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MSP Impacts on Public Health and Welfare

AIR POLLUTION: There has been no attention to green-house gas (GHG) or sub-micron particulate emissions from MSP flight operations since 2015: by the MAC or the FAA.  Environmental Assessments at MSP have been delayed despite the FAA/EPA Finding in 2014 that Commecial Aviation produces 14% of all US GHG emissions. Additionally, MSP capacity is being expanded per-hour at a high cost and involves maneuvers and flight automation in the vicinity that burn more fuel per operation (than at less-busy hours) causing more GHG/flight as well as unique carbon particulates that are blown around. 

Studies show an alarming increase in health and mortality risks near busy airports.  

ECONOMICS: The postponement of the MSP LTCP Update  (4 years overdue) postpones the FAA's assessments of future needs and impacts. The update is reviewed by Met Council using a Public Hearing with testimony about economic benefits (or negatives) and environmental impacts. 

This is a sorry state of affairs and hides safety risks and high costs (likely both) from the public and the Legislature.  According to MAC senior staff, MSP capital improvements assume a change in arrivals per hour and aircraft sizes extending the 2015-16 Draft Long-Term Comprehensive Plan: the dates and numbers are "a basis" for capital budgets dealing with expensive terminal improvements for hourly passenger uses as well as airfield improvements.  The FAA and the airlines using MSP lack any believeable schedule for deploying the air traffic control and associated cockpit electronics supporting more runway operations per hour.

ACTION; The MAC just patted itself on the back for being rated a "top airport:" the press release was carelessly cited by media. The terminal improvements were impressive (and expensive), but mainly inside security to support peak-hour passenger congregations.

The recent Federal continuing-authorization extended FAA funding though September 20, 2018.  The FAA, however, has not changed the MSP Converging runway operations or programed Next Gen deployment to MSP.  Consequently, MAC planning for GFY 2019 is uninformed as to maximum hourly operations and runway use.

Are neighbors, cities, Legislators, US Reps and Senators -- and the Governor who appoints the MAC and public health and enviromental protection officials -- doing anything                  about this?

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Has Privatized ATC Faded Away?

Congress is not actively pursuing a new FAA Re-Authorization right now, and another continuing resolution extending funding is likely. Politico just reported that House Transportation Committee Chair, Bill Schuster, is no longer insisting on a change to contracted Air Traffic Control or Controllers.  

It has never been clear exactly what "privatizing" or "out-sourcing" air traffic control meant or what benefits were projected. Various draft bills were floated, from directive policy to various amendments to re-authorization or funding legislation. However, the dirty details include safety, cost and implementaion issues of great complexity:

  • Could liability for an emergency result in payments to airlines? Would all air passengers be required to buy or have included in fares travel insurance?
  • How many entities would be contracted? One national contractor? By region? By Radar Facility type (Airport, TRACON, En Route)? By Metroplex? Before, during, or after NextGen deployments?
  • Would Controller proficiency be managed by FAA at each facility or only monitored by FAA throuhg reports and inspections (like aircrew or aircraft maintenance?
  • Would existing controllers be retained on the job? There is a union, Federal retirement and health insurance plans.

Only a fool would have pursued this very long. But there you go.

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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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