Whistleblower Reveals Wanton Disregard for Safety by Oregon Helicopter Spray Operator

Think of it as a ‘Banana Republic’, except the bananas are tall Douglas Fir trees. This is my home state, Oregon, in 2015. Tom McCall and Ken Kesey are no doubt crying in their graves.

“Again and again, herbicides rained down. The milky chemical mix stained Ivy’s windshield white and turned his phlegm red.”

Here’s the story…

Herbicide spray routinely splashed onto the truck's windshield. (click on image to view OregonLive.com article & comments)

Herbicide spray routinely splashed onto the truck’s windshield. (click on image to view OregonLive.com article & comments)

A 45-yr-old man answers a Craigslist ad, looking for a truck driver to provide ground support for a helicopter spray operation. He hires on for a contract job in southwest Oregon. He works for Applebee Aviation, who was hired by Seneca Jones Timber Company to do a series of quick aerial missions, spraying vast clearcuts to kill the Spring sprouts that might compete with planted Douglas Fir seedlings.

The man drives the chemical tank truck; the helicopter loads up with weed killer spray, again and again. What alarms him is the disregard for health and safety, when the weed killer spray is applied not just to the forest but EVERYWHERE, even onto the work crews and the truck. He needs the money (it was a Craigslist job!), so he vows to work through the short season, but protects himself as best he can, by carefully staying inside the truck.

And, he uses his smartphone to document. Then, he blows the whistle, sharing his videos and the details of his experience with an Oregonian Environment reporter, Rob Davis.

Davis’ article reveals a long history of unsafe practices by Applebee, as well as a reliable ineffectiveness by the Oregon Department of Forestry(ODF) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA). And, through it all, FAA maintains more than an arms-length distance. The same failed agency that takes legal action to stop people from flying 5-pound hobby drones at harmlessly low-altitudes to shoot aerial photos … well, FAA just completely ignores the repeated use of a helicopter to spray people.

This is NOT ‘Our Oregon’ Anymore

In the middle of the nineteenth century, thousands of families uprooted to walk across the Great Plains and a series of mountain ranges and dry basins. They followed the Oregon Trail, dreaming of a land of milk and honey. A place where, if hard work was spent clearing the endless acres of tall, dark forest, a lush farm could take hold, and generations could prosper.

They did prosper, but not anymore. Nowadays, prosperity is served out discriminately, funneled through the courts, applying oppressive laws against the many. Laws drafted by lobbyists richly funded by the moneyed few; laws then passed by the elected few, to curry favor with their cronies, the moneyed few who finance their reelection.

When Kesey wrote the 1964 Oregon literary classic, ‘Sometimes a Great Notion’, he was documenting the self-sufficient Oregon logging lifestyle. But, at that time, he was also studying the essential American balance between the rights of individuals and the rights of the masses. Fifty years ago that balance was in flux. Now, in 2015, it appears to be ‘game over’.

The systemic failures in this story point to the obvious: the democratic ideals underlying this nation are now officially dead. Stolen from the rest of us, by money and by corrupt and self-serving bureaucrats.

[REFERENCE]: Leaded AvGas


REFERENCE Links re: Leaded AvGas

CRAAP recently shared three links to articles and other reference resources on the public health issue of lead, which FAA has failed to remove from aviation fuel (AvGas). Another group, Oregon Aviation Watch (OAW), has been actively working to end the addition of lead to AvGas. For readers wanting to learn more, here are a few links:

OAW Endorses Testimony in Support of Removing Lead from Aviation Fuel
Oregon Aviation Watch
Pediatrician Urges EPA to Lower the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for Lead
Oregon Aviation Watch
FEB 2015
Best Practices Guidebook for Preparing Lead Emission Inventories from Piston-Powered Aircraft with the Emission Inventory Analysis Tool
TRB Report 133, 47p
Oregon Public Broadcasting Report on Leaded Aviation Fuel and EPA Delay of Endangerment Finding
Oregon Aviation Watch
Three Articles on Leaded Aviation Fuel
Oregon Aviation Watch
OCT 2014
Quantifying Aircraft Lead Emissions at Airports
TRB Report ACRP-02-34, 218p
NOTE: if you are particularly concerned about the lead issue and interested in reviewing any of these documents, please consider drafting an analysis, outline or even an article to guest-post at aiREFORM.com. Technical consultation, advice, editing, and other support will gladly be provided by aiREFORM.

What is Regulatory Capture?

Here is a short definition, as cleanly summarized at Wikipedia:

“…Regulatory capture is a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. Regulatory capture is a form of government failure; it creates an opening for firms to behave in ways injurious to the public (e.g., producing negative externalities). The agencies are called “captured agencies”….”

Last year, a Washington Post article by Will Baude took another look at regulatory capture, noting that the problem may in fact go further, into academia and the legal profession. Here is a paragraph from his article [PDF], where he is quoting University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales:

“When economists talk about regulatory capture, they do not imply that regulators are corrupt or lack integrity. In fact, if regulatory capture was just due to illegal behavior, it would be easier to fight. Regulatory capture is so pervasive precisely because it is driven by standard economic incentives, which push even the most well-intentioned regulators to cater to the interest of the regulated. These incentives are built in their positions. Regulators depend upon the regulated for much of the information they need to do their job properly. This dependency creates a need to cater to the information providers. The regulated are also the only real audience of the regulators, since taxpayers have all the incentives to remain ignorant. Hence, the regulators’ on the job performance will be naturally defined with the regulated in mind, pushing the regulators to cater to the interest of the regulated. Finally, career incentives play a big role. The regulators human capital is highly industry specific and the best job for people holding that specific human capital are with the regulated. Hence, the desire to preserve future career options makes it difficult for the regulator not to cater to the regulated.”

Examples of FAA’s Regulatory Capture

FAA is a captured agency. Indeed, a careful study of FAA’s history suggests that this agency has nearly always been serving aviation interests first, frequently with complete indifference to the negative impacts upon the general public.

One early example was fifty years ago, in 1964. The Av-Gov Complex wanted to make money by developing supersonic air travel. So, they got the Military-Industrial Complex to help out, to use military aircraft to ‘test’ the impacts of sonic booms on people in Oklahoma. Very similar to how today, FAA is ‘testing’ noise impacts of their flawed and oversold NextGen technologies, in Phoenix and Flushing and elsewhere. Check out this recent article at Gizmodo.com:

An example from a few years ago is the Colgan crash in Buffalo, in January 2009. Fifty were killed in this horrific accident which plainly exposed a bucketload of failure within commercial passenger aviation: FAA’s lack of effective oversight, underpaid and chronically fatigued feeder pilots, airline deceptive marketing (e.g., Continental was selling Colgan seats as ‘Continental’ flights), and more. The regulatory capture aspect of this was well defined in a Buffalo News Op/Ed in July 2014.

And the latest example is the ongoing NextGen implementation debacle. The use of GPS satellite signals for air navigation began in earnest in 1994. FAA spent a decade fine-tuning their funding proposal, then finally got Congress’ blessing (i.e., funding authorization) in 2003. They spent a few more years lining up needed support from their employee unions (NATCA, PASS), and also made deals with airline and manufacturer stakeholders to get their ‘collaboration’. All of this meticulous groundwork by FAA was to ensure none of the stakeholders would oppose what FAA was preparing to take to Congress. With that done, in early 2012, FAA got Congress to pass ambiguous legislation that waives the longstanding requirement to conduct public environmental review of new air traffic routes. Which brings us to today’s NextGen mess.

FAA has done years of hard work for the airlines (and for the manufacturers who are raking in $billions$ for new systems and mandated products). And the result? Thousands of residents in communities across the country have risen loudly AFTER FAA has imposed new, noise-impactful NextGen routes. Astonishingly, even after local officials and senior Senators send written appeals to FAA, all FAA does is delay fixing the problems created by NextGen; in fact, they salt the fresh wounds by continuing to aggressively sell NextGen as ‘green’, and by conducting months and years of ‘studies’.

Just like in 1964.

FAA imposes an impact, and then they waste airline passenger taxes to spend years inconclusively ‘studying’ the impacts.

It seems that, at FAA, regulatory capture is more than just a phenomenon: it is an entrenched culture.

A Two-Hour NextGen Reprieve in Phoenix

A rainstorm rolled across Phoenix last Friday, and the FAA demonstrated that, if they want to, they can immediately change departure routes. To residents in the historic neighborhoods along Grand Avenue, to the northwest, the early turns provided a much quieter evening, a break from the hell FAA turned on last September 18th. But, to residents a couple miles to the east, the early turns helped them to directly understand why so many in Phoenix are so upset at FAA.
20150515at2112.. KPHX tweet re FAA altering flightpaths due to storms, numerous comments

Here are sample modified departures

The departure changes are depicted in the following three screen-captures from FlightAware; orange is the designed NextGen noise-impactful route, and green is the route flown during the weather event.

SWA1811, comparison 5-15 (green, WX) & 5-14 (orange) routes

When Southwest Flight 1811 to San Jose took off at 9:29PM, they were issued an immediate right turn and flown through the middle of the painted intense weather (yellow). Flights to San Jose normally go due west, the way departures did before last September’s NextGen implementation (orange line).

20150517.. comparison of JBU602 KPHX-KBOS, 5-14 (orange) vs 5-15WX (green)

JetBlue Flight 602 took off at 10:29PM, via the YOTES2 on a redeye flight for Boston. Like all others during the two hours, the crew made an immediate right turn (green) and created a noise impact zone roughly two miles east of the normal route (orange).

20150515at2114.. AAL436 KPHX-KSFO, full route view &WX

One of the first reroutes was at 9:14PM, American Flight 436 to SFO. Note that after rushing to depart into the weather, the flight was issued a delay loop and additional delay vectors for sequencing at SFO, where there was a normal arrival flow (averaging 35 per hour) onto parallel runways, and a cloud layer at 1,500 feet. So much for NextGen.

Normal operations resumed two hours later…

…which begs the question (in the tweet below): if FAA can safely and efficiently modify departing flights to deal with a rainstorm, as they did last Friday, why can’t they modify departing flights to fix the NextGen NOISE STORM they have created?20150515at2313.. KPHX tweet re FAA resumes normal noisy flightpaths, 2comments

2015: A Record Year for Arctic Ice Melt?

The two graphs below are produced by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, in Boulder, CO. The full graph is updated daily, and can be viewed (and customized) at the NSIDC website. In this Post, aiREFORM has selected the record-low years (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015), and zoomed in to create detailed screen-captures, presented below to allow a closer analysis. Continue reading

FAA’s NextGen Noise is Destroying Quality of Life in Flushing

It would be hard to find a community in the entire United States with more history than Flushing, just east of LaGuardia Airport in Queens, NY. It also would be hard to find a community more adversely impacted by FAA’s NextGen implementation.

This Post will look briefly at the impacts, then take a deeper look at the early history of Flushing, which was highly relevant to the American ideal of individual rights and ‘freedom’. Maybe we can find some context that can help reverse FAA’s impactful NextGen failures….

FAA’s NextGen Impacts

LaGuardia Airport [KLGA] opened in 1939, and is one of three major airports serving the New York City area (the others are Newark [KEWR] and Kennedy [KJFK]). The airport was built mostly on fill in the East River. Elevations are so low that passenger gates and runways were flooded by Hurricane Sandy, just before the 2012 election.

LaGuardia (orange square) impacts flows at both Newark (pink square, left side) and JFK (pink square, bottom-right corner).

LaGuardia Airport (orange square, top-right corner) is poorly positioned and impacts flows at both Newark (pink square, left side) and JFK (pink square, bottom-right corner).

The location of LaGuardia is highly problematic, as the KLGA flights create conflicts with aircraft flowing into and out of the larger airports at Newark and Kennedy. In fact, the incredibly circuitous arrivals we have all experienced to both airports (especially to KJFK!) are almost entirely due to the airspace conflicts created by the LaGuardia proximity and runway alignments. Simply put, in all but sunny, clear-sky weather conditions, arrivals to LaGuardia nearly always interfere with arrivals to either KEWR or KJFK. As such, the idea of actually shutting down LaGuardia would likely produce huge benefits for both safety and efficiency into and out of the NYC airports.

As a way to manage the airspace conflicts, FAA has for decades imposed limits on the total number of hourly takeoffs and landings (slots) allowed at KLGA. The airlines keep pushing FAA (and Congress) to eliminate these limits, but with no parallel runways at KLGA, the only way to do this is to abandon all noise abatement procedures. Why do the airlines want to conduct more KLGA flights? Because Delta and other airlines use LaGuardia as a mini-hub, which inflates the number of flights. NOT for passengers who want to fly in/out of the congested NYC area, but for thousands of other passengers using KLGA as a ‘passenger sorting facility’, just to pass through and connect from one flight to another. Given the congestion, this hubbing practice at KLGA is absolutely nonsensical. If FAA truly served the entire Public (not just the airlines), they would manage KLGA with guidelines that disallow hubbing, due to the airport’s unique situation.

NextGen’s most notable adverse impact is caused by the TNNIS departure procedure. Once upon a time, FAA would try to minimize noise impact. A very common strategy was to identify corridors that were already noisy (freeways, railroad tracks, industrial areas) and areas with minimal population, then design arrival and departure routes over these areas. For many decades, LaGuardia departures taking off from Runway 13 (toward the southeast) would make a right turn and proceed south a couple miles over Flushing Meadows Park. These departures would then make a left turn and continue climbing northeast-bound, over the Long Island Expressway. This was hugely beneficial as it gave these departing passenger flights an extra couple thousand feet of altitude, greatly reducing the noise impacts in the Flushing neighborhoods. This noise abatement procedure was known as the Whitestone Climb.

With the implementation of NextGen, FAA has simply thrown away their noise abatement procedures. Procedures like the Whitestone Climb that allow airports to coexist with airport neighbors are simply being ignored. Frankly, it appears that FAA made a deal with the devil: they promised the airlines that, if the airlines came on board and promised to not oppose NextGen, FAA would ‘return the favor’ by using NextGen as cover, to justify tighter departure and approach patterns, with turns lower and closer to the runways. This essentially is a workaround to no longer have to comply with the environmental restrictions and planning procedures created in the last five decades.

A 4/30/2015 ‘Queens Chronicle’ article by Laura Shepard (scrollable view below) does a good job discussing the impacts…

“John Bowne built his house in 1661 … LaGuardia Airport opened in 1939 … Now the structure, the oldest house in Queens, vibrates when jets fly overhead and the windows are coated in soot and particulate matter … This was not the case a few years ago.”

Flushing’s Place in Early U.S. History

In the United States, nearly all of us are taught at a very young age about the early history of our nation. We learn not just from our schools, but from our annual holidays. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays. It nurtures a sense of pride, while also presenting our children with values to absorb and role models to follow. We learn that the Pilgrims are an example of an oppressed group who took action to regain their freedom. A group that, in 1620, risked their lives sailing across the Atlantic in the Mayflower, primarily to exercise their religious freedom. That, of course, was just the start of what became centuries of mass migration, to ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’.

'First Slave Auction', Flushing 1655

1655: First Slave Auction in Flushing

In 1645, settlers built a new community on the eastern bank of Flushing Creek. The settlers were chartered under the Dutch West India Company, and they named the town after the Dutch city of Vlissingen, which was later anglicized to ‘Flushing’. Slaves were used for labor and, by the mid-1660’s, 20% of residents under the charter were slaves. [for more about the slavery history, see this excellent article by Tony Carnes]

Many English colonists had been drawn to Dutch settlements in North America because the Netherlands was the most religiously tolerant nation in Europe. One of the early colonists was John Bowne. Born in England in 1627, he emigrated to Boston in 1648. By 1656, Bowne had purchased land in Flushing and had started a family with his new wife, a relative of Massachusetts governor John Winthrop. They settled on the land in Flushing and, in 1659, they joined the Quaker faith, a very new religion that was being widely persecuted.

'Flushing Remonstrance' stamp

1657: the Flushing Remonstrance

Although the colonists came for religious freedom, it did not take long for religious oppression to reappear. In 1656, the New Amsterdam Director-General, Peter Stuyvesant, had imposed an ordinance formally banning the public practice of all religions except the Dutch Reformed Church. This precipitated the Flushing Remonstrance, in December 1657, when a group of thirty sent a signed petition to Stuyvesant, protesting his discriminatory ordinance. The ordinance had been aimed mostly at Quakers. Impressively, none of those who signed the protest were actual Quakers.

The attitude of authorities was reflected by Stuyvesant’s response: he removed those lower government officials who had signed, and ordered a few imprisonments. And he also proclaimed March 13, 1658 a Day of Prayer for the purpose of repenting from the sin of religious tolerance. That one may need to sink in:

“…A Day of Prayer for the purpose of repenting from the sin of religious tolerance….”

What an incredible attitude, being imposed by an unaccountable authority figure. But, Bowne and a few others rejected this attitude. More than 350-years ago, history was made in Flushing, because Bowne and his young family found no religious freedom. Here is what happened, as excerpted from Bowne’s biography, posted by BowneHouse.org:

“John Bowne is best known for his courageous defense of religious freedom. Flushing was then part of the colony of New Netherland, and its town charter, granted by the Dutch West India Company in 1645 guaranteed “liberty of conscience.” When Governor Peter Stuyvesant prohibited the practice of religions other than the Dutch Reformed Church, town leaders delivered the Flushing Remonstrance to Stuyvesant, challenging his edict, which was aimed chiefly at Quakers. In 1662, John Bowne openly defied the ban and allowed Quakers to hold services in his home. Bowne was arrested and imprisoned, and when he refused to pay a fine or plead guilty, Stuyvesant banished him to Holland, where he argued his case successfully before the Dutch West India Company. Stuyvesant was ordered to permit dissenting faiths to worship freely. John Bowne returned home victorious in 1664, and the principle of religious freedom was established in the New York Colony. His actions and those of his fellow residents of Flushing established principles that evolved into the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.”

Places Change…

…and we depend on agencies like FAA to properly manage that change. We depend, but if the agency fails, we all suffer.

FAA’s current impact upon the residents of Queens, particularly those in downtown Flushing, is both senseless and insensitive. FAA is abusing their federal authority by misapplying the NextGen technologies we all paid taxes for, to impose new procedures that save airlines a million here and a million there, while literally destroying our residential homes. Even our very oldest historic homes, like the Bowne House.

More than three centuries before FAA was created, and 350 years before FAA got Congress to approve their NextGen ‘Categorical Exclusions (CATEXs)’, John Bowne stood strong against Stuyvesant’s abuse of authority. He was forced to cross the Atlantic to be heard. Through this history, he and his Flushing neighbors created the template for what became our Declaration of Independence. And they did so a century before the American Revolution, even before George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had been born.

FAA may destroy John Bowne’s historic home, but by the grace of God, some who care will stand up, to preserve what this nation used to stand for. With a little help from Congress, FAA’s NextGen Noise Impacts can be stopped. With a lot of heart from our best citizens, FAA’s injustices will soon end.

<< <> <<>> <> >>
“At LaGuardia, they tried to make it work in the past and there’s just no effort now. How many planes can you squish into this overly congested airspace?”
The biggest insult of all is the FAA saying nothing has changed. I don’t appreciate the attitude that ‘You’re by the airport, you should expect this noise.’ … It makes me so angry to see this done to this historic, thriving community.”
- comments by Susan Carroll, excerpted from the 4/30/2015 Qchron.com article

Here is a short video with Susan Carroll addressing a community gathering at Cunningham Park, in September 2014: [transcript]

See also:

Transparency in Santa Monica: Video of the May 12 City Council Proceedings

20150512scp.. Santa Monica City Council video & agenda item 13-C [KSMO]

(click on image to view video of the City Council meeting)

The Santa Monica City Council held a regular session on Tuesday, May 12th. They heard six citizen comments, had a discussion, then voted unanimously to pass Item 13-C.

One of the more interesting comments was by Mayor Kevin McKeown, noting FAA’s uncooperative attitude. He discussed a 5/11/2015 letter he had sent to Congressman Lieu’s office, which included this: “…(you stated) FAA has told you that it will be only in ‘listening mode’ at the meeting … that is a serious disappointment as it suggest that the FAA will not be prepared to engage in meaningful dialogue about community concern or possible solutions … given the gravity of this situation, the FAA’s merely listening is less than satisfactory.”

Below is a brief timeline listing speakers and times within the video. Click on the image to open a separate window with a video of the City Council meeting. Coverage of this item spans 28-miniutes, beginning at video time 2:05:00.

02:05:00 Mayor Kevin McKeown opens discussion.
02:05:37 Short presentation by Councilor Terry O’Day.
02:07:20 Comments by Mayor McKeown. He discusses a meeting has been set for July 8, but FAA insists they will be in ‘listening-only mode’.
02:08:40 Comments by City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie.
02:12:29 Mayor McKeown calls first of six public speakers
02:12:50 Denise Barton offers citizen comment.
02:14:25 People of California offers citizen comment.
02:15:34 Jerry Rubin offers citizen comment.
02:17:20 Joe Schmitz offers citizen comment. Discusses ‘greenwashing’, in the context of FAA’s delayed removal of lead from aviation fuel.
02:19:36 Martin Rubin offers citizen comment.
02:21:25 Suzanne Paulson offers citizen comment.
02:23:35 Mike Feinstein offers citizen comment.
02:25:05 Mayor McKeown closes public hearing portion, opens the matter for Council discussion.
02:25:15 Discussion by Councilor O’Day. Offers a motion to direct staff to proceed.
02:26:33 Comments by Mayor pro tempore Tony Vasquez.
02:27:10 Comments by Mayor McKeown, largely focused on the conflict between FAA authority and the local authority, in managing the airport while serving the needs and welfare of the local community. Asks the City Attorney to comment on specific details.
02:29:25 City Attorney Moutrie provides her comments.
02:32:10 Further comments by Mayor McKeown. He notes the substantial air quality improvements that were measured a few years ago when the runway was closed for extended maintenance repairs. Here is the quote: “I’ll point out – I think it was five years ago – we had to close the runway for a few days to do some repaving and we asked the air quality management district to do some air quality studies. We found during the few days that the runway was shut down that particulate matter in the immediate vicinity was reduce by a factor of 12 to 17 times. So a very demonstrable impact of on-going aircraft operations that we can go forward with.”
02:33:00 VOTE: unanimous approval.

Despite Big Profits, U.S. Airlines Are Whining about New Competition

Scott Hamilton, at Leeham News and Comment, has been a top news investigator in the commercial aircraft manufacturing industry for nearly three decades. His articles go deep, and they commonly go a bit further, even covering the airlines. His blog, LeehamNews.com, always informs.

Scott just posted ‘Pontifications: Qatar Air adds US service, US airlines ramp up whining’. He offers a relatively detailed summary of the 1978 deregulation of U.S. airlines, and the slow evolution away from competition and toward narrow consolidation, over the decades since. He also looks at US3 versus ME3, referring to today’s top three U.S. airlines (American, Delta and United), versus the new and fast-growing Middle East airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar).

The Post is an interesting read. And, as always, LeehamNews’ quality base of readers offer some excellent comments. Here is one comment, looking at the hypocrisy of the US3 complaining about new competition from foreign airlines:

These same morons running the Airlines are perfectly fine with deregulation and free trade as long as it means _they_ can outsource labor and manufacturing to Myanmar at $0.50 and hour, but god forbid any “damn furriners” use it to compete against them.
The US3 airlines (and their regional sweatshop affiliates) need to be taken down by unrestricted competition.The “foreign ownership” restrictions are BS protectionism.
Government subsidies to fly into unprofitable markets need to be eliminated (if you want to talk about subsidies, US3, what about these pork barrel constructs?)
The so called “free market capitalists” running America/ American businesses are only interested in their own freedom to profit, while constructing a system that guarantees their cartel’s market control in perpetuity.


5/12/2015: Airport Pollution on the Agenda at Next Santa Monica City Council Meeting

In a regular session, scheduled to begin at 5:30PM on May 12th, the Santa Monica City Council will be considering an item related to air pollution at the Santa Monica Airport [KSMO]. At Item 13-C on the Meeting Agenda, Councilmember Terry O’Day is asking the Council to consider directing staff to prepare an ordinance and leasing standards that would limit allowable emissions of air pollutants from aircraft and other sources at the Santa Monica airport. A PDF copy of the DRAFT Ordinance can be viewed in a scrollable box on page two of this aiREFORM Post.

For those wanting to research the background, here are links to past documents. They shed some light on the extent of the KSMO air pollution problem: