[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.

New Global Group Opposes ‘Aerotropolis Schemes’

Anyone who has been employed in aviation or studied aviation history knows that airports, airlines and manufacturers rely heavily on political support and governmental subsidy. In fact, a whole new industry has developed in recent decades to feed this relationship. Just like the scandalous ‘banksters’ who created new ways to steal money, today we have many opportunists who set up various airport schemes so they can get rich quick. They scheme to connect private money and public authority, mutually benefitting all involved parties — but, not the citizens. They dress it prettily as a ‘collaboration’. Always, the promoters are careful to present only the positive spin, while knowingly staying quiet about the negatives.

This works fine (not for us, but for the schemers) when people lack critical thinking skills, or when they are too tired (or too burned out or too busy or too distracted) to participate candidly in public decision-making. So, we are lucky that some critical thinkers care enough to speak up, and to form new groups like the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM).

Aerotropolis is the aviation equivalent of Walmart. Each new project is conceived in a boardroom, then implemented with a mountain of financing and political leverage. Sometimes, darker tactics are deployed (e.g., kickbacks, bribes, threats, etc.). Once the development is done, you have a monstrous economic engine quickly draining the life out of hundreds of older family businesses (and, often doing so while receiving huge tax waivers and other public subsidies). Sure, the new monster creates a few new jobs (after destroying more than a few old jobs), but the new jobs tend to be mostly at the lower end of the wage spectrum.

Just as with other self-serving, cronyistic adventures, with airport projects a scant few get filthy rich. And, what do the locals get?

  • it is not uncommon for tens of thousands of families to be forcibly displaced. And aviation abuses eminent domain everywhere — not just in the darker ‘less democratic’ corners of the world, but increasingly in the hollowed-democracy heartlands of even the most advanced economies.
  • farmland and natural habitat is destroyed, along with other declines in environmental quality. There is the air pollution and noise pollution that will always be associated with fossil-fuel-powered aviation (and worse yet for our climate future, each aerotropolis is consciously designed to maximize the rate of human consumption of fossil fuels). There is the land pollution via pesticides to ‘efficiently’ manage ‘wildlife hazards’, followed by wholesale killing when that fails. And, there is the use (and misuse) of de-icing and other aviation chemicals.
  • there is the loss of former open space when huge acreages become fenced off. On the other hand, locals get to ‘look at’ miles of this fenced-off open space every workday, during long drive commutes from their distant ‘almost-affordable’ residences.
  • whatever control the locals had BEFORE the project, once it is built, the locals almost ALWAYS lose that control. The corporations (and captured faux-regulators like FAA) take over, operating out of view.

And someday, if the distant Board and CEO decide to nudge a different profit margin, they may just move on to a greener taxbreak pasture. This has happened many times in aviation. Cincinnati ([KCVG] … thanks, Delta!), St. Louis ([KSTL] … thanks, American!), and Pittsburgh ([KPIT] … thanks, USAirways!), are three extreme examples. And it continues in a more subtle form today, as operations are increasingly concentrated into a dozen or so fortress hubs. We are now down to the ‘final four’ (American-USAirways, Delta-Northwest, Southwest, and United-Continental), and FAA looks the other way while airline officials carefully coordinate schedules to avoid any real competition.

Here are two PDF’s from the new organization. Scroll through the first window to see the invitation to join GAAM, written by Anita Pleumarom in Thailand. Scroll through the second window to read an analysis of the impacts caused by the Aerotropolis projects, written by ‘Plane Truth’ author Rose Bridger.


See also:

What Can FAA & NTSB do to Reduce HEMS Accidents?

In the past week, we have had two fatal crashes of helicopters providing ‘emergency medical services’. Historical data shows that many of these ‘HEMS’ fatal accidents happen at nighttime, when flying in poor weather, especially in dark (moonless) conditions.

20150312.. HEMS crash, west of Eufaula Lake, mapSuch was the case with this latest accident, on March 12th. A pilot and two crewmembers were flying from Tulsa back to their EagleMed base at McAlester, Oklahoma [KMLC]. The flight ended up crashed in terrain to the west of Eufaula Lake (green box area), minutes prior to their planned arrival at McAlester.

On this particular night, in the area around McAlester, the moon (which was waning and illuminated at 63%) rose at 1:03AM, nearly two hours after the accident. Thus, it was a dark night.

