Big Changes in Polar Sea Ice and Ocean Heat Up-wellings

A very interesting website provides graphs, photos, and links to studies related to how our world is changing. The graph below shows the ice volume in the Arctic, with months color-coded, and the progression of years sequenced around the perimeter. Note the very substantial changes by comparing the end of each color at the 2012 or 2013 plots with the ends of the same color lines in the year 1979. For example, February has declined from 30,000 cubic kilometers of ice in 1979 to 18,000 cubic kilometers of ice in 2013; September has declined from 17,000 cubic kilometers of ice in 1979 to roughly 3,000 cubic kilometers of ice in 2012.

Those who love to study data will enjoy this website:

http://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/

The latest news item being presented is the large pool of intensely warmed water that is being measured in the East Pacific, triggering what is projected to be a ‘Super El Niño’ cycle. Essentially, energy has been down-welling into the ocean in recent years, but the other half of that cycle – the up-welling – is now commencing. A growing area is measuring at more than ten degrees Fahrenheit above normal temperatures. Importantly, weather is driven by energy in the atmosphere. Thus, this added heat will drive stronger and more frequent weather events.

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”

The aviation Whistleblowers. They speak up about maintenance and design failures. They reveal the ATC errors FAA aggressively conceals. They question the practices that cause fatal accidents.

These men and women should be heroes and yet, amazingly, they are more often banished by their employer. They put their jobs – and the welfare of their families – on the line, simply because they choose the road less traveled.

“…I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

- the closing stanza of ‘The Road Not Taken’, a poem by Robert Frost, November 1916

At FAA, and at all agencies, Whistleblowers are being destroyed by vindictive, self-serving rogue managers. The existing Whistleblower protection laws give the larger Public the illusion that there is real support for Whistleblowers, but in fact these laws enable further Whistleblower retaliation. The rogue managers are never held accountable; these laws continue to fail.

This world increasingly needs ‘a few good Whistleblowers’. Support is needed from Congress, and from people who care enough to demand safety, efficiency, and a just system. A change is long overdue. Please join us and advocate for laws that ensure real Whistleblower support.

What a Birdstrike does to a Jet Engine

Danish aviation authorities recently released their findings for a serious birdstrike incident, in Copenhagen. They report that, on July 23, 2013, an SAS Boeing 737 departure ingested a Common Shelduck into the left engine, at 800 feet altitude. The engine began to vibrate and the crew immediately returned for an emergency landing. [article]

Here is a photo showing the damage done to the titanium fan blades:

Just as with the USAirways Flight #1549 birdstrike in January 2009, there were no fatalities. But, had flight conditions been just slightly different, both incidents could have been much worse.

It is important to recognize that no amount of effort spent slaughtering birds in the immediate vicinity of airports will prevent birdstrikes such as this. In both cases, the impacts involved the failure of the flight crews to avoid impacting migratory birds transitioning through at altitude. Obviously, we cannot exterminate species of migratory birds just so they do not endanger aviation. So, to manage these risks, we need smarter management of airports, which must include more balance and a more global plan for the entire airspace system.

How Do We Reduce this Safety Risk?

Half of the problem is the existance of the birds and their habit of migratory flying. The other half of the problem is the aircraft. Fortunately, the birds tend to do their flying in large flocks, increasing their visibility.  But, if the intensity of commercial flight activity is so high that the pilot is limited in his/her ability to detect the bird threat and alter course to avoid the bird threat, these birdstrikes are going to increase in frequency. There is a clear ‘diseconomy of scale’, so far as aviation safety is concerned.

A key part of the solution is to manage airport growth, for which we depend on the aviation regulators. Unfortunately, FAA and other regulators are making no progress, because history shows their real focus is too slanted toward growing aviation activity and supporting commercial aviation. In other words, FAA’s lack of vision and regulatory discipline is causing problems to expand and making more work for FAA to keep busy going nowhere. A classic example of failure by an over-matured, self-serving bureaucracy.

