Most Fifth District Candidates to Participate in Federal Aviation Debate

Seven of the nine candidates running for the Fifth Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Martin Sabo have signed up to attend an open house and debate on federal aviation issues, it was announced today by the South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC).

The citizens’ group says that concentrating flight operations at a few major hub airports became a Federal policy several years before 9/11. Federal airline subsidies and grants for airport expansion were for new runways and more gates specifically at airports dominated by large airlines. The idea sprang directly from the Air Transport Association, an industry (lobby) group controlled by the major airlines.

SMAAC is engaging Congressional candidates in discussions along these lines. In the Fifth District, SMAAC is sponsoring an event where aviation issues are the main topic, and voters are already aware of the local issues. Already signed up are DFL’s Keith Ellison, Ember Reichgott Junge, Gregg Iverson, and Paul Ostrow; also, Jay Pond, Green; Tammy Lee, Independent; and Alan Fine, IR.

This event will be held at Burroughs School (W, 50th Street at James Avenue S) August 24th. Voters and candidates can meet individually from 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM and a moderated discussion and question and answer session will start at about 6:30.

MSP’s neighbors complain about low-flying planes being in new places and headed in new directions. Passengers and neighbors fear accidents. Businesses and emergency travelers must pay high fares because low fares are not available on most MSP flights without paying far in advance. Security lines are long at busy hours, and people connecting at MSP were screened elsewhere.

Hub expansion, more gates per runway and more flights per hour, now seems to have been the idea behind the new runway and terminal expansion at MSP. As implemented, MSP expansion increased noise exposure, pollution, and fares, but decreased airline competition, contrary to goals set by the Legislature in 1996.

SMAAC has been concerned that higher operational rates, more airliners flying closer together and taxiing further and faster, were a safety risk. Those grants and plans, approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), led to the current peak-hour congestion and security issues. There was enough money build new runways and gates, but, outside of Federal grants, capital projects depend on increasing revenues from airline operations.

On the drawing boards at MSP is a $1 billion+ plan to add more gates to accommodate some 55 million more passengers, 60 percent more passengers over the present 35 million, in 2020. Under what rosy scenario will bankrupt Northwest Airlines emerge as the even-larger user of MSP? Perhaps the Candidates have this answer.


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