NextGen in Phoenix: ‘And the Beat Goes On’

Readers can judge for themselves, just how unwilling FAA is to fix the mess they made when they flipped the switch on NextGen departure procedures, nearly eight months ago, on September 18th.

Take a little time and read this pair of letters, presented as PDF files in two scrollable windows. The first is FAA’s 4/14/2015 letter to leaders of Phoenix, signed by FAA’s Regional Administrator Glen Martin. The second is the City’s 4/24/2015 response letter, responding to Mr. Martin, and also summarizing the difficult history of this mess, signed by City Manager Ed Zuercher.

NextGen Derailed: Here is What NextGen was SUPPOSED to be in late 2004

Sometimes, when a program is failing to meet targets, it is a good idea to pause and evaluate the history. For NextGen, a good question is: What was the original expectation, and how has that evolved over time?

Taking just a few minutes to research this question, it quickly becomes clear that FAA has spent a lot of time and money ‘selling’ NextGen, and one unfortunate element of that sales job has been to sacrifice local airport environment to gain needed ‘stakeholder’ support from the airlines. I.e., FAA has thrown away residential quality of life near major airports in Phoenix, Boston, New York, Charlotte and elsewhere, by knowingly ignoring obvious adverse noise impacts. They are giving the airlines what they want (slightly shorter flights) via very concentrated NextGen departure routes with early turns.

The extent of FAA’s NextGen failure will eventually become clear, supplanting the positive spin that FAA, NATCA, A4A and other so-called ‘collaborating stakeholders’ have carefully delivered since 2003. In time, it will become clear that certain human habits and political realities are behind the REAL NextGen, including:

  • FAA has a very long history of collecting airline passenger fees and applying these taxes to perpetually upgrade ATC equipment. Similar to the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned about. Every year, hundreds of millions are spent on new contracts for hardware, software and services.
  • FAA and the handful of firms who win FAA’s contracts are strongly motivated to impose new programs, simply because they want the money. They have zero incentive for cost savings, because their paychecks are directly connected to the NextGen program. The bigger the program, the bigger the individual paycheck.
  • NextGen Benefits will be (and have been) grossly exaggerated; NextGen costs and deficiencies will be (and have been) routinely understated and/or concealed.
  • It is irresponsible, disingenuous,  and absolutely ludicrous for FAA to encourage the media to paint a picture of an archaic ATC system in desperate need of an upgrade.
  • DON’T BLAME CONGRESS  for the FAA-related legislation they pass. The precise language within NextGen legislation, such as the ambiguous Section 213 passed in early 2012, did not originate with Congress; it was pieced together by FAA and their principal clients, the airlines and manufacturers. When Congress passed the ambiguous language in 2012, FAA then chose to take full advantage of the ambiguity and misapply ‘Categorical Exclusions’ to ignore the public; i.e., it was FAA’s knowing choice to impose environmentally impactful departures, such as the MAYSA and FTHLS departures at KPHX and the TNNIS departure at KLGA.
  • DO BLAME CONGRESS for their failure to compel FAA to clean up the mess they have made with the NextGen rollouts. It appears they are too beholden to the moneyed interests that fund their reelection campaigns. Sadly, we have come to expect our elected officials fall into two groups: those who stay quiet, and those who grandstand on the issue to generate voter support. We have also come to expect that what officials say to cameras generally is not consistent with what they do out of view.
  • Follow the money and it is hard to see otherwise: our aviation system, like our political system, is broken; it primarily serves money, with generally no regard for the concerns of the average citizen.

Originally, Noise REDUCTION was Part of the NextGen Plan!