Three Months above 400ppm

Geologists are confident that, going back to at least 800,000 years ago, the CO2 in our Earth atmosphere has never exceeded 300ppm … or at least not until AFTER mankind started creating CO2 by burning coal, oil and natural gas. When measurements were started in Mauno Loa, in 1958, the annual average was 315ppm. As shown by the graph below, for the past week, the daily average has remained above 400ppm.

So, we are now maintaining 400ppm, and based on the consistent trends for data collected since 1958, we will not fall below 400ppm CO2 until sometime in July. We will maintain this level for three months this year, but next year, it will be for eight or nine months. Starting in 2016 (or even in late 2015), we will remain above 400ppm year-round. We will remain there until decades after we finally figure out:

…when (and how) will we get control
of our addiction to fossil fuels?

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography updates this online graph everyday.

MLK’s Dream … Not Yet Fulfilled

April 4, 1968.

Forty-six years ago today, a great man was assassinated. He was killed because he saw injustice and he had the audacity to speak up.

He is best known for his “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered at the March on Washington, in 1963. He sought to make things right. His actions threatened the status quo, which had retaliated against him in many ways, eventually in the finality of his death by a sniper.

Shot dead.
In the heart of America.

<< <> <<>> <> >>

In the Spring of 1968, I suddenly became a paperboy, delivering the ‘Seattle Times’ in the Montlake area. Our next door neighbors were a large Catholic family, and Paul, a couple years older than me, had a paper route. I was his eager assistant, and he paid me with a bottle of Fanta or other 10¢ snacks from the vending machines at Larry’s gas station, where the route began at Boyer and 23rd. Paul used some of his paper route earnings to take up skiing, but then he broke his leg. So, given that I knew the route very well, I filled in for a few months. At 8-yrs-old, I thought I must be one of the richest kids in Seattle, because I was earning around $60 each month for 40-50 hours of work. Every day, the bunch of us paper boys would meet at the paper shack next to the Enco gas station, where regular ‘leaded’ gas was selling for around 20¢ per gallon. A high school kid ran the paper shack and would issue us our bundles of papers. I acquired the habit of reading the news while folding my papers. Of course, the dominant news of that era was the peaking American involvement in Vietnam. I saw the pictures. I read the articles. I actually paid attention to the news each day: the war, the protests, the  assassination(s), the corrupt political opacity, and all the other parts of that big mess. There, for all of us kids to absorb. …And we did.

Despite the news, the world seemed like a fresh and wonderful place at the time. But then, Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, followed by the assassination of Robert Kennedy that summer. When I turned eleven in May 1970, the excitement of my birthday was dimmed by the horror of that day’s biggest news story: Four Dead in Ohio, gunned down by our own National Guard.

Tin soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio.
Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are gunning us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground
How can you run when you know?

Shot dead.
In the heart of America.

Forgive me, please, if these events perhaps tempered me to become too sober, too serious, even four decades later.

<< <> <<>> <> >>

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a rare man, yet he was also one of many. Not just for having been assassinated, but also for having spoken up, for having acted responsibly about the things he saw. He was a dissident voice, in the same way that Whistleblowers are a dissident voice. What made this man heroic was his resolute focus and irrepressible drive. He knew what was right, and he gave his heart and soul to spreading the word, speaking to make things right. Just as true Whistleblowers do.

Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his dream. He did not just call for racial harmony and justice; he also called for “…the crooked places to be made straight.” He prayed that, someday, the forces of hate and greed and power-lust would diminish, and the waters would part, revealing a land where all can prosper. All of his words live on, as a dream, though clearly not yet fulfilled.

We Whistleblowers also have a dream. That, someday, agencies like the FAA will shed their corrupt habits of opacity, deception and concealment and let the glorious and transparent light shine in. That, someday, our grandchildren may live in the great land this could have been, where truth and honesty and accountability are a proud and sustaining heritage. Someday.

We all have a dream. Thank you, MLK Jr., for fighting for yours.

Our Addiction to Carbon

Michael Klare has written an Op-Ed at TomDispatch, titled ‘Carbon Delirium’. NationOfChange.org does a great job posting content like this everyday. Aviation is an extremely fuel-intensive activity, and as such, aviation will be VERY impacted as we try to wean off of carbon addiction.

