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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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The Smart Way to Reduce Health-threatening Air Pollution From MSP Overflights

The smart way to reduce air pollution impacts around MSP is to limit operations per hour to allow ascents and descents using less fuel and reduce hours per day that neighborhoods are overflown below 5000 feet.  Hourly operation limits are a smarter move to decrease noise impacts and the air traffic control and facilities costs at MSP. 

Life and Breath: How air pollution affects public health in the Twin Cities, a 2015 Report by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), found ozone and fine particulates air pollution here increased mortality and health issues.

The Study does not differentiate the compounds or elements forming fine particulate matter, but a map shows the highest particulate concentrations center on MSP and extend south and southeast to the Minnesota River, as would expected from prevailing winds with MSP runway operations as the source.  Fine particulates (2.5 micron or less) are implicated as a cause of more mortality and health risks/health care costs by relative concentrations.

 

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Summary of Testimony for the MSP 2016-2022 Environmental Review

The South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) reminded the MAC of many requests to include atmospheric pollution in its Annual Environmental Effects (AOEE) Report, EA Worksheets, and its Annual Report to the Legislature.  The Draft AOEE Report lacks even a space-holder for air or water pollution topics.  The proposed CIP has some boilerplate about managing pollution during construction or subsequent use of facilities on the airport property. 

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Doing a Public Hearing Publically

SMAAC has been pushing the Metropolitan Airports Commission to investigate MSP noise and air pollution for several years.  In 2010, the World Health Organization warned airports that overflights inceased health risks. 

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Issues at MSP Reflect National Airspace System Issues

Executive Summary: NextGen was planned in 2007 for en route surveillance and route expansion for the National Airspace System (NAS). In 2005 there were about 70 hub airports where banks of 50 or more aircraft were scheduled by affiliated airlines to arrive and depart within the same hour or so.

The basic NextGen idea was to "extend" US airspace for flights that self-navigated from city to city.  Using radar transponders to extend radar coverage already surveilled more airspace in 2007 than the pre-70’s radar systems. The transponders encode aircraft ID data in position responses, allowing air traffic controllers to guide more aircraft safely using computer-generated sector displays.  However, the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) and airport implications for more arrivals per hour from more directions were seriously under-estimated.

Since February 2011, the South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) has been communicating directly with FAA policy-makers about technologies planned for Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP).  Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN5) was instrumental in opening this channel.

 

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We pay the big airlines to annoy us, poison us, and provide poor service.

A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of airline and government data reportedly showed that “Domestic airfares at the busiest U.S. airports were increased less than 1%, on average from 2007 to 2014."  

Average fares about the same?  I doubt it. The airlines are the sole source of the fares offered, the seat-miles used, the traveling hours, and 'deals.' The 'averages' are constructed using smoke and mirrors. There are few government airfare reports. Advertised fares are a misleading mishmash of options. Year-over-year from 2011 to 2015 airlines' expenses are up a little, revenues and profits are up a lot, and the number of flights operated and passengers transported are level or down.

This idea that airlines are holding fares and profits steady is ridiculous. The fallacy is that an “average fare” isn’t easily determined or uniformly defined. Routes and schedules are not comparable, airline-to-airline, day-to-day or city-to-city, to the regulated fares in the 1970’s or to the domestic system as it was in 2007.

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FAA Reduces MSP Operations per hour

As you know, SMAAC has been advocating for a maximum MSP operations hour of 120 to 130, for three reasons: lower costs, less safety risk, and some noise and pollution reduction.

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