President's Report Update

Dear Supporters:

SMAAC is working to change national aviation policy. Partnering with the Aviation-Impacted Community Alliance (AICA), and Members of Congress representing Districts around large, troubled airports, we are using Appeals Court decisions and environmental findings to demand changes in FAA policy Some Representatives and Senators are beholden to airline lobbies and PACs or have a partisan view favoring businesses over public health and safety. The next crisis, climate change, I think is more of an aviation issue than they realize, and a tactical opening in elections.

The most recent example: support of the ridiculous 2019 Trump-inspired report that air pollution could be "measured" by modeling ground noise averages. Gases go up, noise goes down and spreads out. It is correct that low routes are louder and some pollutants (carbon dust, lead drops) more concentrated along an airport departure or approach route.

MSP Int'l Airport experiences parallel those at a few other major hub airports, particularly those that added city-hub-city routes after 9/11 and after the recession. In these recoveries: 

  • Noisy overflights returned with fewer local passengers (paying higher fares), and the hub airline became even more influential. 
  • There was little interest the changes in the State Legislatures, only security or economic recovery.
  • Congress was tiptoeing around both FAA flight operations and EPA climate change policies.
  • Airline forecasts that speculated increased air travel were accepted for planning purposes at airports assuming virtual meetings would not reduce business travel, health and safety worries would not reduce leisure travel, and pent-up demand would allow fare increases!
  • Nationally, Trump made the FAA a more-political agency --and that is dangerous for both the flyers and the overflown.

It is past time to plan a bigger site if Minnesota is keeping MSP as its big connecting hub for the right reasons. The airport commission, however, envisions a "thriving major connecting hub at MSP", benefitting the hub airline (and the other major airlines by scheduling our-hub to their-hub flights. That is not the right reason. Safety risks are not well quantified at airports, Flight safety risks vary with separations and speedsThe "probable cause" of an accident means the "immediate cause," and further investigation (of the accepted safety risks or management mistakes) are rare. That is a reason for a much larger airfield (and more-informed Commissioners).

Alternatively, 500 daily flights at MSP could be better economically than 800 for both business and family or personal air travel. The 1996 Law was short of facts when passed, and three events smashed all the forecasted growth; 9/11, the 2008recesion, and the pandemic, 2020--present. It also would be better for the environment, and to limit global warming, far better.

THOSE ARE STILL THE QUESTIONS, originally studied as jets were introduced, interrupted by the legislature in 1996. Then by 9/11, a 2005 ground collision, the 2008 recession, and the 2010 near-mid-air-collision. The Metropolitan Airports Commission wrongly decided not to connect these delays to FAA's or the Commission's safety-risks acceptance level.

SMAAC, however, had closely followed the NTSB investigations of the two serious events above and a 2006 fatal crash in Las Vegas). We connected the dots to argue that the maximum safe operations per hour at MSP as planned were too high. In a Public Hearing before the Metropolitan Council, we made the case that the route changes made at MSP in late 2010 to reduce safety risk created public health risks and depended for safety on undeployed or unscheduled air traffic control and airliner avionics upgrades.

The result was that MSP planning was postponed for 12+ years.  An NTSB Warning was ignored; 3 FAA Safety Office Orders were resisted. The current plan may be to work around the runway-use rates and safety issues as traffic resumes, but the details aren't clear. 

The MAC now plans a "thriving hub airport business" at MSP Airport, with the environmental and climate-change impacts of overflights assigned to others. In our view, the cities surrounding MSP airport unwittingly accepted noise mitigation plans as resolving safety and public health risks as controlled members of the Noise Oversight Committee. 

        SAFETY RISKS NOTE: A series of crimes contributed to the 2005 ground collision, a distraction in the MSP ATC Tower contributed to the 2010 near mid-air collision, and remote control of clearances in 2018 (in St. Cloud from MSP) happened. The toll was 3 deaths and about 30 injuries.  The risk might have been closer to 500 deaths. The aviation industry calculates flight risks as a ratio of injuries or deaths per air mile. The immediate cause of the ground collision in 2005 was turning off the left engine approaching the assigned gate: zero airmiles traveled, a certain risk. The other two were also the result of communications through the MSP Tower. The issue is that these risks, related to maximum safe hourly flight capacity plans were not ever made public.     



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  • Jim Spensley
    commented 2021-11-09 20:48:49 -0600
    In 2018-19, when runway use changes increased noise and pollution (GHG) per flight on average —more routes, but fewer flights on some routes and many new routes spread the noise around —the Cities of Eagan, Minneapolis and Richfield agreed to amend the Consent Degree. The effect, if not the intent, was funds from “airport revenue” to continue the contour mapping and Noise Oversight Committee business. Consequently, when COVID-19 shut down MSP operations to less than a third of 2019 flights in 2020, route-changes made due to a safety-needs in 2010 were continued. and mapped below 60 DNL due to fewer flights per route.
    Despite exposing more people to more noise and pollution per flight (a situation kept from public review for 9 years). T he community NOC members nodded affirmation of unlikely eventual mitigation.
    It later came to light that the Trump plan was to adopt the 65 DNL noise metric as the threshold for environmental reviews. Ground average daily noise intensity has nothing to do with air quality and health and safety risks, of course. Nevertheless, NOC and MAC commented favorably on the proposal when posted in the Federal Register.
  • Smaac Forum Panel
    published this page 2021-11-02 17:05:16 -0500