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.  

The FAA Findings of No Significant Environmental Impact are being challenged rather the need for capacity expansion and the unknown safety risks and operational limitations (ops per hour) at the various airports. Airlines and FAA launched a vigorous public relations campaign touting NextGen, and it succeeded in obscuring technical, schedule, cost, safety risks in the numerous LA metroplex systems and airports. 

Approach/arrival procedures using computer networks connected to aircraft GPS and autopilots are to guide aircraft to the planned runway for landing at a time (within a few seconds) while maintaining separations in the air and on the ground.

NextGen was designed to track more aircraft on more routes, than current radar-based en route surveillance, by using aircraft-installed GPS-navigation-computers and digital communications to report positions and related realtime data to the FAA's various sites and airports. This allows some shorter flights between airports by avoiding the dog-leg to stay in radar range.

The aviation industry claims dubious NextGen benefits to passengers, such as less time in the air, reduced taxiing times and the elimination of long delays on the tarmac or at terminals. 

 Less time in the air? Perhaps per flight (leg) en route for non-connecting passengers.  However, the average city-hub-city trip in the U.S. is about 200 miles and 2 hours longer than when there were 70+ connecting hubs rather than today's 33.

 Reduced taxiing times? Ground traffic congestion is more of a space and facilities problem. The average taxi time is longer than the planned runway use time. The 60 to 90 seconds of runway occupancy is preceded and/or followed by a taxi time �of about 6 minutes at slack hours, but aircraft wait at taxiway crossings and ramps for other aircraft at busy hours.  


The traveling public will be disadvantaged by longer delays at terminals --more ops/hour have the same impact on airport capacity as more flights per year (more passengers check in and pass through security at the same hour, more passengers deplane, pass through customs and immigration, use restrooms, at the same hour.  Connecting passengers then join the crowd waiting at the gates.

Longer delays on the tarmac are likely at peak hours at LAX.  GPS routes over the Pacific allow pilots to use wind aided routes and altitudes to reduce fuel consumption. Many arrive early AM, before Customs and Immigration open, and others arriving later wait for gates in "overflow aircraft" holding areas.  

In the areas where routes are congested most o�f the day arrival capacity and schedules are the cause.  Air traffic in Metroplexes (multiple busy airports near each other or in a string) is partly population density of course. Small airports and airports that serve mainly origin and destination passengers have hours of peak demand. Hubs have hours of peak scheduling. 




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