NASA climate scientists used a supercomputer to model carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, and present a full year compressed down into a 3-minute time-lapse video. You see plumes of CO2 rise from the largest emitters – the U.S., Europe and China. And then, you see the plumes flow and collide and mix in our weather systems. Copied from an EcoWatch article.
In October 2011, Raphael Pirker flew a model aircraft over the campus of the University of Virginia and recorded a few minutes of video. Mr. Pirker, from Switzerland, was assessed a $10,000 fine by FAA. He challenged the assessment, noting that FAA (aka, the ‘Complainant’) had failed to actually regulate ‘model airplanes’ and was misapplying the full-sized airplane regulations to lesser flying devices. In fact, model airplane use is subject to recommendations made by FAA in an advisory circular published in June 1981 (see the first three pages of Attachment 1).
Pirker won his initial challenge in a March 6, 2014 decision, when an Administrative Judge (AJ) granted a dismissal. Here is some of the text from the AJ’s decision to dismiss:
FAA then appealed to the NTSB to hear the complaint. NTSB, which has always been strongly influenced by Washington politics, sided with FAA in a November 17, 2014 decision. The dismissal was overturned and the case was remanded back to the AJ.
The ‘Aircraft’ FAA is Trying to Regulate
Below is a screen-capture of an online ad for the Zephyr II, a lightweight flying wing measuring less than five-feet in width. The plane consists mainly of two foam wing-halves (see the largest objects within the orange ellipse). The basic kit costs $130; the electric motor kit is an additional $140, and mounts safely behind the wing.
The whole UAV apparently weighs four- to five-pounds and can fly at speeds as slow as that of a fast human runner. And, the EPOR foam material is similar to the Styrofoam used to make cheap coolers, or the foam that lines a typical bicycle helmet. There does not appear to be a substantial safety hazard with this ‘aircraft’ design. It really does appear to fit better as a ‘model aircraft’ than as an ‘aircraft’ to be regulated under the FAR’s.
Should this type of device be regulated? Yes, at least to the point where it needs to be used safely and without excessively encroaching on the freedoms of other people, which includes their privacy. But, frankly, FAA is the LAST AGENCY we should be using to enforce against potential misuse of foam model airplanes. We would be much better served if these low-altitude activities were kept below and away from real aviation activities, and if all issues were managed locally, by local codes and law enforcement personnel.
An excellent online article appears at personal-drones.net: Trappy and the FAA fine for flying over the University of Virginia. It includes a copy of the 3-minute video that started this brouhaha, and another video with some interesting perspective by a model airplane enthusiast. Both videos are embedded below.
The informative video rant below is by a lifelong RC hobbyist named XJET, a New Zealander who also has a website called rcmodelreviews.com.
Starting with the 2008 financial meltdown, twenty world leaders have met each year at the ‘G20 summit’. This year’s conference will be on November 15th and 16th, in Brisbane, Australia. It will be led by Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
These twenty leaders represent roughly 85% of the entire world economy, and thus likely well over 90% of world energy consumption. So, if an issue such as ‘CO2 and Climate Change’ is to be taken seriously, these are the officials to lead the way. Getting away from coal is one major step toward addressing these issues. But, one major hurdle is that the top five nations for minable coal reserves (U.S., Russia, China, India and Australia, respectively) are all part of this G20 Summit. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the world’s largest private-sector coal producer, Peabody Energy (based in St. Louis, MO), is sponsoring the ‘Brisbane Cafe’ conference event in the days just prior to the G20 Summit. Nor is it a surprise that Climate Change is being left off of the agenda.
There is a strong appearance that national leaders are travelling to Brisbane to help broker deals that serve coal corporations with no regard to how people are adversely impacted. Hence, the protest by generally younger Australians, who symbolically buried their heads on a Sydney beach.
China and India are Playing ‘Catch-Up’
And, it is no coincidence that both China and India, where per capita energy consumption remains way behind that of people in places like the U.S., UK, and Germany, have rapidly growing economies. Thus, they are hungry to buy and use all the U.S. and Australian coal that they can find.
