Santa Monica City Council Votes Unanimously to Close Airport ASAP

“…Through our unanimous vote tonight, the Council demonstrated our commitment to stop the harmful impacts the Airport has on our community. Transitioning our land into a ‘great-park’ is the single most transformative action this Council can take. The land needs to be transformed from a source of pollution and potential danger, into a community asset….”

– Mayor Tony Vazquez

Here’s the full news release, and the source: KSMO.20160824.. 'Santa Monica City Council Votes to Close Airport' (City of Santa Monica news release)

Nine Recent Skydiving Fatalities … Is FAA Taking Any Action?

It seems as if, even when the safety failures result in fatalities, FAA stands back and takes no action. Where aviation money is being made: “The Show Must Go on!”

(click on image to view CBS News video)

Jumps continued despite the fatal accident. Owner Bill Dause said he sympathized but it was just an accident. (click on image to view CBS News video)

Nine have died in four recent fatal accidents related to skydiving operations (links below lead to archived PDF copies of news articles, at pages 2 thru 5 of this Post):

  1. Monday, May 23rd, at Kauai, HI [PHPA]: five died, including two tandem ‘students’ when the jump plane crashed on takeoff
  2. Sunday, June 6th, at Chester, SC [KDCM]: a 32-yr-old man was killed
  3. Sunday, July 24th, at Cushing, OK [KCUH]: a 26-yr-old woman was killed
  4. Saturday, August 6th, at Acampo, CA, [1O3] near Lodi: an uncertified tandem ‘instructor’ from South Korea (age 25) and his 18-yr-old male ‘student’ were killed.

The circumstances around the Acampo double-fatal accident are particularly disturbing. There, a mother of a recent high school graduate who was soon to start college paid $175 for a tandem jump to reward her son. He and a friend viewed part-way through a so-called ‘training video’, then were rushed into gear and onto a flight for their tandem jumps. Neither the main parachute nor the backup parachute deployed for the accident tandem pair. Amazingly, the aircraft continued to load and drop jumpers; the show went on and no action was taken to protect others from the unknown cause.

FAA’s ‘oversight’ of skydiving is at a long arm’s-length. In this and many other aviation activities, FAA only pretends to regulate, and delegates all responsibilities to a private group, in this case to the U.S. Parachute Association. Hence, in the case of the Skydive Lodi Parachute Center double-fatal accident, both FAA and USPA are said to be ‘investigating’, but only USPA has taken any certificate action: they suspended Bill Dause, the owner, which prevents him from ‘instructing’, but allows the main-moneymaker tandem operations to continue. News articles indicate there was another fatal accident by the same outfit earlier this year, and the articles also indicate Mr. Dause’s operation had been investigated and fines proposed repeatedly by FAA. Now we have a double-fatal, yet FAA has still not taken action to shut down the operation.

As one reader emailed: “I think that part of the problem is that “Bucket-list” type movies are promoting more one-time experiences with skydiving. Our thrill-seeking hedonistic culture treats business as a religion that somehow has the inherent right to trash the environment without personal accountability. And add to that, both the FAA and the USPA have a vested interest in seeing the number of skydivers go up and up.”

Mora, MN: FAA Wasting Millions to Add a Crosswind Runway Through a Wetland & Wildlife Area

Here are some facts about one of the most egregious examples of FAA working to force an unneeded runway onto a local community – a case that even went all the way to the use of eminent domain to force landowners to sell their property:

