SMAAC Updates FAA Administrator

An Update on Airport Safety and Noise


A Nationwide Problem. The ongoing airport noise and pollution issue is now centered on FAA flight route and runway use changes. 

 Our general idea is to reduce FAA’s and airport ‘s costs at MSP and all the busiest hubs by limiting hourly arrivals. As this implies rescheduling or re-routing by airlines, it is controversial.  But so are the extremely costly delays and overruns in NextGen developments and the additional complexity flight automation adds to FAA, airport and airline systems and equipment. 

Uncertain development and deployment schedules make FAA’s training, certification, inspection and audit functions nearly impossible, despite a safety mandate set by Congress. The optimistic argument that NextGen and flight automation is technologically feasible does not make high runway use necessary or valuable; as currently planned operational noise and emission will increase per flight.

The current National Airspace System (NAS) air traffic control situation is mischaracterized as a flight-safety necessity. Actually, increased numbers of commercial jetliners are simultaneously en route , but the safe hourly capacity for their arrivals is insufficient: too few hub airports. Heroic efforts and immense costs, SMAAC says, are not solving  the problem, but re-routing connecting flights to more hub airports would.


Currently peak hour rates are not safely sustainable —FAA has not deployed en route NextGen,  established airport air traffic control capability using NextGen and precise, automated routes flown using independent navigation, i.e. GPS,. The data communications needed for near-airport control of in-flight safe separations are not in place.  Too much depends on pilot and controller training, concentration, and communications: what the FAA calls situational awareness.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) may be amenable to changes; the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) is not.


MSP Noise and Pollution Continues to Increase. Since December 2010, SMAAC has pursued changes at MSP through the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to reduce noise and the risk of emergencies. The FAA's introduction of additional MSP departure routes in 2010 —requiring more turns and a reduced rate of ascent which steeply increases noise —were a response to the near-mid-air-collision of September 2010. Later an MSP policy for choosing departure runways based on destination (circa 2012) further increased noise exposure and concentrated emissions over South and Southwest Minneapolis neighborhoods and elsewhere.

SMAAC many times suggested reduced operations per hour at MSP. The MAC did not respond, not even after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) warned the MAC and the FAA that MSP operations were "inherently unsafe" during near-simultaneous departures on the parallel runways (R30L and R30R) and arrivals on the N-S runway (R35).  MAC noise staff first denied that the NTSB warning applied to MSP and later publically stated that the new routes had not increased safety risks, noise exposure, air pollution, or airport costs.

The MAC’s plan for 2015 to 2022 capital projects —more gates, taxiway bridges, and more capacity all around —is very pricey and adds more annual capacity than needed. If NextGen developments in the indefinite future meet design goals and are deployed, operations would be less risky but still not needed or useful for more airline competition or more affordable air travel.

“The planned expansion greatly exceeds the passenger service needed for Metro-Twin Cities or State economic growth in the foreseeable future.” said Jim Spensley, SMAAC President.  “More flight operations (as a percent of daily operations) at peak-hours greatly increases costs per flight.  These costs are partly borne by Federal appropriations, partly by passenger fees, and by airlines through landing fees and space leases.  Airline costs, however, are disproportionally recouped by high origin  and destination fares and fees.”


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2 June 2015

For Immediate Release               Contact Jim Spensley 612.824.9988

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