ATC procedures to manage aircraft in flight more safely. The changes caused more health-risk and environmental harm per flight, resulting in hundreds of complaints and a flurry of protests at MAC meetings.
In July last year. an FAA Converging Runway Operations Order was issued suspending arrivals on R35 during busy hours. Since then, MSP has been working around the suspensions. Modest plans to restore some R35 arrivals at peak hours were rejected as increasing safety risks. In fact, MSP was directed to re-consider runway use and how operations were synchronized.
     
SMAAC told the Metopolitan Airports Commission: Unless peak-hour schedules are reduced, peak-hour operations over 140 ops/hour would be dicey, even if NextGen and PBN/NAV routes were deployed. Apparently we were correct.  Also, evolving safety, noise, and pollution standards --and the cost of complying systems and facilities improvements --made the gain from re-routing after the the 2010 near-miss unaffordable in the long-run. The postponed Met Council public hearing on MSP long-term needs and plans should not be delayed further; instead, a plan to limit operations per hour --at least until more is known about technology deployment -- ought the be the plan.
     
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Busy Hubs Reduce Air Quality

It is difficult to determine (or prove) how much overflights decrease air quality because the standards and measurement protocols are outdated. It is known that commercial jet overflights create and spread submicron particulates and greenhouse gases.

 The World Health Organization issued (2012) a warning that numerous epidemiological studies showed that health risks and mortality are steeply increased for 10 miles around busy jet airports. The warning discounted annual daily average noise intensity (DNL) as the direct cause. 

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An Open Letter to the Metropolitan Council

Situation Summary: The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) drafted an Update to the MSP Long-Term Comprehensive Plan (LTCP) last Fall as required by State law. The document was released for comment in “pre-draft form” on August 27, 2015. The MAC announced that the purpose was to identify facility needs based on MAC-forecasted numbers of passengers and aircraft operations at MSP for 2015 to 2035. The Met Council should note that the MAC adopted a forecast in advance and did not allow questions about it. The annual passenger forecast is not consistent with State economic or demographic projections.

Millions of dollars of public investment over the next several years is proceeding at MSP without Met Council review.  MAC based its Capital Improvement Plan on the forecast. which is quite a bit different than approved in the 2010 Update. 

Since July 2015, runway use intervals have been increased (fewer operations per hour) by the Converging Runway Operations (CRO) Order suspending arrivals on Runway 35 for safety when R30L was being used for departures. After the near-mid-air collision (September 2010), the FAA MSP Air Traffic Control Tower modifiedmoperations at MSP. From a LTCP perspective, neither the econmic need for more operations per hour nor the facilities that seem to be needed have been reviewed.

 For example, the MAC delayed the construction of taxiway bridges until projected daily use of MSP would require faster trips on average from gate to runway; SMAAC noted that more flights per hour, particularly  when arrivals were scheduled on 3 runways and departures limited to 2 runways, stressed ground movements as much or more.

 

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Why we need an MSP Flight Cap

After the September 2010 near-mid-air-collision, our recommendation became specific: louder turning departures may be somewhat safer, but the unneeded additional flight capacity is overly expensive. The result is an unnecessary and unwise increase in noise and pollution. 

In July 2010, we asked the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to seriously consider the World Health Organization (WHO) warning about increased health risks near busy airports. Our observation was that “busy” and “near” applied clearly to the MSP urban site and its use as a major hub. Federal law actually requires that lower cost alternatives be considered, and a cap on hourly rates of 130 or so operations at MSP until Next Gen deployment and 140 or so afterward would allow a per flight reduction in noise and pollution. .

The WHO found that health risks do not correlate with DNL contours. So, either the overflight risks to the over-flown populations are not “mitigated” by sound insulation, air conditioning, or better windows, or the maps are inaccurate, or both.  The noise exposure changes were widely complained about, and complaints increased again in 2011-12 by the runway-by-destination changes and additional departure headings. In two reviews, improperly modeled noise contours[1] were used to claim that the changed routes did not “increase (total DNL) noise compared with 2009 or 2004 operations.”

 

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No Progress on MSP Noise and Pollution

On December 7, the MAC PDE Committee, without any public discussion, recommended that the Full Commission approve the 2015 Assessment of Environmental Effects Report, a “Finding” of no “significant impacts” in 2015, cumulative since 2005, or probable in the next few years. The “Hearing Examiners’ Report” was prepared in advance of the hearing by MAC Staff.

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