NextGen first took form in late 2003, when Congress passed the ‘Vision 100 – Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act’. At Section 709 of the legislation (see page 95 of the PDF copy), Congress ordered FAA to form the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) for NextGen implementation. Amazingly, the plan first articulated by Congress in 2003 included the environment. At paragraph (c) of Section 709, Congress listed the seven goals they expected FAA to pursue. Here is a screen capture of a portion of Section 709, with the noise impact goal highlighted: 20031212scp.. Noise reduction goal  (from Sec.7, PL 108-176)If FAA was applying Goal #7, we would not have KPHX departures inundating Grand Avenue and Laveen with noise, as they have been since September 18th. Nor would we have the TNNIS departure being used so destructively off of La Guardia. But we do have these impacts, and FAA plans more.

NextGen Technologies go Back 40+ Years

Instead of honoring the intent Congress had stated in Goal #7, FAA is doubling down with their spin job. They, and the other stakeholders, carefully coordinate their statements to dupe the larger public into believing that NextGen is transformational, a collection of amazing and new technologies.

It is important to understand that these satellite positioning technologies have actually been around for a long time. The U.S. GPS system dates back to the 1970’s for military use, but was made available for civilian use in 1995. It was eight years later (in 2003) that FAA got Congress to initiate NextGen, and another eight years later (in early 2012) that FAA got Congress to accelerate implementation of their ‘new’ NextGen plan, with ambiguous language that FAA then used to bypass environmental review.

And, yes, all of that legislation was drafted by FAA, principally to serve the industry players, especially the airlines and the avionics manufacturers.

12/12/2004: The First NextGen Report

One of the other actions Congress ordered in late 2003 was for FAA to report back “…not later than one year after the date of enactment of the Act.” Exactly one year after enactment, on 12/12/2004, FAA published a 41-page paper, JPDO’s ‘Next Generation Air Transportation System Integrated Plan’. The report includes more than a dozen references to managing noise. Here is a link to a PDF copy; to aid in an efficient review, yellow highlighting has been added to all references to ‘Noise’.

And, here is a screen-cap of the ‘abstract’ of JPDO’s ‘Next Generation Air Transportation System Integrated Plan’. The text was essentially extracted from the ‘Executive Summary’ (see pages 4-5 of the PDF copy).

Abstract : The United States has been at the forefront of aviation since the day the Wright Flyer made its historic 12-second flight. Since then, Americans have become the most mobile society on Earth. Imagine, though, what would happen to our economy and quality of life if we could no longer depend on air transportation for overnight delivery or we could no longer depend on arriving when we need to arrive? The U.S. air transportation system as we know it is under stress. The demand for air transportation**This was written at the end of 2004. Ten years later, at the end of 2014, total scheduled commercial domestic passenger departures have been steadily declining year after year, and are down 19% since 2004. is outpacing our ability to increase capacity in our airports. Operating and maintenance costs of the air traffic system are outpacing revenues and the air carrier industry is going through significant change. The terrible events of September 11, 2001, radically altered our country and they exposed a new impediment to the future of the air transportation industry. New security requirements are significantly impacting costs and the ability to efficiently move people and cargo. In addition, the growth in air transportation has provoked community concerns over aircraft noise, pollution, and congestion that affect our ability to respond adequately or rapidly enough to our changing world. Now imagine an alternative world where a traveler or shipper determines departure and arrival times instead of being confined to a predetermined schedule. Imagine a hassle-free travel experience where safety and security measures, ticketing, and baggage checks are all transparent as the traveler or package moves easily through the airport and on and off the aircraft. Think of the possibilities if owning a recreational plane, micro-jet, or a share of a jet capable of flying in nearly all weather conditions were affordable to more Americans. Imagine improved individual and community quality of life in a world with less aircraft noise and emissions pollution, even as significant increases in air transportation occur.

See also:

¡¿Happy Earth Day, Mr. Huerta?!

20150422scp.. FAA's 'Happy Earth Day' FB text20150422.. FAA sunset pic, poster image from their Earth Day 2015 Facebook PostThis is what FAA posted on the FAA Facebook site, on Wednesday morning. And they clearly want ALL OF US to celebrate with them, from Phoenix to Flushing, and from Charlotte to Chicago. Take a close look at the small text above, in the glorious picture with no airplanes (hence, the glory); FAA wants everyone to believe, “NextGen routes ease aviation’s burden on the environment….”