  1. It is a common practice across the nation that FAA and the agents hired to develop and gain approval for airport improvements will repeatedly fudge the data, offering fictitious and unsupportable ‘estimates’ and projections. That has again happened in this case, for the Mora airport.KJMR.20160521.. crop of 'swans lifting off, crosswind RWY proposal area'
  2. FAA claims this airport averages 15,000 operations per year (20 landings per day), but FAA has no solid evidence to back this up. In fact, locals, including many pilots opposed to this proposal, believe the real activity level averages closer to 5 landings per day.
  3. This project would not even be contemplated if not for FAA offering an incentive in generous federal grants (derived mostly from airline passenger taxes) to enable local officials to look and feel productive.
  4. The proposed runway requires substantial grading and fill across an area of ponds and wetlands. This area is commonly inundated with thousands of geese, swans and other large birds.
  5. The wetlands are also a rare habitat for an endangered tree species, the Butternut. These trees will be destroyed during the grading, and future trees will be destroyed as part of a wildlife hazard management plan.
  6. There was an apparent conflict of interest in the last round of construction contracts at this airport. Historically, most of the FAA grants have been awarded to SEH Engineering, a firm that also handles many other contracts in Mora and other Minnesota communities. One of the SEH employees who most often negotiates plans with FAA and advises the city on those plans is a Mr. Joel Dresel. In late 2007, when the primary runway was extended another 800-feet to the current 4,800-ft length, the Mora City Council approved three payments totaling $1.5 Million; the recipient was ‘Dresel Contracting, Inc.’ (see pages 7-8 of this PDF compilation of Mora City Council minutes). Clearly, a contractor who stands to win contracts cannot be objective and should NOT be guiding an environmental review process.
  7. If FAA would be flexible, they could choose to forgive the City’s obligation to build this crosswind runway (perhaps with encouragement from elected officials such as Senators Franken and Klobuchar). In so doing, FAA would simply and reasonably justify that the roughly $100,000 spent was lost due to the decline in general aviation activity these past ten years, as well as the overall economic bust of 2008.

KJMR.20160622.. 'Plan view showing grading limits, mounds, butternut trees' (SEH Engineering, 'p.74 of Written Re-Evaluation of the 2004 EA)

(a page from the 2016 update of the 2004 Environmental Assessment, showing grading limits, a potential archaeological mound, and endangered butternut tree locations.)


KJMR.aerial view of airport, from Minnesota Airport Directory & Travel Guide, markedup
The following pages offer an extensive collection of documents and images (photos, maps, satellite views, etc.) covering roughly two decades of aviation impact activism at this quiet rural community.

pg.2: Document Archives [KJMR]
pg.3: Images [KJMR]

Debunking the Latest ATC-Privatization & NextGen Spin, this time by Economist.com

The members of the Av-Gov Complex just will not give up. And who is the Av-Gov Complex? The congressional committee leaders, the FAA officials, the lobbyists, the airlines, the unions, and the manufacturers. And, the media that is always happy to create ‘news stories’ that help to nudge the public toward demanding the latest wasteful schemes, NextGen and ATC privatization.

20160210.. Shuster looks & acts a lot like 'Peter Griffin' on Family Guy

The key Congressional proponent of AIRR is Bill Shuster. He chairs the Committee where he introduced AIRR; he also has both professional and personal relationships with top Airlines for America  officials, including both A4A CEO Nick Calio and  A4A VP of Government Affairs Shelley Rubino. a lobbyist known to be his girlfriend.

The AIRR proposal and NextGen funding are wrong and wasteful, yet the Av-Gov players continue to try and sell AIRR. They continue to wastefully spend aviation taxes, excess airline profits, and scarce Congressional time and energy.  As a result, Congress continues to fail to serve, and is not solving other more critical problems while wasting our money.

Just as the WikiLeaks emails showed how DNC ‘collaborated’ with the mainstream media to suppress the Bernie Sanders campaign and guarantee the election of the establishment’s choice (the amazingly flawed candidate, Hillary Clinton), so too the Av-Gov Complex players are getting help from our news sources. This time they have gone international, to the well-respected Economist magazine. Sadly, Economist has produced a story loaded with utterly false and misleading content. The article is below, with footnote rebuttals by aiREFORM.com. And, links to other Posts and materials are included at the bottom of this Post.