Here are a few lines from Mr. Klare’s closing paragraphs:

“…In the U.S., addiction to carbon is present at all levels of society….”

“…Overcoming individual addiction to narcotic substances is never an easy task; resisting our addiction to carbon will prove no easier. However, the sooner we recast the climate issue as a public health problem, akin to drug addiction, the sooner we will be able to fashion effective strategies for averting its worst effects. This means, for example, providing programs and incentives for those of us who seek to reduce our reliance on petroleum, and imposing penalties on those who resist such a transition or actively promote addiction to fossil fuels….”

“…a more far-ranging kind of carbon detoxification must come in time. As with all addictions, the first and most crucial step is to acknowledge that our addiction to fossil fuels has reached such an advanced stage as to pose a direct danger to all humanity. If we are to have any hope of averting the worst effects of climate change, we must fashion a 12-step program for universal carbon renunciation….”

In his introduction to the ‘Carbon Delirium’ piece, Tom Engelhardt included this statement:

“…We’re burning fossil fuels as if — excuse the phrase — there were no tomorrow, while the Big Energy companies are finding new ways to release ever more of the ever-tougher variety of fossil fuels from their underground reserves….”

A related NationOfChange.org post is John Light’s ‘Five Key Takeaways From the Frightening IPCC Climate Change Report’.

FAA’s OPSNET data .. graph, 1990-2013

Here is a graph constructed using FAA’s OPSNET data. It shows the total number of operations (takeoffs and landings) per year, from 1990 through 2013. The trend is clearly and strongly downward.

Combined FAA & Contract Tower Ops, 1990-2013

The Military component has been steady (see the red line, at bottom).

The Operations Network (OPSNET) is the official source of NAS air traffic operations and delay data. The data collected through OPSNET is used to analyze the performance of the FAA’s air traffic control facilities.

The data sent daily to OPSNET can be viewed on the FAA Operations & Performance Data Web site.

The Commercial component has been in decline (see the three blue lines). Note that there was a surge in smaller commuter planes (Air Taxi) peaking around 2004-05, with the explosion of feeders doing contract flying for the airlines. Since those peak years, though, the smaller planes are in decline, and commercial flights are being taken over by larger planes (Air Carriers).

The General Aviation component has seen a sharp and steady decline. Likely, an in depth analysis would reveal that high-end business/corporate flying and helicopter activity are increasing, while all other GA activities are simply dying. The reasons for the decline in recreational GA? Likely, due to high fuel costs and lower per capita discretionary income, and due to reduced interest (pilots are finding other, non-aviation activities to pursue). Also, it may be due to lack of aggressive promotion by FAA and others; i.e., whereas FAA and NASA did a lot to artificially promote GA in the 1990′s, we are now at the bottom of that promotional cycle.

Wholesale Slaughter of Wildlife Near Airports: is there a better way?

A news article in the Star-Ledger details the ineffectiveness of wildlife control measures at the Newark and other New Jersey airports managed by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ). Specifically, after the USAir bird-strike crash in the Hudson in 2009, roughly 6,000 birds have been killed, yet the data shows no improvement in the number of birdstrikes.

In at least one regard, the increased effort to kill wildlife should not be expected to reduce incidents like USAir 1549. Why not? Because Captain Sullenberger’s successful ditching onto shallow river waters had nothing to do with on-airport wildlife. This accident was caused when Sully’s Airbus collided with a flock of geese far from the airport. The NTSB report stated: “…According to FDR data, the bird encounter occurred when the airplane was at an altitude of 2,818 feet above ground level (agl) and a distance of about 4.5 miles north-northwest of the approach end of runway 22 at LGA (the departure point).”