NextGen and EarthDay2015. Like two peas in a pod…

…¡¡¿¿Are you kidding me??!!

Hey, I forgot, too. The world has been looking a lot less beautiful in recent years. In fact, on that morning, my distraction was studying noise impacts created by focused NextGen tracks, trying to figure out how to get a certain three-letter aviation authority to clean up their mess. It was only when FAA sent out their disingenuous propaganda-piece that I remembered, ‘…hey, today is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day!’

Some of us might easily have been distracted watching the new record levels of atmospheric CO2 or the accelerating polar ice melt that appears to be closely tied to our weird winter weather. And, no doubt, if we live in one of the NextGen launch communities, perhaps we were too busy testifying (again!) before our local City Council, hoping – even praying – we could get relief from NextGen noise.

A lot of us probably forgot. But, thank you FAA, for reminding us. Oh, and by the way, we posted many comments onto your Facebook page (a copy has been saved at page two of this aiREFORM Post). Here is one of the comments:

“What a farce NextGen is: Lies and deceit; Environmental “reviews” with no basis in facts; The ruination of quiet neighborhoods; Destruction of property values without any compensation.
It’s Federal government bullying at its worst, and they claim to be celebrating Earth Day? George Orwell could not have written such a scenario.”

 

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

Administrator Huerta, your agency’s PR branch will likely tell you the comments are all ‘thank you notes’, but you might want to read them yourself. They are overwhelmingly opposed to what your agency is doing. And they find your NextGen greenwashing to be absolutely despicable. Why? Well, put it all into perspective.

Earth Day started in 1970 because people were fed up with the trends toward environmental destruction, largely accelerated by greed and indifference. And it wasn’t about aesthetics; it was about health. Essentially, the people demanded effective regulations, and they also demanded to be meaningfully involved in a transparent democratic process.

What FAA did in 2014, with the CATEX applications and refusals to mitigate bad NextGen launches, is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what Earth Day represents. In early 2012, under pressure to move past years of legislative gridlock, our Congress punted; they put the decision solely on YOU. At Section 213 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, they codified that you were to make the determination as to whether or not ‘extraordinary circumstances’ would void filing of a Categorical Exclusion. Here is a screen-capture of the relevant section (with markups by aiREFORM):20120214scp.. 'expedited review' portion of Section 213, H.R. 658, 112th Congress, FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, re CATEXMost of the FAA Administrators who preceded you expended enormous effort trying to balance the profit goals of the airlines with the quality-of-life needs of the larger public. Under your helm, and particularly with your NextGen launches, this balance has been completely discarded. You (and your subordinate Regional Administrators) have failed to see the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ of the noise impacts you have imposed upon families in places like Phoenix and Flushing. FAA is failing and has become YOUR agency, because it sure as hell isn’t serving the people anymore.

Sure, the Cuyahoga River is no longer igniting, like it was before the first Earth Day in 1970, but YOU are putting the fire in our skies with your NextGen noise. YOU are destroying our quality of life, and allowing your employees to delay producing records and correcting FAA’s cronyistic actions.

Mr. Huerta, your agency appears to have lost sight of an important fact:

Aviation and the NAS should be an asset

for the whole country, not just a way for

‘the final four major airlines’

to make a profit.

Too many in your organization are failing to serve the whole public. Our aviation system needs to be deliberately and equitably managed.

A year from now, if you (or your successor) want to make a similar ‘Happy Earth Day!’ post, you may want to show that you mean it. Starting today, you might want to put the environment and quality-of-life front and center, to reform your agency and serve the larger public.

¡¡Happy Earth Day, Mr. Huerta!!

Rocky Mountain Loud: Skydiving Noise Impacts near Longmont, Colorado

20150421cpy.. Flatirons Boulder picThe Front Range west of Denver offers spectacular vistas, like the Flatirons shown above, just south of Boulder. Ample sunshine makes it a natural for people to be outside. Many are drawn here for the opportunity to have an active and outdoor lifestyle. But, due to lack of effective FAA regulation, what might have been John Denver’s ‘Rocky Mountain High‘ has instead become a noise nightmare reminiscent of Jack Nicholson in ‘The Shining’. Repetitive noise, just like intense silence, drives people crazy.

Northeast of Boulder an outfit called ‘Mile-Hi Skydiving’ has been impacting quality of life around Longmont since the mid-1990’s. It is a classic example of the skydiving impacts that FAA refuses to address, just like happens in hundreds of rural areas around the country. Typically, these outfits set up business just outside large urban centers. In Portland, OR, for example, a skydive company intensively advertises on busses and bus shelters to draw customers out to Molalla. A few city-dwellers then drive out to the country and pay for a cheap thrill ride, oblivious to the fact they are destroying the country lifestyle below. The flights are under the south arrival corridor into [KPDX], so way back in 1991, FAA officials coordinated with the operator to do their climbs about 8-miles to the northeast of their airport [OL05]. Most people in that area are unaware of why they are subjected to so much airplane noise, particularly intense on weekends and nice summer days.

The Skydiving Business Model

'Here's Johnny!' J.Nicholson pic in The Shining

“Here’s Johnny!”

Jack would understand: this is a business, aimed at making a profit. Mile-Hi flies large and noisy aircraft up and down, up and down, all day long. To maximize profits, they select aircraft for maximum climb rate. If a particular engine or propeller design/setting increases the climb rate, they use it, with zero regard for the noise level. If a noisier climb takes only 12-minutes but a quieter climb takes 15-minutes, most skydiving outfits will opt for the noisier climb to save 3 minutes (and thus add a few more flights per day). Commonly, with skydive operations, they hire pilots on the cheap, which is easy to do since FAA and the industry have worked together for decades to ensure there is a large pool of eager, low-hour pilots. They need to build up hours before airlines will hire them. So, when a company like Mile-Hi offers a $199 cash price for tandem jumps (the kind where you are strapped to a so-called ‘instructor’ for your one-time lesson thrill-ride), their profit margin is enormous. Which makes it all the more puzzling why local airports often charge very little (or even nothing) to set up at fields like Vance Brand Airport [KLMO], in Longmont. (see the pink circle below)20150424cpy.. VFR chart vicinity [KLMO]

As a business, they take a fee from each skydiver, to add to their company profit. But that is not the only ‘taking’. They also take peace and quiet from thousands of local residents who must endure the low-frequency reverberating drone that destroys their summer days. Worse yet, the impacts also happen for hours and even full days in the other seasons, for year-round operators like Mile-Hi. The local residents lose quality of life; they get no compensation for their loss. They can complain to FAA, who will routinely tell them to take it up with the business or airport. They can complain to the business or airport, who will tell them the program is ‘FAA compliant’ and refer them back to the FAA with their complaint. The citizens face a black hole where neither operators nor FAA officials are held accountable; thus, real citizens effectively have no rights to resolve an adverse impact that FAA condones.

The Civil Action

20150421scp.. portion of homepage, citizensforquietskies.org

(click on image to view the Citizens for Quiet Skies website homepage)

The matter has irritated local residents so much that they filed a lawsuit. A group called Citizens for Quiet Skies gradually formed, and in late 2013 the group and seven individuals filed a lawsuit (Case# 2013CV031563) at the U.S. District Court in Boulder, CO. A 5-day trial was held last week. District Court Judge Judith LaBuda plans to do a site visit on May 1st, before issuing her ruling.

The group raised funds to cover their legal expenses, and some incurred personal debt. Of course, people should not have to take on personal debt to right a wrong, and they would not have to if FAA would properly apply environmental considerations to regulate operations like Mile-Hi Skydiving. Nor should people have to endure harassment by aviation companies or even by aviators in flight. In May 2012, Mile-Hi sent Kimberly Gibbs a letter, with a “Have a Great Summer!” poster, as well as a bumper sticker that read ‘I love airplane noise!’. Weeks later, there was the Memorial Day family gathering in the backyard, when a helicopter suddenly appeared over the treetops and hovered at less than 200-feet altitude. This incident is a blatantly serious case of aviation harassment, the sort of thing FAA would aggressively act on, if they were not so in bed with the industry they fail to regulate.