We need to be done with these two terrible ideas. NextGen and ATC Privatization are wasteful deadends that offer no substantial solutions and in fact create larger problems (especially the privatization plan). They are being offered solely to feather the nests of the Av-Gov Complex players, and to further diminish accountability by U.S. aviation regulators and the ATC system.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.


See also:

Think Tanks are Just Lobbyists

20160807at0505.. DC Think Tanks as corporate propagandists (L.Fang tweet re NYT article)

(click on image to read article at New York Times)

Interesting article by Eric Lipton & Brooke Williams, at The New York Times. Read it at NYTimes (click above) or via the PDF copy below. It lays bare the reality that nonprofit ‘think tanks’ are really just paid propagandists serving money interests. Not that different from what we are seeing with the mainstream media, in the presidential campaign: the entire process is of, by and for the MONEY.

And, the same is happening in aviation. Much of the continuing NextGen sales pitch is provided by lobbyists and think tanks that echo each other (they call it ‘collaboration’), always offering rosy pictures of economic growth and ‘jobs’, while consistently ignoring the noise and air quality impacts beneath newly concentrated NextGen departure and arrival tracks.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

Whether it is a captured agency like FAA, a power-hungry presidential candidate like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, or a multinational corporation seeking influence in Washington, the corruption model is very clear in 2016. Here is how these critters ‘get-rich-quick’ today:

  1. identify a public revenue trough (the premier aviation example is the billions collected each year on airline passenger and air cargo taxes);
  2. form one or more crony-partnerships, joining both private citizens and public officials; this includes making payments to PACs and candidates, to fund reelections in exchange for future paybacks on corporate-friendly legislation;
  3. conceive a scheme that requires a large influx of money with an outcome that can be spun as a ‘win-win’ for the partners and the people; notably, the spin does not have to be truthful or verifiable… just say anything you think may help sell the scheme;
  4. enlist the services of lobbyists & think tanks who, for a fee, will gladly promote the scheme using the same old money-centric bullshit sales pitches: it’ll generate jobs, it’ll fire up the economy, it’ll give us a competitive advantage over the world (especially over China), etc.; in the process, create the illusion that there is a wide base of support;
  5. flood the media outlets (not hard to do: mainstream media does anything and everything, so long as they are paid) with a tidal wave promoting the scheme, while also carefully undermining and discrediting any opposition that might emerge;
  6. rinse and repeat (in all cases, the best schemes come in multiple phases, and allow for future redesigns to perpetuate the funding).

This process is guaranteed to widen the wealth gap, flowing assets from the masses to an elite few. This process is strongly anti-democratic and fully corrupt, but that’s OK; it works for the few who are sick enough to initiate and participate in these schemes, and they are the ones running our government.

Update: The Fight for Local Control (and eventual closure?) of the Santa Monica Airport [KSMO]

The level of organization in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport in Santa Monica continues to be impressive. This is not surprising, though, as the fight for local control over their local airport has been going on for more than THREE DECADES! The latest progress includes a push for the City Council to “…close the Santa Monica Airport to aviation use, as soon as that is legally permitted with a goal of June 30, 2018 and earlier if possible….” In support, a local Facebook group, SMOfuture, has created an 18-page factual summary of airport data that supports the closure proposal (a scrollable PDF copy is viewable at the bottom of this Post).

Take a look at the graphs in the report. There has been a lot of change in three decades. Some of the original impacts have all but disappeared. The main remaining airport impacts are the most severe, and are caused primarily by air charter jets and flight training pattern work. The flights that create the worst pollution – including added pollution at LAX due to delays – are the IFR departures. These are commonly charter jets and business jets, frequently carrying only one or two passengers. Each of these flights creates an enormous carbon impact per passenger mile, all for the ‘convenience’ of that small passenger load.

