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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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Air Pollution Again Linked to Health and Mortality Risk

"At a time when the Trump administration is moving to delay and dismantle air quality regulations, a new study suggests that air pollution continues to cut Americans’ lives short, even at levels well below the legal limits set by the (EPA)."

The analysis found no sign of a “safe” level of pollution "below which the risk of dying early tapered off."

See the LA Times story at

Another big-N study --60 million people were subjects. The study found evidence of a significantly increased risk of premature death from long-term exposure to ozone and fine particulates.

Reading the story, well recalled the LAX study by University of Southern California scientists that found ultrafine particulates were prodiced in jet engines and spead over neighborhoods under the LAX flight paths East of the large, busy airport.

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Second MSP Media Conference Questioned

It is a sad, sad thing if Next Gen arrivals at MSP are the biggest air quality benefit in the airport's history!  


This was SMAAC's response to the second big 'media conference' announced by the MAC for Monday (April 17).  This one is about arrival procedures.  A similar conference was held last week about "Next Gen" departures at MSP.


FAA, Delta and MAC are putting a pretty Next Gen ribbon on a package of crap  (often more emissions per flight) and hoping the package doesn't get opened (considered in environmental detail). An FAA goal for MSP has been to use Next Gen and PBN/RNAV to increase maximum hourly arrivals without delaying a departure.


Last week, FAA and Delta invited media reporters to tour the MSP Tower and a Delta jet to see how a new digital messaging capability improves communications between the Tower and a soon-to-take-off aircraft.  An MPR reporters asked me about it, since the public benefits of the change --supposedly safety and emissions -were touted. See the Post below.


A Star-Tribune story quoted a Delta Captain as saying air pollution would be “hugely reduced” because departing aircraftthe Post below. would not "linger on the tarmac." SMAAC thinks the purpose is the tiny bits of time that may be gained, not air or ground safety or pollution reduction.


The ongoing and not yet environmentally reviewed long-term operational plan is being tweaked to synch MSP runway operations at peak hours and not cause conflicts in NW flow. Converging runways were found in 2013 to be unsafe at the then-planned hourly maximum runway-use levels.


The current safe maximum is not known yet, but operations still will involve turning departures off the North parallel runway and hard, full power take-offs off the South parallel runway.  Per flight emissions are not regulated when using “Next Gen technology.”  The industry lobby not only pushed this exemption, but also added “RNAV” and other terms to the Next Gen glossary.



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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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