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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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MSP Plans "Hated"

 Regarding Kevin Terrell’s very useful Opinion piece (Star-Tribune August 23rd).  He was absolutely correct: local travelers who are paying for it and citizens who are living with it “hate” the MSP 2035 plan; also the 2020, 2025, and 2030 MSP expansion plans.  The economic and environmental difficulties ahead were mislaid while MAC and the Met Council were making the plans.

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Reminder: MAC meeting August 27th

Various groups are mobilizing concerned citizens to attend the "Pre-draft 2030 Plan for MSP" presentation:



             Thursday, August 27, 2015
                      5:00 to 8:30 PM
                  MAC General Offices
                6040-28th Avenue South
                Minneapolis, MN 55450

The MAC sent an email notice just today.  It announced that 

The purpose of this meeting is to educate and inform the public of the LTCP purpose and process prior to publication of the draft document. 

In other words, no questions, no protests, no impatience -- just take it all in and be happy with high fares, more noise, and no meaningful environmental reviews. The message repeats that projections and forecasts have been prepared through a consultant.  The purpose of the LTCP is to identify facility needs, based on already-forecasted numbers?  What then is the purpose of the meeting other than to discourage citizens and organizations from complianing about overflight noise and pollution increases implicit in the plan for both more and larger aircraft using MSP.

While it is in fact very difficult to project anything 20 years ahead, SMAAC has asked for details and an open discussion.  The planning process cannot be transparent if the sources used for the forecasts and the airline plans are not evaluated realistically in public meetings.

Planning future use of MSP from projections by incumbent for-profit airlines in various stages of negotiatons with the MAC for the next 20 years seems a bit foolish.

SMAAC notes that the planned capacity for MSP in 2020 was based on State economic growth needs and trends in demographic and employment data.  Current operations are significantly different than the plans approved in the FEIS for MSP Expansion for the period 2005 to 2020..


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Overflight Noise is a tip-off

Citizen's groups around airports are "getting the run-around."  as a group in Oregon complained, 

"Valid community concerns regarding aviation noise and pollution (are) routinely deflected, ignored and minimized (by airport authorities) in an effort to promote aviation interests over the greater good."

As SMAAC has been doing for years, Oregon Aviation Watch strongly urges negatively impacted residents to hold their (elected officials) responsible for abiding rather than reducing overflight noise and pollution

It is important but tediously slow to deal with airport/overflight noise.  Important because noise complaints periodically cresendo to a politically significant level:  that opens a door to examine all the advantages and disadvantages of the oveflights that make the noise.  Tediously slow because  the aviation industry leaders are resourceful, politically connected, and forward-thinking about profits.  Profits are assured if government assumes liability and funds air traffic control, if government inspectors and auditors are scarce by lack of funding, if government subsidizes NextGen avionics, and if "fortress hubs" that reduce competition are the first but most costly to develop and operate. 

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MN Attorney General Confirms SMAAC AOEE Appeal

In February, SMAAC made an Administrative Appeal of the MSP 2014 Annual Assessment of Environmental Effects (AOEE). The EQB staff did not acknowledge the Appeal.  An inquiry in May revealed that the EQB staff opinion was that the Appeal was misdirected.

Last month the Minnesota Attorney General  wrote SMAAC that the Administrative Appeal was properly addressed to the EQB.  SMAAC attempted to contact the EQB by telephone and by email. Notwithstanding the AG opinion, an EQB staffer wrote SMAAC this week suggesting that we take both our (procedural) appeal and the substance of our contention that the procedural error, if any, had a material effect on the AOEE findings back to the MAC.

SMAAC responded that we had been seeking a discussion of noise and air pollution increases from flight operational changes, citing correspondence from FAA the changes in overflight altitude and a definitive (we thought) scientific study connecting specific submicron particulates pollution to low-flying jet aircraft.  The procedural errors were, we alleged, that the above documents were not included in the Hearing Record, the absence of public deliberation (or identification of the deliberators) responsible for the Finding of No Significant Impact.


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Changing MSP Operations

Too many people seem to think the Federal Aviation Admistration (FAA) and the airlines are in charge of MSP, but they still complain about oveflight noise to the Meropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) or the Noise Oversight Committee (NOC). Complaining about noise is OK, but a small step that so far has never reduced neighborhood noise a decibel.  Is the noise hotline also the air pollution hot line? Is it the place where printers or sound studios or electonic manufacturers complain about low flights (vibrations) spoiling a document, a recording or a batch of tiny microchips?

Has the City of Minneapolis complained at NOC about overflights interfering with the City's Wide-Area Wi-Fi system? Have viewers or advertisers called the hotline about flights 'pixilating' broadcast digital TV?  Just asking.

Why isn't there an overflight hot line?  There is a security hot line and an emergency hotline.  And a number to call if you are treated poorly by a MAC employee (well, maybe not that).


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