None of this is necessary, and KSMO offers no tangible benefits to the larger ‘National Airspace System’ (NAS). If an airport closure happened, flights using Santa Monica Airport would easily be absorbed at LAX, Burbank, Van Nuys and Hawthorne. The capacity at these other airports is far beyond the current usage. Indeed, as shown in the scrollable PDF below, everything has declined substantially at all Southern California airports, with the vast majority of airports seeing declines between 40% and 60%! The declining parameters include number of based aircraft, number of pilots, and number of operations per day. The only ‘growth’ at KSMO is in commercial flights, for air charter.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.


That these health impacts and other problems persist is testimony to how entrenched FAA is, in a position that consistently protects elite airport interests, delaying any and all meaningful action. At this and other airports across then nation, locals are disgusted at this ongoing FAA failure. Adding insult to injury, the bulk of this poor performance by FAA is done using the Peoples’ money, primarily from airline passenger taxes.

See also:
  • SMO Future – a Facebook group, advocating to reduce airport pollution, noise, dangers, and costs, and seeking a better future use of the airport land.

The Need for Reform: It Goes WAY BEYOND Just FAA & the Av-Gov Complex!

This website was started with the intent to empower individual citizens. Simply, I aimed to research and share content that would assist and inform concerned citizens, so they could be as effective as possible in unspinning the spin put forth by FAA and the industry, aka ‘the Av-Gov Complex’. Well, it turns out, when you get deep into assessing and explaining the massive (and growing) failures at FAA, you keep coming back to three root causes:

  1. money: Congress has legislated an enormous slush fund for FAA; billions are routinely taxed and spent each year, not so much for needed aviation infrastructure and programs, but to bolster reelections of those same elected reps.
  2. unaccountability: not just at FAA, but at Congress, too; indeed, it is like a dance, with each party routinely triangulating blame onto the other party, so neither is held accountable for the growing waste and other failures.
  3. lack of transparency: Congress legislated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with hearty debate, and it was passed and signed into law fifty years ago, in 1966; ever since, there has been a steady erosion of our rights to see the inside workings of our government agencies and officials (frankly, in my opinion, the Clinton private server debacle is a CLASSIC example of a FOIA-dodge enabled even by the President, in his refusal to demand an immediate investigation and report).

For the record (not that that matters, coming from this ONE small voice), I am all for what Bernie Sanders represents. I see him as a dyed-in-the-wool whistleblower, just like myself: an individual who speaks truth to power, even knowing the pain and retaliation it will generate. For example, isn’t it a shame that, with hundreds of people in the U.S. Department of State reading emails sent from an ‘@Clinton.com’ private server address, not a single person spoke truth to power about the risk and the FOIA-dodge? Why no whistleblowers? Because they are terrified of the retaliatory pain upon their families that is guaranteed in our current work culture.

For true whistleblowers, their motivation is not immediate and self-serving; their vision is longer, and their personal responsibilities are heavier; it is simply not acceptable to be quiet and enable the expansion of failures and corruption. In aviation, as in the whole political system, expanding failure/corruption will eventually produce fraud and waste … and fatalities.

Anyway, the more I research the candidates and the issues this cycle, the more I can see how clearly the ‘mainstream candidates’ (Clinton and Trump) will only further sustain the failures at FAA. But, I am also discovering that, in the Bernie Sanders campaign, there is a huge groundswell of people who care deeply, with a clear focus on reform. So, on the next page I have compiled a list, as a resource with links to aid in researching, so you can see and hear these voices for change.

I Hope you all will spend some time – and an open mind – hearing what these engaged citizens have to say. And it goes without saying: please vote, make sure your vote matters, and encourage everyone you know to do the same.


UPDATED 7/2/2016

Two great and hard-hitting videos by Lee Camp. The other is at this link.

The Wasteful Joke That is FAA’s NextGen

Image

This simulated interview (plausibly, with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta) is non-stop funny, yet painfully too true in exposing FAA’s NextGen fraud.

Click here to open a PDF copy of the transcript in a separate window. Also, thanks to GolfHotelWhiskey and John Ewing of Aviation Mentor for sharing this online!!