Just as interesting as the article are the comments. It appears that, after the USAir 1549 accident, the primary reaction by FAA and airport authorities was to go high-profile on bird control. Funds were directed toward more wildlife staff on board, and toward the increased use of USDA Wildlife Services personnel at airports. A footnote within a USDA-APHIS-WS annual report on managing wildlife hazards at airports reads: “WS biologists estimated that technical or direct management assistance resulted in a reduction, suppression, or prevention of hazards from target wildlife at 409 airports in 2002, 441 airports in 2003, 479 airports in 2004, 483 in 2005, 518 in 2006, 548 in 2007, 582 in 2008, 602 in 2009, 568 in 2010, 546 in 2011, and 568 in 2012.” It is far too common for agencies with fading missions or funding difficulties to ‘collaborate’ with other agencies, and create work. In this case, likely, FAA directed more aviation revenues to stir up more work for USDA-APHIS-WS, whose jobs have become increasingly ‘endangered’ by funding reductions.

Is there a better way?

Within the Star-Ledger article comments, it is noted that there are much better solutions available, and these are actually successfully used elsewhere. For example, the use of border collies: birds hate predators, so a dog and trainer can make the airport area ‘hostile’ for birds, and they will tend to stay away. A study [PDF]  discusses successful border collie uses in Florida [KRSW] and in Delaware [KDOV].

Another control method, being successfully utilized in the Okanagan valley of southern British Columbia, is egg addling — goose populations are being controlled by simply tracking and invading goose nests during key periods of the year. A page at okanagangooseplan.com notes: “…egg addling involves shaking eggs or coating them with non-toxic biodegradable food-grade corn oil within 14 days of incubation to make them non-viable … the U.S. Humane Society supports this egg addling technique.” Seems like a sad waste of a goose, but a slightly more palatable way to target our commercial instinct for slaughtering wildlife.

We Need more ‘Accountability Journalism’ …

…and less of the prevailing ‘Access Journalism’.

An article by Robert Jensen analyzes a book written about how our journalists failed to cover the financial crisis. Mr. Jensen is a professor at the School of Journalism, University of Texas at Austin. He covered the book The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark, as written by Dean Starkman, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and current editor at the Columbia Journalism Review.

There is a lot to think about in this piece, and much of it overlaps with how (and why) FAA continues to fail. Here’s an excerpt, with a few minor changes (highlights, color) by aiREFORM…

…the core mission of journalism is built around the Great Story “that holds power to account and explains complex problems to a mass audience, connects one segment of society to another.” This kind of journalism, he (Starkman) writes, “is also the one reliable, indispensable barometer for the health of the news, the great bullshit detector.”

Holding power to account and detecting bullshit are certainly admirable goals, and Starkman correctly points out that journalists who practice what he calls “access journalism” are unlikely to achieve them. Access journalists, as the label suggests, play the insider game and cultivate access to powerful sources. At best, access journalism can give ordinary people a glimpse of what happens behind closed doors, but on terms set by those who close the doors.

Starkman makes the case for the necessity of “accountability journalism” in the muckraking mode that is confrontational and accusatory, and that “provokes the enmity of the rich and powerful as a matter of course.” The access and accountability schools, he writes, “represent radically [emphasis added] different understandings of what journalism is [emphasis in the text] and whom it should serve.”

The book’s thesis, simply put, is that the news media’s poor performance during the financial crisis can be explained by the prominence of Access Journalism and the lack of hard-hitting Accountability Journalism. Here’s Starkman’s summary of these two styles:

Access Reporting tends to talk to elites. Accountability Reporting tends to talk to dissidents.
Access writes about specialized topics for a niche audience. Accountability writes about general topics for a mass audience.
Access tends to transmit
orthodox views.
Accountability tends to transmit heterodox views.
Access reporting is functional. Accountability Reporting is moralistic.
In business news, Access Reporting focuses on investor interests. In business news, Accountability Reporting focuses on the public interest.

An Overview of the Data presented within the aiREFORM.com State Airports Lists

In early 2013, during the first round of FAA/ATC sequestration threats, the entire Public (both individuals and the media) was left scrambling, trying to figure out which airports might be impacted. FAA and NATCA were preaching doom and gloom, but the Public questions produced few solid answers. In fact, the most obvious answer was that there existed no solid database showing the entirety of U.S. controlled airports. Nor was there an easy way to compare two different airports, in terms of operations per day, based aircraft, how many controllers, operating costs, or AIP annual subsidy amounts. Lacking this data, concerned citizens were denied a chance to help FAA figure out how to better spend its diminishing financial resources.

