The South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) Board of Directors today submitted a Resolution to MAC calling for a safety-first expansion moratorium at MSP. In early May, two Northwest Airlines (NWA) planes collided near MSP‚s Lindbergh terminal, but the accident did not rate a mention in MAC‚s "2020 Plan" study or the environmental assessment of terminal expansion projects through the year 2015 just drafted by MAC.
The Board, in an action started by SMAAC Members at their Annual Meeting, demanded that MAC consider the accident report being prepared by the National Transportation Safety Board before undertaking projects likely to increase ground traffic at either terminal.
SMAAC says MSP is already one of the busiest hub airports, due to adding NWA gates at the Lindbergh Terminal in 2003; NWA since increased hub activities at MSP from a 70-plane block to about 100 planes meeting at MSP twice daily. MSP has only two runways available at peak hours and uses them at or over standard rates. The new Runway 17-35 will come on line next year, and NWA and FAA, if not MAC, seem intent on increasing the operational rate further, according to SMAAC. The Board warned that "The chance of a loss-of-life accident may have been increased by an order of magnitude due to operations at the planned (2010) rates. Add to this faster gate turn-around, increased air traffic controller and crew fatigue, maintenance cost-cutting, and other contemporary concerns. How many collisions are acceptable in order to have a busier hub airport?"
The consequences of more gates and higher rates of runway use is more airliners flying closer together, more airliners and service vehicles moving faster and more often around the airport, and more congestion on the ground and in the sky. The proposed Lindbergh Terminal take-over for a larger NWA Sky-Team hub will add ground traffic and further limit maneuvering room, according to SMAAC.
The SMAAC Board says that air travel is not just as safe as it was years ago, although it is quite safe compared to some other modes of transportation. "The public will feel safer traveling by air when as safe as possible is the rule at MSP; when Congress doesn‚t mess with safety or any other aviation laws at the behest of industry lobbyists, and when the risks of certifying more maintenance facilities with fewer inspectors or using more runways for more flights with fewer controllers are quantified." SMAAC said in an earlier report on its web-site www.quiettheskies.org.