2012 population (M)
energy per capita
The Table above presents total Gigatons of Carbon (GtC) emissions for each of the nations, from 1751 to 2012. It then presents the 2012 population in Millions. The red column shows the relative energy consumption for each nation, calculated as total Carbon emissions divided by total population in 2012. Note that UK and the U.S. each average more than ten-times the per capita energy consumption of China, and roughly thirty-five-times the per capita energy consumption of India. Clearly, these two most populated world nations have a lot of capacity to grow into larger energy consumers.
Here are two related charts, from a 11/12/2014 ThinkProgress article:
- China, America and Our Warming Planet — NYTimes Op/Ed by John Kerry
- Pope Francis’ Letter to Tony Abbott — (11/6/2014)
- The real story of US coal: inside the world’s biggest coalmine — (11/10/2014)
- Fox News Melts Down Over The U.S.-China Climate Deal — (11/12/2014)
- There’s growing evidence that global warming is driving crazy winters — (11/20/2014)
Today, the White House issued a Press Release announcing plans for the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China to work together toward addressing the Climate Change issue. This is not a binding agreement, but it does set specific targets for both nations, who are the number one and number two emitters of greenhouse gasses. In particular, the U.S. aims to achieve a 26%-28% reduction in its 2005 CO2 emissions, by the year 2025; meanwhile, China aims to manage its rapidly growing consumption history, by peaking no later than 2030 and ensuring that at least 20% of their 2030 energy consumption comes from ‘non-fossil fuels’.
Although the goals are not legally binding, the agreement is potentially significant, and it will hopefully stir other nations to set (and achieve) real, tangible goals. A major test will occur in Paris in 2015, at the United Nations Climate Conference. If the U.S. and China come out as strong leaders advocating a new international agreement, we may see some progress. But, if the U.S. and China do not lead, this latest non-binding announcement will be quickly revealed as just a political show.
Could this Announcement be Beneficial to ‘Big Coal’ & ‘Big Oil’?
Yes. China’s per capita energy consumption has been growing and yet has a long ways to go, to catch up to the U.S. per capita energy consumption. So, assuming China’s consumption continues to grow rapidly until 2030, much of that increase can be fed with coal from Illinois, Kentucky and Wyoming. Plus, the new agreement does emphasize the use of ‘advanced coal technologies’, implying we can use coal cleanly.
Notably, there is nothing in this latest agreement that slows down the mining of U.S. coal. In fact, it puts an incentive on China to expedite development of power plants and factories that consume increasing shipments of U.S. coal. If China doubles their energy consumption but ensures forty percent or so of new consumption is from solar and other non-fossil sources, they will easily make their target. If the U.S. levels hundreds of mountains and ships huge quantities of coal to China, they too can make their target… so long as we make progress to correct our current areas of waste (by improving building insulation, and reducing electric transmission losses) while also doing a fair job bringing on new wind/solar/tidal energy supplies.
Canada is not part of this latest agreement, so they can make a big pit out of half of Alberta, and those ‘tar sands’ can all eventually be converted from trapped hydrocarbons to CO2, and emitted by the U.S., China, and any other nation, all while conforming with the terms of this latest non-binding agreement. In other words, this agreement satisfies the desire of fossil fuel producers to continue to grow their sales, while creating what may prove to be an illusion that we are finally ‘turning a corner’ and moving away from fossil fuels.
And then, there are those who deny having any scientific training yet they proceed to rabidly deny the prospect that human consumption of fossil fuels is causing climate change. Here is a recent 4-minute analysis by Stephen Colbert:
How will this Impact Aviation?
If the U.S. leadership becomes serious in trying to meet these targets, the White House and Congress will want to pressure FAA to alter commercial passenger schedules by adjusting taxes, subsidies and regulations. Large hub operations, like Atlanta, that consume 20% more energy due to longer, indirect routes, need to be replaced with more direct flights. For example, today’s Delta connecting from Seattle-Atlanta-DCA total 2,371-nm, versus 2,023-nm for a direct SEA-DCA flight; thus, a 20% savings can be realized by steering passengers away from distant hub transfers and onto non-stop flights.