The aiREFORM.com ‘State Airports Lists’ webpages aim to correct this problem. These pages were created in early 2014, and present data for roughly 800 different U.S. airports … which is just a fraction of the thousands of U.S. airports. Within each state list, the airports are presented in a descending order – from busiest to slowest.

The sample page presented below (for the airport at Bellingham, WA) identifies nine sections, marked ‘A’ through ‘I’. A key then follows, explaining content and data sources for all data.

  • Airport
    The airport’s official name, location, and total acreage. Acreage is an important data point and fundamental aviation impact, as it reflects the taking of land away from other, potentially more beneficial uses. [Source: Form 5010's, submitted by airport operators]
  • Four Nearest Airports:
    The four closest airports with published instrument procedures are presented, including their direction and distance. All four airport codes are linked to AirNav.com pages showing further airport information. The ‘average distance’ reflects close or distant proximity to other well-developed airports. [Source: compiled from AirNav.com data]
  • Based Aircraft:
    The TOTAL number of based aircraft is presented, followed by numbers of single-props, multi-props, jets, helicopters, military, and personal/recreational aircraft (gliders & ultralights). [Source: Form 5010's, submitted by airport operators]
  • ATADS trends:
    FAA uses ‘Air Traffic Activity Database System’ (ATADS) to compile operational statistics for hundreds of airports, including most airports with control towers. All ATADS data from 1990 forward was collected and processed, to identify the peak traffic year. The data is presented here, showing trends for 2012 vs. 2007, vs. 2000, and vs. the peak year for each tracked airport. [Source: FAA's ATADS data]
  • Operations per Day:
    An average operations per day is calculated, with one count representing one takeoff or one landing. Also included is the local operations percentage (when the local operations are at least 34% of total operations), and enplanements (for CY2012, where compiled by FAA). [Source: Form 5010's, submitted by airport operators]
  • Control Tower status:
    Control tower hours of operation are listed, showing the average hours/day the tower is open. Control towers are also color-coded with a heavy border: FAA towers (orange), Contract towers (green), and military towers (blue). Airports without control towers have a thin, subdued border. Tower staffing is also presented; FAA towers show staffing numbers as of 9/24/11, while most Contract Towers have from 5- to 8- controllers. [SOURCE: FAA's 'Controller Workforce Plan'; Contract Tower Association's 'Annual Report']
  • AIP funding data:
    Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds were compiled for the years 2010 through 2013. The average annual AIP subsidy is presented for selected airports, including all airports with an average subsidy exceeding $250,000 per year. This figure is then divided by annual operations to produce an estimated ‘Annual Subsidy per Airport Operation’ (in red). All AIP subsidies above $5 per operation are presented. [SOURCE: FAA's AIP annual summary reports]
  • Airport Diagram:
    FAA has created Airport Diagrams for hundreds of airports. Many of these were downloaded from FAA, then uploaded to aiREFORM.com for use in the Airport Lists. Click on the Airport Diagram tile to view the jpeg file. [Source: 'Digital Products' at FAA.gov', copied winter 2014]
  • Links:
    Airports with a history of aviation impacts may have a link to an aiREFORM.com webpage, with further airport/impact information. These links will be added as the new pages are created. Four other useful links include:
    • click on the VFR map tile (top right corner) to open a full-window, scrollable map centered on the airport, provided by VFRmap.com;
    • a link to the airport’s page at Wikipedia;
    • a link to the airport’s page at FlightRadar24.com. Note: this website does not include webpages for the lesser airports; that data can normally be viewed at FlightStats.com.
    • and, a link to the airport’s ‘Arrivals’ page at FlightStats.com.

Finally, a bar with links to each of the State Airport Lists is provided at the top and bottom of all List pages.