Supplementary Notes on MSP Safe Capacity and Public Health

This is a supplement to the official SMAAC comments regarding the MSP Capital Improvements Program, 2015-2021

In 2007, FAA started Next Gen for surveillance of en route air traffic. Next Gen depends on aircraft navigation and communications equipment not yet in regular use. FAA later began a program, later re-named Required Navigation Capability, to certify the reliability and accuracy of navigation-autopilot combinations in future use by airlines once Next Gen was deployed.

A little history here is informative. Airline and military flights have long been guided across oceans and other large areas that lacked radar coverage or other surface navigation aides using in-cockpit navigation aides. For commercial and private jet flight today, signals from the global positioning satellites (GPS) most often with  interfaces to the autopilot to follow a planned course.  A variety of communications systems are used to report  en route positions. Rigorous communications protocols and equipment are used to notify air traffic control centers upon re-entering radar surveillance.  The Required Navigation Capability performance standard for these combinations of GPS and cockpit avionics allows properly programmed and accredited Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) systems to be used in the United States for point-to-point route flight plans.

As the Next Gen and PBN/RNAV programs stand today, when these technologies might extend to airport air traffic control is, at best, uncertain. The Commission staff has misrepresented a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) warning and has not objected to route changes.

NTSB investigations found that the corrective actions amounted to an emphasis on controller awareness and publishing advisories to pilots. Aborted approaches at MSP increased. Most parallel runway departures now involve more low-altitude maneuvers. FAA is developing (actually re-purposing) cockpit displays and applying new ATCT computer programs to avoid the aborted approach conflicts. This solution, called Approach/Departure Window automation depends on the deployment of Next Gen and PBN/RNAV at airports using runways with intersecting headings.

Embedded in the 2015-2021 MSP CIP are several costly projects needed to keep up with operations at peakhours. This raises our two questions:

  1. Are current operations at MSP safe at peak hours without the planned and very costly air traffic control and airline deployments and supporting MSP facilities?
  2. Is there any need and authority to expand MSP as a busier (more congested) hub and accept the public health, environmental, and economic consequences of over-expansion and continued noise and pollution per flight?

The Commission can, and should, change its strategies and plans to provide for needed air transportation services as well as to minimize off-site impacts. There is no expressed need for facilities and systems at MSP supporting frequent operations at 155+ runway operations per hour. The direct costs are passed on to local (O&D) passengers and limit economic growth.

The Commission and the Noise Oversight Committee must not continue to ignore the health studies that prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the day-night annual average noise (DNL) fails to predict serious health risks. The FAA has asserted its general authority, upheld by the US Court of Appeals, to re-route flights to protect the population.