A steep carbon-tax would nudge aviation in this direction. Or, restructuring current aviation taxes, to be based on direct miles flown (instead of ticket price or ‘fee-per-flight-leg’, so that a SEA-ATL-DCA flight would cost substantially more than a direct SEA-DCA flight.
There will also be ample pressure to end generous subsidies, such as the so-called ‘Essential Air Service’, that not only waste money but also consume a lot of extra fuel to a minimal benefit. And, airport authorities seeking FAA AIP grants to build a large airport will need to grow actual local passenger counts, and not rely on hub through-traffic.
- HTML copy of the Press Release — at page two of this Post
- China, America and Our Warming Planet — NYTimes Op/Ed by John Kerry
- China, Coal, Climate — NYTimes Op/Ed column by Paul Krugman
- Analysis (by Bill McKibben)
- The real story of US coal: inside the world’s biggest coalmine — (11/10/2014)
Four days after local voters decisively supported their local officials to move toward more control of their airport, the Los Angeles Times editors opined in their Sunday edition. Their view was notably slanted, going even so far as to misrepresent that the airport “…plays a vital role in the region’s transportation system…” Their words help to perpetuate the myth that, even more than diamonds, ‘Airports are Forever’.
This is all bull.
The real impediment is FAA. If this one federal agency would focus on serving the whole Public (and not just aviation interests), a scaled-down airport serving only small single-propeller airplanes — and with no local training/practice pattern flying – would be a quick no-brainer. FAA Administrator Huerta needs to be a true leader and put forward this proposal. Then, if the local residents go further and articulate a convincing reason to outright close [KSMO], Mr. Huerta should seriously entertain that possibility, too.
Despite the slanted opinion of the Times Editorial Board, jets at KSMO are a very real hazard. That case was very well laid out by Joseph Schmitz (see SlideShare below).
Another document to consider is the February 2010 impact study by Pew Trust.
At the time of this aiREFORM Post, there were 31 reader comments to the LA Times Editorial; they are well worth reading, and mostly by concerned airport neighbors, plus one airport-defender.
Clearly, there are many people around this small airport who have become quite well informed about the facts and are seeing past the spin and propaganda, They see the simple reality: that FAA is a captured agency, serving industry and money while broadly looking past many safety and health concerns.
Call it delusion. Not surprising, though, that delusion might set in.
When you are flooded with large sums of special-interest money to wage a quick and aggressive media campaign, aimed at deceiving and confusing people to stir a reactive vote, you really need to get so embroiled in the campaign that you will lose touch with reality.
In Santa Monica, when the dust settled, here is what the Yes on D/No on LC campaign had to say via their spokesperson, Christian Fry:
So, here, the pro-airport side is accusing the pro-resident side of deceiving voters and creating confusion. Really?
For what it is worth (and probably not a lot, but I’ll share this trivial, self-accumulated wisdom anyway), when a person makes a charge about another person, they have to understand that charge. That is to say, a person who has never practiced (or been victimized by) deception and confusion would not even be capable of charging someone else with this offense. It would be beyond their personal comprehension, just like an innocent young child could not possibly comprehend war or murder or theft.
On the other hand, a person who wages these battles of confusion and deception, such as a professional lobbyist, would easily ‘rebound’ from a clear and resounding loss by saying ‘hey, we almost won’ and ‘the other side cheated’.
Let’s just call it ‘Delusion’ and leave it at that. And let’s hope FAA works constructively with Santa Monica to make the best use of the airport acreage for the residents of Santa Monica, sooner, not later.
On the same day that Republicans scored nationwide victories and control of the Senate, the Supreme Court heard the case of whistleblower Robert MacLean. We will have to wait for their official legal decision, but the NY Times article, USA Today article, and other news reports indicate the Justices leaned strongly in favor of Mr. MacLean, in what may be a rare victory for Whistleblowers.
But, here’s something to think about. There is a saying, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” It has been nearly nine years since TSA retaliated against Mr. MacLean. He spoke up about an aviation safety issue way back in mid-2003, while employed at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA fired him in early 2006. He then went to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), but they did all they could to pretend his case was not within MSPB jurisdiction. [NOTE: this is standard operating procedure at this miserably failed federal agency; MSPB does almost nothing to protect merit principles.] MSPB issued their initial decision in August 2008, rejecting MacLean’s appeal. So, MacLean went to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where a panel of judges quickly determined MSPB should properly hear the Appeal. Mr. MacLean then went to the full MSPB (in DC), where he was again rejected in June 2009.
Another round with MSPB then followed. Same pattern: an Appeal to the regional MSPB, a nearly-automatic rejection, and a Petition for Review to the full MSPB. This was during 2010 and 2011. It produced the same predictable tone-deaf MSPB outcome: MSPB sustained the TSA firing. So, MacLean appealed higher, this time to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, where a panel of three Judges ruled unanimously for MacLean. In a concurring decision, Judge Evan Wallach wrote: “Mr. MacLean presented substantial evidence that he was not motivated by personal gain but by the desire to protect the public.” [see the analysis, by POGO]
Common sense should have led the leadership at TSA to clean up their act, but they did not. Instead, they doubled down. It seems that bureaucrats have plenty of resources (spend all the time and money you want) and nothing to lose (who cares about accountability). So, TSA filed an appeal, this time to the Supreme Court. TSA has its own team of lawyers, but on matters like this, the ‘lawyering’ is handed off to a higher office. The Deputy Solicitor General tasked with defending TSA stupidity, Ian Gershengorn, was thus given the crummy job of arguing on behalf of, well, TSA’s vindictive stupidity. It made for an easy day for nine Supreme Court Justices. One comment by Justice Sonya Sotomayor: “The facts are very much in your favor.”
In time, we will learn if Mr. Gershengorn’s weeks of preparation will prove to be just one more example of pointless government waste by an arrogant and out-of-control federal agency; yet another Publicly-funded ordeal … just like the abusive retaliation TSA and MSPB continue to deal out to MacLean. This has been going on for nearly nine years now. What a colossal waste….
We Need a Change
Maybe the new Congress will start taking their work seriously, and start making federal agencies like TSA clean up their act. If the new Congress does, well, good for them. And, if they don’t, they deserve to be voted out in the next election.
When employees in any profession, be it aviation, food safety, nuclear energy, or whatever, put their job on the line to speak up about a safety or fraud issue within a federal agency, they should not become targets for agency retaliation. And we, as the public who pays for and is allegedly ‘served’ by these agencies, should expect high levels of agency performance (and transparency), to know that our money is not being wasted and our personal safety is not being endangered.
And, FAA is a Ripe Target for A Very Close Look by the New Congress
In the past decade, FAA brutally destroyed the careers of some of its bravest employees, who responsibly blew the whistle about fraud and safety issues. Many were fired in the same timeframe as Mr. MacLean, and many others were fired later, especially in the 2008-2009 presidential transition period. These people were wronged, but even worse, FAA and MSPB have done NOTHING to make these people whole. Here is a short list, of just a few: Gabe Bruno. Ed Jeska. Jeff Lewis. Peter Nesbitt. David Pardo. Glen Siwarski. Anne Whiteman. Rich Wyeroski.
…And, who knows how many others….
Back in 1981, President Reagan fired thousands of air traffic controllers when their union, PATCO, ordered a strike. The wheels of political change moved slowly, but eventually thousands were hired back. In the early to mid-1990′s, many in their forties and even fifties were given new jobs at FAA ATC facilities. It has been done; it should be done again, but this time for a far smaller number of far more deserving employees. Just because FAA and MSPB are broken, does not mean the Public cannot expect These FAA Whistleblowers are all good people, and they deserve to be appreciate. Their careers should not have been arbitrarily destroyed, nor should they have been re-victimized by a broken MSPB, just because they each spoke up for the Public.
Maybe, just maybe, this new Congress will put the right pressure on FAA to clean up their act and make these inspectors, controllers, and other FAA Whistleblowers whole.
