Monitoring MSP for 53 Years

The South Minneapolis Airport Action Committee was formed in 1967 to interact with the Metropolitan Airports Commission and advise the Mayor-appointed Commissioner. In 1970, SMAAC sued the Commission to seek recovery of private property value losses caused by MSP expansion supporting jet aircraft, for just compensation for the taking of Minneapolis property, and to claim avigation rights. 

The Court accepted a motion to dismiss the first count because private property valuations were generally higher compared to 1967. SMAAC had argued that MSP changes would decrease proerty values compared to similar properties away from the airport,  

The Legislature had given the Commission authority to condemn properties for safety zones, runway extensions, access roads etc. The Court advised it lacked jurusdiction for avigation claims, as the Federal Government regulated airspace, not the Commission. SMAAC withdrew the lawsuit.

SMAAC was re-organized as the South Metro Airport Action Council and participated in the CFR-14 Part 150 Noise Compatibility Plan (SMAAC officers and members served on the citizens' advisory committee).  The Commission proposed and FAA accepted merging the airport users (airlines and other corporations) advisory committee and the citizen's committee.  The resulting MSP Airport Sound Abatement Committee (MASAC) recommended a lower noise standard (60 DNL) as a compromise, but the user members stopped attending MASAC meetings and a quorum was not available for final approval.  MAC submitted its Part 150 application using 65 DNL, and it was accepted by FAA.

SMAAC supported the "dual-track' planning process bill and testified to its need and value before Legislative committees. SMAAC strongly favored the new airport track and worked diligently with its sponsors in the Legislature (1983) and rallied public opinion against aborting the study in 1996. 

SMAAC worked with the Minnesota Public Lobby (MPL) to propose capacity and cost limitations that passed, including less than 620,000 annual operations, no land-banking and Met Council approval of capital projects. These conditions were included in the 1996 law. MAC testified that MSP expansion was limited by the small site and high costs were associated with handling 20 to 25% more flights per hour (over average daylight hour use). The peak-hour of MSP in 1995 was said to be 110 ops/hr and the average  hour use, less than 75 operations. MAC itself stated that a maximum hourly capacity of 1.25 times 110 (<135) was planned and adequate to support (620,000/365) ~1700 flight operations per day. 

After the May 2005 ground collision of two NWA planes at MSP, SMAAC became involved, at Senator Dayton's request, with airport and flight safety. It took 3 years, but eventually the NTSB issued a report implicating ATC and airport policies in the near-disaster.

In MSP's busiest year, 2005, it was thought thought that the new runway added capacity for near-160 operations per hour if properly managed. Since then, annual flights were fewer but concentrated by large hub fleet banks that reached 150+ operations per hour daily --until 2010. The near-mid-air collision stimulated 30 months of replanning routes and tweaking systems; with increased safety risk, including more aborted landings and emergencies.

NOTE: The 9/11 attacks led to a suspension of construction and delayed the opening of the new runway. The  recession reduced use significantly, and the liklihood that passenger demand would not increase operations to the 2020 limit became the planning guide. However, the recession caused a downsizing of aircraft using MSP (fewer passengers per flight). 

After the Northwest-Delta merger. the MAC based its long-term planning on a new forecast (though 2030) and updated expansion plans based on an assumption that as many as 160 ops/hr were possible.  The plan was approved in 2010, with conditions to be addressed in the 2015 plan update. Soon after the new runway was opened, MAC released a plan to add gates and an "overflow aircraft parking area." Use in 2005 was correctly forecast at about 800 flights/day (1600 operations); 150 ops/hr peaks. In May, 2005, a serious accident caused SMAAC to focus on the safety risk in the plan.  

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