MSP Airport Capacity

SMAAC and S. Minneapolis legislators met with the Governor's staff about governance policy and long-term planning delays at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on January 6, 2020. We said:

"The nine-year delay in updating the MSP Airport LTCP has obscured ​facts about airport operations and details ​of how overflights affect public health and safety and the environment. 

"The 2011-2016 MSP Capital Improvements Plans were considered incomplete by Met Council. To be useful for updating the Transportation Policy Plan for air transportation, we understood, the MSP Long-Term Comprhensive Plan (LTCP) was to be updated considering conditions applied by the Met Council and further information about the maximum flights/per hour limit being studied by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"While ensuing events have intervened, it is our observation that Met Council and State oversight was inadequate.  The MAC is now in the 6th month of a 15-month project to plan for MSP future operations. The scale of the effort is evidence that MSP flight operations are still subject to the limitations of the airport site noted in the 1996 Law and 1998 agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

"State policy, rather than the Metropolitan Airports Commission alone, need to tend to meeting Minnesota economic growth needs for air service --without increasing public health and safety risks."

In May 2019 the FAA issued an Order limiting MSP airport flight operations and runway-use rates in NW flow. But the new rule allowed a choice between one arrival on R35 or two departures on the parallel runways. This safety rule allows 3 scenarios for fleet arrivals in NW flow

1. An arrival rate (60-70/hour) the same as in SE flow;

2. More arrivals and fewer departures.

In simple terms, these alternatives involve schduling percise times for each operation (PBN navigation) and a plan for holding approaching aircraft near the airport to "meter" their precise landing times within a few seconds to maximize runway use. Also, if an arrival bank is larger than about 70, more aircraft accumulate at MSP straining the facilities (gates, parking, taxiing, terminal improvements, etc.). 


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  • Jim Spensley
    commented 2021-09-12 00:27:44 -0500
    The Metropolitan Airports Commission Chair acknowledged our request to present our concerns about safety, GHG emissions, health risks, and costs and suggest a solution. He rejected it out of hand. Interesting.

    The solution is partly here and partly a revival of the original Next Generation air traffic control plan to increase air transportation by “expanding routes horizontally.” The FAA has presented a dilemma here, in that the maximum safe operations per hour (arrivals and departures per hour) is 12 to 15% less than was thought when the new runway was approved in the 1998 Record of Decision and Final Environmental Impact Statement (ROD/FEIS).

    The Commission confuses what its user airlines forecast (want) with what Minnesotans and Minnesota businesses need (want). We wonder if the Governor and the Legislature know if the MAC pays more for public relations consultants than for safety experts? We don’t. It should be more transparent and easier to find out though.
  • Jim Spensley
    followed this page 2021-09-11 23:16:55 -0500
  • Smaac Forum Panel
    published this page 2021-08-20 16:58:47 -0500