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

      The safety disjoint between peak-hour capacity and airline forecasts continues without documentation. The MAC began several capacity-related projects reviewed by Met Council for funding or economic impact in capital improvement plan (CIP) projects 2010-2019. Due to changes in air traffic use and a series of FAA Safety Orders restricting runway-use MAC first undertook to "share" approach and departure overflight disturbances among neighborhoods by continuing the real-time Air Traffic Control Tower (voice, radio telephone) manual departure control 

MAC and FAA, years ago, estimated the maximum safe operations per hour at about 160, unbalanced: either 100 arrivals and 60 departures, NW flow, or 60 arrivals and 100 departures, SE flow. To interpret this plan as possible, other critical assumptions were made: the temporary response by the Tower Manager. 

1. Ground traffic management (open gates or parking space for aircraft, runway transit time or speed, time lost in switching flow and average weather and wind conditions).

2. How many days per year would weather, maintenance and emergencies decrease possible runway-use hours?

3. Cost and schedule details based on airlines forecasted numbers for airfield facilities and aircraft changes.

4. Cost and schedule details for airport facilities based on passengers and passenger services.

However, use of MSP airport during and recovering from COVID-19, varied demand, and affected flight planning.

      What the 2019 Rules Allow. Either A. Less than 136 operations per hour with "nearly equal arrivals and departures" or B. balancing arrivals and departures over a longer period than an hour. That is, in comprehensive plan assumptions, the 25% peak hour difference and the two options are very significant and quite different.

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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  • Jim Spensley
    published this page 2024-01-21 15:49:12 -0600
  • 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.