Here are a few comments submitted to the 11/4/2014 New York Times article by Adam Liptak:
Voters in Santa Monica passed Measure LC, surviving an intense effort (and lots of out-of-area funding) to kill their goal of regaining local control of their airport. In June 2015, a 30-year-old agreement between the city and FAA ends, and the city then has the option to close all or part of the 227-acre airport [KSMO].
Two measures were on the ballot yesterday: Measure LC (which would grant the City Council authority to convert all or part of the airport into parks or other recreational uses) and Measure D (which was designed to compel another citizen vote, if the City Council proposed any actions that would reduce the airport from its present configuration). Measure LC passed with 60% ‘YES’ votes; Measure D failed, with 58% ‘NO’ votes.
A driving force behind passage of Measure LC was the fact that this community, while blessed with beautiful weather year-round, is heavily populated but severely lacking in park space. A wonderful place to live, but not enough green space to simply relax.
One group in particular, Airport2Park.org, played David to Aviation’s Goliath. They scored a rare victory, despite the aggressive (and often quite deceptive) campaign waged by aviation interests. Now, they have to face an even larger Goliath, FAA, which likely will stonewall every effort for the next decade or two.
This is unfortunate, and unnecessary. The reality is that there are two main issues at Santa Monica: lead pollution from aviation fuel, and noise/carbon pollution caused by the increasing number of jet charter operations. The lead issue would be substantially reduced if Santa Monica had local control to NOT ALLOW closed-pattern flight training operations. As for the jet issues, these operations would more safely happen out of nearby airports, including LAX [KLAX], 5-miles southeast of KSMO), Hawthorne [KHHR], 8-miles southeast of KSMO), Van Nuys ([KVNY], 12-miles north of KSMO), and Burbank ([KBUR], 12-miles northeast of KSMO).
All four of these airports are far below their historic peak usages, thus present enormous capacity to absorb jet flights that should be relocated from KSMO. ATC can easily manage the minor added flow into these airports because the business jets are generally all capable of matching the speeds and flight profiles typical of commercial jets. Indeed, these flight characteristics make them far safer to operate in jet flows, instead of in the slower single-propeller flows typical of most aircraft at KSMO.
Here is a short table showing KSMO and the four nearby airports to which jet traffic would be easily relocated:
|LAX:||2013 operations are down 22% since peak year 2000.||Longest runway available is 12,091 feet.|
|Hawthorne:||2013 operations are down 53% since peak year 1992.||Longest runway available is 4,956 feet.|
|Van Nuys:||2013 operations are down 55% since peak year 1999.||Longest runway available is 8,001 feet.|
|Burbank:||2013 operations are down 41% since peak year 1991.||Longest runway available is 6,886 feet.|
|Santa Monica:||2013 operations are down 59% since peak year 1991.||Longest runway available is 4,973 feet.|
Clearly, given the substantial decline at all LA Basin airports, it is quite reasonable to enable the Santa Monica City Council to consider fully closing this one airport, and shift the jets to other jet-focused airports.
Here are a few comments submitted to a local article about yesterday’s election results, in the Santa Monica Mirror:
- Victory/Thanks Statement (by John Fairweather, Chair)
- Opinions Vary on Reasons for Lopsided Ballot Measure Results
- Letter to FAA Administrator, by Congresswoman Karen Bass
- Airport Agreement Between FAA and Santa Monica (January 1984)
An interesting Post at RobertScribbler discusses Polar Amplification. Record heat levels in October, along with surprisingly large increases in CO2 (at a time of the year when levels tend to stay flat). He goes on to explain how the atmospheres of Earth and Venus are different yet becoming more similar. He posts graphs showing how the average temperature differences between the equatorial and polar regions have been diminishing over recent decades. And, all of this leads to changes in the jetstreams, thus changes in normal weather patterns. It is an interesting read.
Three died when a midair collision happened between a fixed-wing arrival and a helicopter, in the traffic pattern at the controlled airport in Frederick, Maryland [KFDK]. The fixed-wing aircraft was a Cirrus; it had departed in the morning and was just finishing a three-hour flight, returning from Cleveland, TN.