Good people know right from wrong. Better people refuse to cower to bullies. The best people fight back, to not only take care of their own bad situation, but even more to protect others from future repeats of the same injustices. As Ms. Gibbs puts it, “Sometimes you have to stand up and push the bully back into the lockers.”


We should all be able to relax in our homes. With summer coming, we are entering the peak season for aviation impacts by parachute operations. If you are impacted at your residence, please contact the aiREFORM.com administrator (ReformFAAnow at Gmail dot com) to help us compile more data documenting the extent of this U.S. aviation problem.

A Closer Look at How FAA is ‘Tone-Deaf’ on NextGen Noise Impacts

It has now been more than seven months since FAA switched on the NextGen routings in the Phoenix area. Noise complaints skyrocketed immediately on September 18th, and there has been an enormous expenditure in special meetings of the City Council, committees and FAA workgroups to ‘study’ the problem, correspondence to/from FAA, etc. Lots of time and money and talk, but NO RELIEF has yet happened.

So, it is not surprising to see that Phoenix officials are extremely upset about the latest letter from FAA’s Regional Administrator, Glenn Martin, in which FAA not only refuses to correct the problem they created but ALSO insists Phoenix has not been participating in the problem-solving process. This really is an astonishing insensitivity by FAA. They did no environmental analysis, imposed hugely impactful routing changes, insist the city needs to fix their own problem … and now FAA has the audacity to claim the city has failed to “…offer its own ideas or suggestions for the FAA to consider.” Wow, FAA has grown into such a lovable kid …

In the wake of Mr. Martin’s 4/14/2015 letter, airport officials produced a new set of images, presenting radar data that precisely shows how NextGen adversely impacts the residents in the Phoenix area. This set of images also shows the general failure of NextGen. The same revised flight patterns are being applied at other airports all around the country, and with the same result: NextGen implementation is focusing noise impacts, thus diminishing quality of life for local residents. Not just at Phoenix [KPHX], but also at Charlotte [KCLT], Seattle [KSEA], Minneapolis [KMSP], Chicago [KORD], Boston [KBOS] … and the list goes on.

A Sample: How NextGen is Failing in Phoenix

Here is a cropped portion from the latest images, along with some analysis by aiReform.com, showing how NextGen is impacting the people of Phoenix:

20150418cpy.. KPHX Arrivals N side (changes due to NextGen)

Northside Arrivals to KPHX, in an East flow. Blue tracks are NextGen; purple tracks are pre-NextGen. The left side shows arrivals, and the right side shows departure route concentration.

In the image above, the pair of orange rectangles illustrates arrival route concentration. The tall orange rectangle shows the broad dispersal of pre-NextGen arrival flight paths; the short orange rectangle shows how nearly all of those flights are now pinched into a thin westbound downwind leg, midway between Indian School Road and Northern Avenue. The green rectangle shows the remaining duty of the radar controller: to issue approach clearances (and thus initiate the left turns off the westbound downwind leg), primarily between N 45th Avenue and N 91st Avenue.

Click here to see a larger analysis with more cropped images. These look at the area northwest of KPHX (for west flow departures and east flow arrivals), and at the area southwest of KPHX (for west flow departures and east flow arrivals).

So, why is NextGen failing?

Well, these new procedures have been implemented without meaningful environmental review. Lacking this review, FAA ‘collaborated’ with a biased set of ‘partners’ (the airlines and the controllers union) to implement five design elements:

  1. routes (for both arrivals and departures) are precisely focused into narrow corridors; thus, the impact that used to be dispersed over a broad area now generates a steady and repetitive stream that can be continuous for hours at a time.
  2. overall, the routes have been proceduralized in a way that minimizes ATC duties. Controllers continue to earn exceptionally high federal salaries (and pensions), but they spend an increasing amount of their job just watching and not controlling.
  3. departure turns have been tightened and are closer to the airport. A key NextGen goal (by FAA, the airlines, and the controllers’ union) was to increase departure capacity by implementing departure procedures with course divergence immediately after takeoff. This accommodates profitable ‘banking’ of flight schedules by the airlines.
  4. arrivals have been proceduralized so as to tightly fit the arrival stream under the departure stream at key design locations. An adverse consequence is that residents under these crossing locations endure intense aircraft noise all day long. The main ATC duty is reduced to calling the turn from the downwind leg.
  5. FAA and other ‘stakeholders’ are careful to not discuss the fact that controllers are adjusting arrivals upstream, with speed control and short delay vectors, to set up these proceduralized arrival streams. If the added fuel expenditures of these ATC actions were discussed, they would reveal that FAA is overselling NextGen to be far more ‘green’ than it really is.

The primary beneficiary of these five design elements are the airlines; they see very slightly shortened routes and thus fuel savings, reaping millions in profits (at the environmental expense of local residents). A secondary beneficiary is the air traffic controllers, who see immense job simplification. FAA is a beneficiary, too, in that they are serving the airlines (while ignoring their more important role of serving the larger Public).

The main problem with all of this is that FAA is leading the process in a vacuum. They are working with biased ‘stakeholders’ (the airlines and the controllers union) to produce changes that completely ignore the Public.


See also:

ANALYSIS: American Eagle ends up ‘Stuck in the Mud’ in Columbia, MO

(source: tweet by Courtny Jodon   @CourtnyKRCG13)

(source: tweet by Courtny Jodon @CourtnyKRCG13)

20150404.. KCOU mishap, left main gear in soft grassThe images indicate a simple pilot error, not unlike what can happen to us with our cars, if we misjudge our turn and sideswipe a curb or another vehicle while parking.

METAR shows winds were from the SSW at 10mph, so ATC would have issued a taxi clearance for a Runway 20 departure.

20150404scp.. KCOU mishap, RWY20 area SATview marked-up

Orange diamond shows mishap location, blocking both runways. Green curved line shows turn; green arrow was intended takeoff roll.

To get there, the pilot evidently used a short segment of Runway 13, then started a left turn to line up for the full length of Runway 20. This is good practice, as it maximizes runway length, improving the safety margin while also minimizing takeoff noise impact on nearby communities. Unfortunately for this flight crew, they misjudged the turning radius of their passenger jet; their attempt to get an extra hundred feet of takeoff distance ended up with a left main gear stuck in muddy grass. The runway is 150-feet wide, so they had plenty of room to do the turn correctly. They just turned too soon.

(click on image to view the airport webpage)

(screencap of the webpage notice by the airport authority. Click on image to view the airport webpage)

What makes this story more interesting is how the airport authority and the media whitewashed the mistake. The airport authority phrased the incident as ‘dropping a wheel’. The local media, which of course got their information from the airport authority, ran a headline that read ‘Plane slides off tarmac at Columbia Regional’. Um, nothing was dropped and nothing slid; this was a simple matter of cutting a left turn too soon, failing to account for the fact your main gear is half a plane-length behind you. As noted earlier, we do the same thing driving a car, even more likely if we are driving something long like a bus, or pulling a trailer.

The ‘Larger Story’ about KCOU

Sometimes a news story has more value for revealing a larger issue than for the minor news event itself. The news story can inadvertently shine a light into an area not thought about by the average person. This may be the case with this story.

Columbia, MO (locally known as ‘COMO’) is a progressive college town in central Missouri, home of the University of Missouri. The town’s airport is notable not just as the regional airport, but also for its extraordinary level of federal subsidy. In 2014, [KCOU] had 20,958 airport operations, thus averaged 29 takeoffs per day. ATC services are provided by a federal contract control tower, with controllers handling just two takeoffs per hour. The airport is relatively large, at 1,538 acres, and averages $2.5 million annually in FAA grant monies for maintenance and further development. Passengers (who pay the flight taxes FAA grants each year) have no choices at this airport. American Airlines is the only commercial carrier, with four total departures each day, two each feeding passengers to their super-hubs at O’Hare and DFW.

There is certainly a need for passenger air service in Columbia, MO. The airport is an asset. But, in a more rational national airspace system, this airport would not be as large as it is, nor as heavily subsidized. KCOU would be just as safe if it was much smaller (even down to just 200 acres), had no tower (saving roughly $600K/year), and received far less or even zero grant monies. The fact is, these subsidies primarily serve the industry (…just one airline (American) and one large tower contractor), the politicians (…who ‘bring home the bacon’ to get reelected), and the regulators (…especially the FAA retirees who supplement their retirement pensions by becoming ATC contractors).

Does Extreme Weather indicate Climate Change?

We are closing out the third month of 2015. In North America, California is in an extended drought, while Alaskans had to truck in snow and relocate the start of the Iditarod. Ice at the North Pole has thinned, while northeastern states have been slammed repeatedly with bitter cold and record snowfalls. Pacific Ocean temperatures off Washington are said to be seven degrees above normal, while Greenland ice melt has created a pool of cold water in the northwest Atlantic, and critical ocean currents appear to be dying. Chile is drying up, while Antarctica is setting new high temperature records and glacial melting is accelerating.

Now, here’s one more piece of evidence, as posted at Weather Underground.com:

20150331.. Super Typhoon Maysak, sat.view (source.. WxUnderground)

MODIS satellite image of Super Typhoon Maysak taken at 03:55 UTC March 31, 2015. At the time, Maysak was a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds. Image credit: NASA.

20150331.. Typhoon Maysak forecast map by JTWC

JTWC forecast map estimating a 4/5/2015 landfall in the northern Philippines.

“According to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) database, 2015 is now the only season since records began in 1945 to feature three typhoons during the first three months of the year (January, February, and March), and also the first season to have two major typhoons (Category 3 or stronger) during the first three months of the year.”

Maybe it is time we get our carbon diet under control. Travel less. Live smarter. Consume less fuel. Become more deliberate, and more concerned about the world we will leave behind for the next generation

[IMPACT]: Loud in Laveen

Check out this short video, taken in a backyard southwest of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Watch and listen as back-to-back flights demonstrate the last six months of noise impact due to FAA’s NextGen implementation.When FAA turned on NextGen at Phoenix Sky Harbor [KPHX] last September 18th, community noise complaints went through the roof.20150323cpy.. KPHX Noise complaints AUG & OCT, 2014 vs 2013 Just two complaints in August rose to nearly 500 in October! Hardest hit was the historic residential communities along Grand Avenue, to the northwest of KPHX. But the noise increases were in all quadrants, because of three problematic elements within the design of FAA’s KPHX NextGen plan:

  1. FAA set up new departure procedures that mandate pilots turn at lower altitudes, much closer to the departure points.
  2. The very design of NextGen focuses routes sharply onto thin lines. Thus, traffic that was previously dispersed over many miles of slightly randomized routes is now focused over the same house, with repetitive noise events, minute after minute after minute.
  3. Tightening the turns (closer to the airport) creates compression. Because these departures are turned closer to the airport, flights under them (such as helicopters and small GA airplanes flying through) have less space to maneuver, thus tend to fly lower to the ground and closer to impacted residences.

So, Where is Laveen?

One of the impacted communities is Laveen, to the southwest of Sky Harbor. This is an area of farmlands transitioning to residential subdivisions. Under NextGen, when KPHX is in a west flow, departures toward Texas and Florida make a left turn at 1,640 feet altitude. Similarly, other departures generally east (most from New York to Atlanta, and even a few Chicago flights) usually make left turns. The problem  is, the KPHX airport elevation is 1,135 feet; thus, FAA is directing these departures to start their turns at just 500-feet above the surface (AGL). A 500-foot AGL turn is OK in many cases, but not when it points flights toward residential areas … as it does at Laveen.

Laveen Impact (FTHLS2, KATMN2 DEP FIXES)

VFR Sectional, with the three fixes and RNAV Departure legs added by aiReform.com. The fixes are DAVZZ, VANZZ, and BUNEE.

KATMN DEP showing first three fixes (Laveen, KPHX)Prior to September 18th, these departures would turn left to heading 240, then continue straight ahead until a 9-mile fix (aka 9-DME), THEN start another left turn. With FAA’s NextGen routes, flights are lower and further east (closer to KPHX), plus they start their second (southbound) turn earlier. The RNAV departures being touted by FAA are KATMN2 and FTHLS2, and both require pilots to remain at or below 8,000 feet MSL (mean sea level) until after BUNEE. As shown at right, both of these new departures are taking off, turning direct to DAVZZ, then direct to VANZZ, and then direct to BUNEE.

The change is clearly viewable in the diagram below. The letters PHX represent the airport. The red box marks the Laveen area. Blue lines represent the old departure patterns; green lines represent the new departure patterns, under FAA’s NextGen. Notice how the green routes are thin and concentrated, versus the dispersed pattern for older blue routes. Also, in the area southwest of PHX, notice how the old 240-headings to 9-DME push the departure pattern further west (and higher) versus the new NextGen routes. The new NextGen lines are green; the new NextGen program is anything but green.20141216.. KPHX Departure Route changes (p.12 of 21p RNAV_PolicyPresentation to PHX City Council)

And why did FAA implement these changes?

Well, it is this simple. FAA collects billions of dollars each year, mostly from airline passenger taxes. They want (need?) to spend these billions each year on airport expansions and technological upgrades, to support the industry. But, the overall airline system has been downsizing for more than a decade, with far fewer flights today than during the peak years of the late 1990’s. Plus, the airlines are understandably averse to spending, especially since most airlines already have (and have been using!) the basic satellite-nav technologies to gain more direct routes and better efficiencies. FAA still wants the airlines to buy more of what they do not need, so they resisted. The airlines said ‘NO’ to FAA’s early NextGen proposals. FAA had to get the airline support, so they traded away environmental impact, granting the airlines minor fuel (and cost) savings via earlier and lower departure turns. They whitewash NextGen with a flood of distorted propaganda, suggesting the technologies are new and efficient and safer. In reality, it is all just a bad and fraudulent sales job.

In the Phoenix area and in other impacted cities (Boston, Minneapolis, Seattle…), hundreds of thousands of airport neighbors will testify to the fact:

“Hey, FAA, these NextGen departures are failing!”

 

Big Week in Santa Monica

Lots is happening in the next few days. A meeting of the Santa Monica Airport Commission (SMAC) on Monday, then a public Rally and a session of the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday.20150322.. [KSMO] busy week calendar 1-2-3

A copy of the 36-page Staff Report is viewable in the scrollable window below. Check back to this Post, as links for other resources will be added.


Links:
  • City Council HomepageThe Santa Monica City Council regularly meets at 5:30 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month in Council Chambers, located at City Hall, 1685 Main Street, Santa Monica. The City Council may hold additional special meetings, as needed.
  • July 1, 2015: Measure LC beginslatest Post by Airport2Park, a local nonprofit formed to support and promote the creation of a great park on the land that is currently Santa Monica Airport.
  • Martin Rubin’s Statement to the Santa Monica City CouncilDelivered on 3/23/2015, in preparation for the scheduled 3/24/2015 City Council meeting. Includes numerous links to supporting documents.

Harrison Ford Crashes into Santa Monica Airport Issue

A very good editorial in the Santa Monica Mirror, by columnist Steve Stajich. The kind that makes you think while also drawing at least a couple good laughs. Read the original online to also see the reader comments. The copy below can be ‘popped out’ for easy reading.