Big Changes at MSP --Big Surprise to MAC Planners.

      Evidently the disjoint between peak-hour capacity and forecast passengers continues. The MAC began projects after 2016 to decrease the number of gates at Lindbergh Terminal to accommodate larger aircraft. This project was not among several capacity-related projects reviewed by Met Council for funding or environmental impact. However, use of MSP airport is less than 35% of 2019 and frequently changed by airlines due to COVID-19.

      Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Great Lakes Regional Administrator, Rebecca MacPherson, attended the May 15, 2019 NOC meeting and foretold a change at MSP reducing peak hour runway use in ‘northerly’ flow by 25% or more. We have not discovered when and how NOC came to be the locale, but the discussion was not restricted to noise exposure. THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT SAFETY AND FACILITIES AND NEXT GEN SCHEDULES.

      The Minutes suggest that FAA committed to work on finalizing the change "through the NOC." Responding to an Eagan request, Rep. Angie Craig wrote Ms. MacPherson requesting coordination with the NOC on noise mitigation and environmental reviews. SMAAC has made Rep. Craig aware of the 9+ year delay in assessing the cost, safety and environmental impacts of hourly and daily operational rates, PBN/RNAV routes, and MSP facilities related to capacity and airline demand forecasts. Metro air transportation needed for economic growth to 2026 may or may not be aligned with the current MSP Capital Improvements Program (CIP) or the Draft MSP LTCP Update. The economic forecast basis was changed in the 2010 Draft LTCP Update compared to prior practice. 

     SMAAC was sent a paper "from Ms. MacPherson," with no letterhead or signature (see extracted text below). We later emailed MAC that "SMAAC is strongly opposed to CRO, max ops per hour, and PBN routes being discussed with FAA by the NOC in advance of the LTCP and CIP drafts. Not NOC's job at all." MAC Executive Director Ryks said that NOC was a small part of MSP planning, and a "Stakeholder Advisory Panel" had been set up to review the LTCP draft step by step. THIS KEEPS THE COMMISSIONERS' OUT OF ANY ARGUMENTSABOUT WHAT THE AIRLINES ARE DOING OR NOT DOING.  

FAA revised the air traffic control Standard Operating Procedures for MSP, changing how arrivals are accepted, giving priority to R35 arrivals (on demand) and limiting operations on the main parallel runways in NW flow. It is theoretically possible but impractical (because of limited departures) to accept 90 arrivals in 60 minutes. 75 arrivals per hour has been mentioned for the 7 AM and 4 and 6 PM arrival schedule peaks at MSP.

      "Demand" at those hours is from Delta Airlines and the Delta NOC and Stakeholder Advisory Panel Co-Chair should recuse himself from discussions of arrival rates and routes used to time them as unethical, conflict of interest, even as a noise mitigation consideration, since how flights are scheduled is a cost of capacity driver and airport capacity is an agreement between an airport and the FAA, a scheduling given.

     What the Rules Allow. Our analysis is that MSP will lack the space to safely move and hold aircraft (park at gates or elsewhere) in either flow between 4 PM and 8 PM. At 7 AM in NW flow, a large departure bank will limit arrivals. If as many as 75 aircraft land before 7 AM  or between 8 and 9 AM in either flow, MSP will lack the space to safely move and hold the aircraft. In SE flow, MSP could allow perhaps 60 take-offs and 80 take-offs if 60 or 70 aircraft were available and the turn-around of arrivals was swift. It will be interesting to see what changes will be made and when. The NOC has slept as two policies were accepted: allowing more noise exposure per location per flight and reducing daily flights per route by using more routes; now there is nothing left for the Noise Oversight Committee to oversee except how the contour maps are prepared, but it doesn't.

      Safe and affordable (costs financed by airfares do not hobble Twin Cities economic growth capacity) MSP facilities and operating costs, an annual O&D passenger goal, and increases in GHG, carbon sub-micron particulates or other overflight emissions limits, and the issue of land use or land acquisition are beyond the sole authority of MAC. 


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  • Smaac Forum Panel
    commented 2020-11-25 13:23:32 -0600
    This article did not attract much public attention in 2019 —the airports commission dealt with a new FAA safety order first as a noise mitigation issue. Then by 2Q/2020, the operations and capital budgets were rendered inapplicable by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hourly runway use rates
    and fuel consumption at MSP are now less that than any day since 1997, and so are airport operations and passenger boardings at MSP.

    Which makes the pace and details of an economic recovery define the converging runway operations (CRO) safety issue sometime in the future.

    The Commission says that more flights and more passengers using MSP airport are an essential part of dealing with the pandemic and an eventual economic recovery. We do not disagree.
    We note, however, more flights use more fuel and very likely will create more greenhouse gas if use approaches 2019 operational levels and schedules.

    The MAC says they have no obligation to consider GHG emissions might be reduced by limiting hourly runway use and more use of alternative arrival and departure routes. We say they do:
    The Governor who appoints 12 of the 14 Metropolitan Airport Commissions issued an Executive Order in 2019 directing that all Minnesota government minimize GHG emissions; the Commission is also supposed to provide air transportation support State economic growth, which may not be the result of how airlines deal with the economic recovery or delat with the cost of safety risk management in 2019.
  • Smaac Forum Panel
    commented 2020-08-29 15:41:59 -0500
    Apparently the MAC is planning to eventually adapt operations to the new converging runway operations (CRO) safety order in the long-term —but now in real-time as airlines revise schedules and operations to the reality of travel during the pandemic.

    Observers report many problems, as might be expected in these times. So far, little has been reported about applying the CRO rules to allow more arrivals than departures for a period since there are so few flights.

    But, unless the economy collapses entirely, it is likely that fleet banks will be restored to allow convenient connections and approach operations per hour limits as before. This may not be the best or even the likeliest outcome as the economy regains traction, but no one seems to be considering alternatives.
  • Jim Spensley
    commented 2019-10-18 16:40:18 -0500
    Several elected municipal officials or staff alternates are seated (a good term for what they do, sit) on the MSP LTCP Stakeholder’s Advisory Panel. Safety risks, PBN/RNAV routes, almost daily changes in forecasts, rules, equipment and technology are blithely presented over two decades of assumptions not including any responsibility for dealing openly about health, cost, or pollution.