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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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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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