Also on this night, the weather was deteriorating. When weather is poor, helicopter pilots choose to fly at lower altitudes, to stay below the bottom cloud layer. In sufficiently dark night conditions and at low altitudes, even a seasoned pilot may not see a tall tree, an antenna tower, or a mountain until the last second, if at all. Such conditions make helicopter transport far more risky than ground transport.

In the HEMS industry, company owners rake in huge profits if they can get their crews to be the first medical transport at the scene of an accident. But, they also earn large fees (exceeding $10,000)contracting with hospitals to fly patients from point A to point B. The problem is, the profit motive is so intense that many pilots have found it difficult to say ‘no’, even in the worst flying conditions. And, this problem is amplified by FAA’s rules for helicopter flying, which allow pilots to fly at any level – right down to the surface – to dodge declining weather. In many of the resulting accidents, the helicopter proceeded in declining visibility, to lower and lower altitudes, then impacted guy lines that support antenna towers.

And then there is the media coverage. When these HEMS accidents happen, the news coverage tends to focus superficially on the physical tragedy, while failing to investigate a key question: was there a real benefit, and was it necessary, to use a helicopter for the specific incident? The media tends to not ask these questions and, instead, waits for FAA and/or NTSB to comment about the risks involved. The problem, though, is that both agencies are pressured to stay quiet, so as not to undermine the profit potential of the HEMS industry.

Also, the media tends to paint the crash victims as heroic in their service. We are led to believe that others would have died if the HEMS crew had not selflessly risked life and limb to respond. In truth, though, accident histories have shown time and again that most nighttime HEMS accidents would have been avoided – and patients would have been just fine, too – if pilots had simply accepted the real risks and elected to wait for conditions to improve.

FAA is very much to blame for the fact these HEMS accidents continue to kill so many in the United States. FAA has the authority to regulate this industry, but chooses not to. For decades, the pattern has been to delay tighter rules and keep the safety rules fuzzy and ambiguous. Chronically, FAA does their best to not interfere with this or any aviation industry.

In this latest fatal HEMS accident, it is again tragic that a pilot was lost, that two others were injured, and that families and friends have been made to suffer. But, if we are to move beyond repeats of these accidents, we need real and timely information. If there is evidence suggesting decisions were made that were too risky, that evidence needs to be revealed to the Public ASAP.

It would be helpful if the FAA and NTSB became more assertive in sharing information about these HEMS accidents. Perhaps, within 48-hours of each accident, they should post the preliminary information that helps the news media (and readers) to assess answers to the following questions:

  • What was the purpose of the flight? I.e., was it for routine transfer of a stable patient, or was it an accident response?
  • What was the specific urgency that necessitated use of a helicopter instead of ground transportation? Or, was there no benefit to a patient?
  • Was weather possibly a factor (i.e., what were the nearest reported weather conditions)?
  • Was darkness possibly a factor (i.e., what were the known conditions)?

See also:

FAA Still Failing on Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

“What are they smoking at the FAA???
“When is the FAA (and their indifferent parent, the DOT) going to fire their current crop of idiot regs-makers, and replace them with sober, competent, responsible adults?”

The above are valid questions, raised by a commenter in an online article at AW&ST’s AviationDaily, FAA Urged To Act Fast On Final Small-UAS Rule. The article and the comments are well worth reading.

FAA is way behind schedule, but they are also failing to address the real issues. In fact, for the smaller and wildly popular hobby drones, the key issue is less about safety (since even small manned aircraft should not be flying so low to the ground), but more about the invasion of personal privacy. FAA is proceeding through a formal rulemaking process (NPRM) right now, and hearing these concerns from citizens. Here is a portion of a citizen comment that focuses on personal privacy and the use of drones to monitor and arrest people, as submitted to the NPRM (by Christopher Booth, in Concord, NH):

“Addressing the issue of privacy is paramount. You can operate a UAV for private use, but can not obtain imagery which would violate any person’s expectation of privacy, and no imagery or information may be obtained for public use without regard for the requirement that a warrant must be obtained before such collection if it is going to be admissible in any court proceeding or may be used for the purpose of obtaining the arrest of any person. In other words you can not randomly fly a UAV over a city looking for someone to arrest, or to observe whether anyone is obeying or disobeying any law. You have to get a warrant for that, and it has to have probable cause that the person should be arrested, and must specify where you can look for them and who you are looking for to obtain that warrant – from a judge in open court, in the presence of a public defender arguing why the warrant should not be issued.”

