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.

 

Anyone who thinks Minnesota actually benefits from more flight operations in the same hour is deluded.

In 2010, a near-mid-air collision caused MSP to re-think runway use and the FAA Air Traffic Control Tower to re-visit the safety risk-management possible using available technology.  They failed to consider the 2012 Converging Runways Operations Warning by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In essence, NTSB warned that a R35 approach could be aborted and a 'go-around' would barge into airspace already ocupied by aircraft departing on the MSP parallel runways, a potential collision and causing risky low-altitude manuevers by 2 to 5 aircraft loaded with passengers.

Go-arounds are infrequent, but increase as more operations are scheduled near capacity limits. Under visual flight rules, the pilot of an approachng aircraft must judge, in real time, if the runway is clear.  At busy hours, an aircraft would be seen moving away on the runway (either an arrival, expected to turn off the runway, or a departure, soon to lift-off). However, it is supposed that new technology will compute runway use intervals and control aircraft speeds more precisely.

Believing advanced Air Traffic Control and Flight Automation was just over the horizon (after all, $billions in Federal and industry development had been spent), the Tower searched for ways to reduce runway-use intervals (time) and separations (space between aircraft) without the technical means. That was2013; this is 2017, and the MSP maximum safe hourly flight capacity is about the same. SMAAC noted that continuing the 2010 departure protocols and landing patterns added more "low-altitude maneuvers" than an occasional R35 aborted approach and increased air pollution and noise per flight (compared to less busy hours). Nevertheless, MSP is being expanded in anticipation of technology advances and airline demand.

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).  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.

It is an economic and safety risk based on unneeded and unplanned passenger capacity.  Unfortunately, despite State law and policy, MSP's Long-Term Comprehensive Plan has not been released in draft, much less updated.  The Draft was due 4 year ago.

The related Public Hearing and Environmental Assessment is not scheduled either. These topics are not much reported in spite of a larger contribution of carbon releases and global warming.  Official reports to the Legislature are all hearts and roses.

 


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