President's Report Update

Dear Supporters:

The Board and I tried to change national aviation policy based on unique MSP Int'l Airport experiences during the pandemic because we saw that:

  • Noisy overflights will be back at MSP, with fewer local passengers (paying higher fares), and the hub airline even more influential at the main airport. 
  • There is little interest in the Legislature. Congress is tip-toeing around  both FAA flight operations and EPA climate change policies. Do they know if virtual meetings will reduce business travel? If health and safety issues or airfares will reduce leisure travel? We doubt it. We also doubt that the airline forecasters have more information.
  • "Safety risks" at MSP are not quantified. The "probable cause" of an accident means the "immediate cause," and further investigation (of the accepted risks or management mistakes) are rare. 
  • 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.  

Alternatively, 500 daily flights at MSP could be better economically than 800 for both business and family or personal air travel; for the environment and to limit global warming it would be 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. The most recent example: support of the ridiculous 2019 Trump inspired report that air pollution could be "measured" by modeling ground noise averages. 

        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 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.                  In the case , 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.     

APOLOGY: Due to a serious health issue, I have been slowed down for the past 6 months. I have surgery and recovery that will make next Month (June 2022) pretty much out-of-service.  Jim Spensley




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  • Jim Spensley
    commented 2021-11-09 20:48:49 -0600
    I was asked, “What protests and demonstrations?” Of course I meant in 2018-19, when runway use changes increased noise and pollution (GHG) per flight on average —but with more routes, but fewer flights on some routes and many new routes spread the noise around —but the City and the Noise Oversight Committee agreed to NOT INSULATE more buildings. COVID-19 shut down the airport for 2020, less than a third of 2019 flights in 2020.
    All that route-changing was due to a safety-needs-not-planned-for-a-decade situation kept from public review, while the community NOC members nodded affirmation of more routes and more total noise as if the noise metric had something to do with air quality and health and safety risks.
  • Smaac Forum Panel
    published this page 2021-11-02 17:05:16 -0500