Everyone would be better served if FAA simply punted. Perhaps FAA should relinquish regulatory authority for low altitude (?below 500-feet AGL and clear of all actual airport traffic patterns?) and light-weight (?under ten pounds?) drone uses?

Also, FAA could reduce noise impacts by helicopters AND increase safety margins, if they would simultaneously tighten the FAR 91.119 ‘Minimum Safe Altitude’ flight restrictions. It would be a ‘win-win’ if FAA would require that all manned aircraft (fixed wing and helicopters) cruise at altitudes at least 2,000-feet AGL, and transition to/from these cruise altitudes within reasonable short distances of takeoff/landing locations. Skies would be quieter AND safer.


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ANALYSIS: Three Serious Accidents in Texas, all Related to the Same Frontal Passage

On the evening of February 4th, three separate small aircraft crashed and were destroyed in Texas. Two accidents killed the sole pilots; the third accident had four adults aboard and nobody died.

At all three locations (Lubbock, Argyle, and Andrews) a frontal passage occurred hours before the accident. The frontal passage brought strong, gusting winds, overcast ceilings below 1,000-feet, falling temperatures, and combinations of light rain, freezing drizzle, and mist.

The cold front passed through at around the following times:

  • Hobbs, NM: 12noon
  • Lubbock, TX: 3PM
  • Andrews, TX: 5PM
  • Denton, TX: 8PM
20150204scp.. PA46 flight route to KLBB (flightaware)

(click on image to view flight at Flightaware.com)

The first accident was in Lubbock [KLBB] and involved a doctor flying a Piper Malibu (high-performance single-prop). He was flying home from near Hobbs, NM. The flight impacted an 814-foot tall TV station antenna, and crashed more than six miles from the runway. The KLBB METAR 12-minutes after the accident, at 7:47PM, included: temp/dew 28/25, wind northeast 21kts gusting to 31kts, visibility 7 miles, ceiling 700′ overcast. Conditions were prime for icing, and light freezing drizzle did begin on the surface at KLBB at around the time of the crash. It seems inconceivable that the pilot would attempt to ‘scud-run’ so low, nor that ATC would allow it. The ATC communications should be revealing.

20150204scp.. N441TG, Final approach map, Flightaware

(click on image to view flight at Flightaware.com)

The second accident was also fatal, and involved a businessman flying alone, home to the Denton airport [KDTO] in a 10-passenger Cessna Conquest (twin-prop). His flight profile included an intercept of the KDTO RNAV Runway 36 final approach at WOBOS, just west of Grapevine Lake. The KDTO METAR seven minutes prior to the accident, at 9:03PM, included: temp/dew 38/37, wind north 20kts gusting to 29kts, visibility 2 miles light rain and mist, ceiling 900-feet overcast. The crash debris distribution, with the wings and empennage separated but whole, suggests an aircraft that hit the ground hard but with a relatively normal ‘flat and straight ahead’ attitude. As with the Lubbock crash, ATC should have considerable information to explain the circumstances of this crash, so long as FAA does not conceal the information within the ATSAP safety data black hole.

20150204scp.. BE36 flight route to E11 (flightaware)

(click on image to view flight at Flightaware.com)

The third accident was miraculously nonfatal for the four adults aboard. Weather at the arrival airport near Andrews [E11] was already down to a 900-foot overcast ceiling, even before the single-prop Beechcraft Bonanza departed. Weather deteriorated further during the 80-minute flight, and the E11 METAR ten minutes prior to the accident, at 12:35AM, included: temp/dew 29/29, wind north-northeast 13kts gusting to 18kts, visibility 5 miles mist, ceiling 700-feet overcast. These flight conditions, to an uncontrolled airport in flat treeless countryside, have been known to result in scud-running. In this case, the pilot reportedly radioed ATC with an icing problem.

Here is a satellite view of the terrain near the Andrews County Airport. In a controlled arrival, given the winds, you would line up for Runway 34 or Runway 02. If iced up, you might not make it that far. Imagine dropping through the clouds at 700-feet above the surface, and having maybe one minute to try and control the aircraft and pick a spot to cause the least damage. A lot easier here than in other parts of Texas.

20150204scp.. Satellite image for approach area of E11

(click on image to view the satellite image at Google maps)

ANALYSIS: The ‘Mogas’ Study at KHIO, by KB Environmental Sciences

This Post offers an analysis of a 59-page study funded by the Port of Portland, to investigate the potential and feasibility to sell unleaded aviation fuel at the Hillsboro Airport [KHIO]. It includes some background on the leaded fuel issue, followed by a look at (and critique of) the KB ‘Mogas’ Study.

Background

The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, and included guidance for the removal of toxic lead from transportation fuels. It took more than two decades for EPA to completely phase out lead in automotive fuel, as was accomplished in 1996. But, although there are far fewer aircraft and fueling locations (and thus the change for aviation should have been faster and easier to accomplish), it has now been 45-years, yet lead remains in the most commonly used General Aviation (GA) fuel: 100LL, commonly called Avgas.

Many aircraft have been modified to safely use unleaded fuel, commonly called Mogas. The problem, though, is that while mogas is widely available from wholesalers, very few airports have invested in the above-ground storage tanks and/or fuel trucks needed to offer this less hazardous fuel choice. Thus, even busy GA airports do not offer mogas. Such is the case today at the Hillsboro Airport [KHIO], west of Portland, OR.

20150204scp.. PoP Aternatives to Lead in Aviation Fuel [KHIO]For the past few years, lead has been a focused issue at the Hillsboro Airport. The airport is owned/operated by the Port of Portland (PoP). It is common throughout the U.S. for airport authorities to appoint citizen groups, which ostensibly assures the community is involved in airport impact decisions. In reality, though, PoP and other airport authorities tend to stack the membership of these groups so as to assure they vote favorably for the airport uses (and against the airport neighbors). At Hillsboro, PoP created the Hillsboro Airport Roundtable Exchange (HARE). Many airport neighbors feel that HARE is strongly aligned with the aviation interests at KHIO, particularly Hillsboro Aviation.

The KB ‘Mogas’ Study’s Summary:

At some point in the recent past, the Port of Portland hired a consultant to prepare a study related to the KHIO avgas/mogas issue. They hired KB Environmental Sciences, based in Tampa Bay, FL (and with offices in Washington, DC and Seattle) to do a study. KB is one of a handful of companies who make lots of money doing studies that are use by the aviation status quo to sustain practices and delay change. KB’s 59-page report was completed last December, and just recently made public. Here is the bullet list from the Executive Summary page:

…to read the study summary and the aiREFORM analysis,
please see page two of this Post…

Growth of Jet Operations at KSMO, 1983-2014

20150202cpy.. KSMO Annual Jet Ops chart, 1983-2014The number of jet operations per year, in and out of the airport at Santa Monica [KSMO], was barely 1,000 in 1983, and peaked at around 18,000 from 2004-2007. There was a substantial decline coincident with the financial collapse of 2008, and jet operations bottomed out below 13,000 during 2010-2012, before climbing back to 15,000 in 2014.

FAA’s records indicate there are only 6 or 7 jets actually hangared at KSMO. In fact, much of the jet traffic at KSMO is on-demand charter jets, often flying relatively short distances to Arizona, Nevada, the Rockies, or the Bay Area. The on-demand charter jets also frequently fly repositioning hops between KSMO and the three closest airports: KLAX, KVNY, or KBUR. Thus, a 6-mile or 8-mile direct trip becomes 50-60 miles of flying, mostly at altitudes no higher than 5,000 feet. The noise, soot, and other pollution impacts are substantial. And, as close as the houses are to the runway at KSMO, these jet operations are certainly not good for the health of local residents.

Below are aerial views showing the approaches to the two runway ends: Runway 21 (the primary runway) facing towards the ocean, and Runway 03 (used far less frequently) facing away from the ocean. These images are copied from a November 2011 presentation by Martin Rubin, Santa Monica Airport & Public Health.20111130.. aerial view RY21 looking SW [KSMO]20111130.. aerial view RY03 looking NE [KSMO]
Given the dense residential development close-in to the runway, air charter service to the Santa Monica area would be more safely and efficiently handled out of KLAX, KVNY, or KBUR. All three of these other airports offer much longer runways as well as multiple runways, so they can safely segregate faster jets from slower recreational aircraft. Plus, at all three airports, the controllers regularly work steady jet flows.


See also: