The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), without discussion, dismissed a resolution presented by the South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC). The Resolution called for MAC to indefinitely suspend planning for further expansion at MSP pending the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report on the May airliner collision at MSP.
SMAAC also called for an immediate review of all MSP ground traffic systems, procedures and emergency facilities because of previously undisclosed higher operational rates. It asked that maximum flight operations be set at 45 per runway per hour, the 2000 level.
"At least our suggesting this limit caused MAC staff to make the planned high rates and reduced separations public." said Gerry D'Amour, SMAAC VP. The Staff Memo said that rates of 156 to 160 operations per hour at MSP are planned, using 3 active runways at the same time.
Mr.D'Amour reported that MAC Executive Director Jeff Hamiel had confirmed these rates were a result of Northwest/Sky Team demand and that most operations would originate or end at Lindbergh Terminal during daily peak-use hours.. Hamiel told SMAAC that FAA had reduced the intervals between flights from 5,000 feet to 2,500 feet, as SMAAC had alleged, hoping to reduce landing delays.
The MAC staff Memo claimed that increased ground traffic at the terminal did not cause congestion and that congestion was not implicated in the May collision. MAC staff also said that the accident was due to errors by the pilot and reducing rates was "unwarranted."
Anticipating that MAC would duck the issue to FAA and the airlines, the SMAAC resolution suggested removing airlines being investigated from MAC advisory Committees to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Although the Resolution, the Staff Memo, and the Remarks by SMAAC before the FDE Committee were available among many other pages of materials in staff-prepared handouts, the Committee Minutes minimized the discussion and that Chair McGee had cut off SMAAC President Jim Spensley after allowing a lengthy defense of the Staff Memo (signed by Nigel Finney) by Chad Leqve. “A show to deflect the issue was less than we expected of the Commissioners,” said Spensley, “And eventually the media will report that there is a dispute about the vast difference between MSP rates and capacity as stated by MAC staff.”
For additional information, see SMAAC’s remarks before the FDE Committee and a report of that meeting published in SMAAC’s Fall Newsletter (November 3 release). The Memo can be accessed at MAC’s website. http://www.mspairport.com/mac/appdocs/meetings/. Copies appear in the Handouts for the Oct FDE and Full Commission meetings.
Dismissed by MAC
By Gerry D’Amour
The SMAAC Board presented the Membership's Safety Resolution in July. It made the MAC's Finance, Development and Environment Committee, October 5, 2005 agenda. Chad Leqve, MAC Manager - Aviation Noise, presented the staff's response to the Safety Resolution and dismissed it as unwarranted. The report was then adopted unanimously. Included in the vote was Dan Boivin, the Minneapolis Mayor's representative.
The Resolution called for MAC to indefinitely suspend planning for further expansion at MSP pending the NTSB report on the May airliner collision at MSP. It called for an immediate review all MSP ground traffic systems, procedures and emergency facilities compared to peak use and new runway use. It asked that maximum flight operations be set at 45 per runway per hour. It suggested removing airlines being investigated from MAC Committees to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest..
The FD&E agenda items were switched at the last moment, placing the SMAAC Resolution last instead of 13th. Committee Chair, McGee's meeting was not kept on schedule, and President Jim Spensley was allowed less than five minutes to state his response to the staff report. When attempting to make the SMAAC's case he was talked over by the Chair and told to "Stop".
SMAAC used only MAC and FFA numbers to make the point that current operations and planned operations have exceeded the original EIS approval, and that FAA monies, air traffic monitoring equipment and staff have not been allocated to meet the current operations, let alone the increase in operations from the new runway.
The MAC reacted irritably to President Spensley's statement. MAC Executive Director Hamiel said "You are acting as if you are an expert, and you are not. Constant talk about safety, fuel leaks, and water pollution is causing you to lose your (noise) credibility."
Hamiel did admit that the operational rates planned rely on aircraft to be separated by 2,500 ft, instead of the current 5,000 feet, and, even delays are expected for 1 of every 3 flights instead of the current 1 of 5. Delays often result from safety concerns.
South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC)
PO Box 19036, Minneapolis, MN 55419-0036
Remarks October 5, 2005
By James R. Spensley, President
Chair McGee and Commissioners: We thank you for taking up our Resolution for discussion. We note that MAC is already delaying some development at MSP for other reasons. Our position is simple: our members are worried about safety at and around MSP. Compared to ten years ago, there are more airliners flying closer together and taxiing further at the same time. There are more vehicles of all kinds moving around MSP. We are told that these movements are closely monitored and controlled by a variety of FAA and airline procedures and systems. The FAA has a vigorous R&D program addressing ground safety at airports, stimulated by a national trend of increasing runway incursions and accidents. Congress funded these R&D programs after FAA itself testified that demand – particularly demand associated with the major hubs' daily service peaks and delays – is rapidly outstripping resources.
It appears that the Staff Memo was done with persuasive intent, not to clarify our Resolution or relate facts bearing on a decision. It misrepresents our submittal and referenced documents in argument; it touches on extraneous topics to discount our concerns. The Memo presumes findings by the NTSB, but many experts think ground traffic controls, procedures, and communications, strained by congestion, contributed to the accident in May. The Memo also refers to ground traffic simulations by acronym (not by specific date, scope, or input geometry) as if you were familiar with these complex engineering computer simulations in detail, or as if the public could have reviewed them and been comforted.
Your staff says the theoretical runway capacity at MSP today (2 runways) is 1.14 million operations per year; and with the new runway, will be 1.71 million. That is 236 % more than 723,578. An average delay of 12.7 minutes per operation accounts for but 153,000 fewer operations (not 987,000 fewer). These annual capacity numbers have little to do with reality, safety, or demand.
To discuss safety, consider peak-hour demand and capacity. Staff states that MSP runway capacity is now 130 operations per hour (55 second intervals), using two runways; and will be 156 (or 160) using three runways. This mixes theoretical (independent) runway capacity and specific airport (multiple runways active) capacity. Still, if more airliners are arriving and taking off than there are gates, more planes are moving on the ground simultaneously. That is another valid safety concern Before expansion was mandated, the hourly safe capacity per runway here was considered to be less than 50 operations per hour, and the economical annual capacity limited to a demand level of less than 650,000 operations annually. Is it credible that theoretical operational rates can be increased 41% and actual MSP use increased 45% at peak hours and be just as safe? Besides, the highest foreseeable demand was to be met by a 25% increase in “capacity” according to MAC’s testimony at the Legislature. It was said that expansion would reduce the number of flights using the main runways over densely populated areas.
As to the quality and timeliness of maintenance, Northwest argued then that it was not feasible to maintain their fleet without re-locating their MSP facilities at great expense – the same facilities they now consider surplus for a larger and more diverse fleet. Northwest mechanics and flight attendants, FAA controllers, pilots, and MSP workers all have been reported questioning safety. By the way, why would cash-strapped NWA operate its DC-10s with a non-critical engine part? Disposal costs? If a 185 pound metal part fell on an occupied building, would that be a non-critical event?
Check the facts. Think about what you should do.