At the time, three helicopters were training in a lower flight pattern, underneath the fixed-wing arrival traffic pattern. The helicopters apparently are part of a training program at Advanced Helicopter Concepts, and are based near the south end of the airport. One of them, a Robinson R44 helicopter, collided with the Cirrus. Just seconds before, the controller had reported the Cirrus in sight and told him to maintain his altitude, with the apparent intent being to keep the Cirrus a few hundred feet above the helicopters. It appears that the Cirrus was just establishing midfield on the left downwind leg to Runway 30, while the helicopter was midfield downwind for a grass practice area, when the collision occurred.
Here is a copy of the satellite image for KFDK. The collision happened near the added orange circle, as the two aircraft crashed at the left red square (helicopter) and right red square (Cirrus). The Cirrus was on a left downwind, setting up to land on Runway 30 (the shorter runway, from the right edge to the top-middle of this aerial). A closer look shows the helicopter crash location at the storage lot (small red circle) and the Cirrus crash location in trees just southeast of the large building (larger yellow circle).
Weather was likely not a factor. As indicated by the METAR data copied below, clouds were high (above 4,000-feet all day), visibility was always at least ten miles, and the temperature and dew point was always comfortable. The most notable weather detail were relatively strong — but also fairly steady — winds out of the north-northwest.
|23 Oct 11:48 am EDT||63||43||NNW||20G25||10.00||BKN040||29.94|
|23 Oct 12:45 pm EDT||64||45||NNW||13G29||10.00||BKN040||29.92|
|23 Oct 1:45 pm EDT||66||45||10.00||BKN042||29.91|
|23 Oct 2:45 pm EDT||66||45||N||17G23||10.00||BKN044||29.90|
|23 Oct 3:37 pm EDT||Accident|
|23 Oct 3:53 pm EDT||66||45||NNW||18G24||10.00||SCT048||29.91|
|23 Oct 5:45 pm EDT||70||43||NNW||8||10.00||BKN060||29.89|
|23 Oct 7:45 pm EDT||68||39||NNW||10||10.00||OVC060||29.92|
As is clear from the ATC archive at LiveATC.net, this accident happened while the tower controller was using Runway 30. [CAUTION: this archived ATC recording includes screams just after the impact.] [Transcript copy (by aiREFORM)] Based on ATC transmissions, the flights were likely 700- to 1,000-feet above the ground when they collided. The Cirrus’ parachute system deployed, and almost certainly saved the lives of the two on that aircraft.
One thing not yet clear is how ATC at Frederick manages their flight patterns for helicopter training. The flight patterns for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft can conflict dangerously. So, the management at each air traffic control tower has to sit down with airport operators and devise workable plans, to help ‘de-conflict’ the traffic flows. These traffic flow plans are then made official (and signed by the parties, such as the helicopter training company) as letters of agreement or memoranda of understanding. At airports with helicopter training programs, the best strategy is to keep the helicopters flying in one area, and keep all the fixed-wing airplanes away. But, more commonly, there is a need to stuff the helicopter training pattern in underneath the fixed-wing pattern. In any case, the controllers need to be especially vigilant to protect those higher risk areas where the different patterns cross.
Here are some links:
- Transcript of tower communications from Frederick Municipal Airport at time of crash — article by Danielle Gaines at The Frederick News-Post. (10/23/2014 )
- Three dead in helicopter-small plane collision at Maryland airport — article with video, by Mayra Cuevas, at CNN.com. (10/23/2014 )
- Discussion at airlinepilotforums.com — includes list of names of the deceased. (10/23/2014)
- Airport Diagram — jpeg, showing location of Advanced Helicopter Concepts hangar.
- A similar midair in San Jose, with no fatalities (and covered up by FAA) — this one was covered up, and never reported to NTSB. The Cessna climbed up into the helicopter, and its propeller impacted the bottom of the helicopter (the skids). Both aircraft were able to safely return and land. Two controllers within the tower spoke up, but could not get their supervisor and manager to fulfill their reporting requirements.