The Need for Night-time Curfews near SuperHubs, so People can Sleep

The Heathrow Airport west of London is hands-down the busiest UK hub for transatlantic commercial passenger flights. Just as we see in the U.S., where NextGen is creating health problems and destroying communities, hundreds of thousands of residents are severely impacted by the long conga lines of low, slow and loud arrivals. Plus, the noise and fumes from nonstop departure streams deny sleep and increase stress, too. Some of the worst examples in the U.S. include: Boston, NYC-JFK, NYC-LGA, DC-Reagan, Chicago-O’Hare, Charlotte, Phoenix, and Seattle.

A recent article notes a Conservative minister calling for a strong ban on all flights for the 7-hour block, from 11PM to 6AM. This would be a very good first step toward reducing Heathrow impacts. Indeed, it not only should be done, but the curfew should extend further. Given the tendency of airlines to overschedule at the main superHub airports, we commonly end up with delays cascading at the end of the day; thus, 11PM arrivals actually land at midnight or even later. This has been a huge problem at LaGuardia [KLGA], for example. So, to ensure that these arrivals actually land before the 11PM curfew, CAA (and FAA, in the U.S.) should require:

  1. the airlines need to schedule the arrivals long enough before 11PM so that, if delayed by the end of the day, they can still land before 11PM; and,
  2. substantial penalties need to be imposed – and rigidly enforced – to incentivize airlines to clean up their schedules, so that slippage past 11PM never happens.

Here’s an archived copy of the article:

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

Kudos to Mr. Hands for pressing forward on this proposed curfew at Heathrow. FAA should give serious consideration to imposing similar curfews at the busiest U.S. commercial hubs. If FAA refuses to do this, at the least FAA should pass the authority on, so that local officials and the communities can impose these restrictions.

MHFC: Technology and Design Achieve Nothing When Too Many Flights are Scheduled

An incredible airshow: Michael Huerta’s Flying Circus.

20160408.. Michael Huerta's Flying CircusIn service to the airlines, FAA has carefully worked to bypass environmental review procedures while also embarking on a scheme to abandon wholesale decades worth of noise mitigation procedures. In their effort to increase ‘throughput’, turns are being made lower and closer to the airports, for both departures and arrivals. This would reduce fuel consumption by a small amount, but the savings are routinely more than lost when excessive airline scheduling necessitates that ATC must issue delay turns (even entire delay loops) during the enroute/cruise portion of the flight.

It is really a circus. Controllers work harder, and pilots also work harder. Airline profits tweak slightly higher while many airports downsize and more flights become concentrated into a handful of superHubs. More delays are incurred, and repetitive-noise-pattern impacts increasingly damage neighborhoods that previously had no aviation noise issues. And what do FAA regulators do about it? Nothing. They just retire, take their pension, and sign up to work for the industry and as lobbyists.

An SFO arrival from Puerto Vallarta, on January 9th.

This Analysis looks at how NextGen fails at one of the few emerging superHubs: San Francisco [KSFO]. Here’s a screencap showing extensive delays ATC issued to an Alaska Boeing 737, during a January 9th evening arrival. Take a close look and you’ll see: the flight crew was issued vectors to fly a large box, then a smaller loop, then sent northwest for further descent and sequencing back into the arrival flow near Palo Alto.

Altitudes have been added to this graphic, so you can better estimate the impacts upon residents below, especially while ATC was routing the flight at the lower altitudes, from Pescadero to Portola Valley to Palo Alto and on to the landing.

An SFO arrival from Puerto Vallarta, on 3/10/17.

This is the type of inefficient maneuvering that happens everyday. Massive backups can be triggered by incidents that cause temporary runway closures or weather problems, but most of the time, these inefficiencies happen when too many flights are scheduled too close together, all because FAA refuses to properly manage arrival rates.

On days when there are not too many arrivals, this same flight normally looks like the example to the left: a direct route and a steady rate of descent, from Santa Cruz to where they turn final at the Bay, just west of the Dumbarton Bridge. This type of efficiency can become a reliable norm, but only if FAA goes one step further and imposes programs to stop airlines from exceeding workable airport arrival rates. Sadly, under NextGen, FAA is doing precisely the opposite: giving the airlines the sun and the moon, and all the stars if they have to, so long as the airlines will not oppose the expensive boondoggle that NextGen is. FAA wants Congress to throw more money at the agency, and that won’t happen, unless all the Av-Gov players ‘collaborate’ and act unified behind the NextGen fraud.

JetSuiteX Blowing Off Airport Authorities, Still Planning Scheduled Flights Out of Santa Monica

We’re down to the last two weeks. On February 6th, a charter operator wants to add to the impacts at Santa Monica with the start of scheduled passenger service on 30-passenger jets, offering flights to San Jose, Carlsbad, and Las Vegas. It appears the airport has not been certified to handle this type of operation, that for example the emergency response personnel and equipment is not sufficient for a possible accident by the operator ‘Delux Public Charter’ under JetSuiteX. But, corporate hubris ignores safety, legality, and environmental compatibility.

The scrollable PDF below shows a recent article by Beige Luciano-Adams, in a local paper, the Argonaut. This reporter did a very good job asking questions and getting candid answers from both sides. On the other hand, attempts to get candor from FAA were rebuffed. Indeed, in this whole matter, the worst character is FAA. They are truly acting as a captured regulator serving only aviation, enabling JetSuiteX to compel the City to waste resources protecting the City and people from excessive and unacceptable risks.

A real aviation regulator would have put a stop on JetSuiteX in December, shortly after they started selling tickets online. A real aviation regulator also would have ordered JetSuiteX to cease selling of these tickets with discounts for Santa Monica residents, a practice that is discriminatory and thus appears to be illegal. A real aviation regulator would have worked hard to bring the operator and the airport authority together to quickly resolve all issues, trying earnestly to create air service, but rejecting the proposal if it failed safety standards and other requirements.

FAA has done nothing … which is part of the collaborated plan.

Readers are encouraged to study this article. Reader comments/analysis shared with aiREFORM may be added to this aiREFORM page, with or without attribution, at the request of the reader.

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

To read another local article, and to also see an analysis showing how poorly JetuiteX has done selling passenger seats to Santa Monicans (despite the discriminatory pricing), click here.

FAA’s Refusal to Manage Airport Capacity

Satellite-based (aka, NextGen) technologies have been in use for decades, and at most airports they have enabled minimization of distance flown and fuel burned. In fact, at the very few airports where NextGen is failing, the problem is not the technologies: it is too many flights, and FAA’s lazy refusal to impose more restrictive airport flow rates.

If you spend any time studying today’s routes and flight profiles for U.S. commercial passenger flights (and it is REALLY easy to do, with FlightAware, FlightRadar24, and other websites that present FAA’s ATC data), you will see that all flights are already capable of and actually flying optimized routes: long, direct flights from origin airport to destination airport, with smooth and continuous climbouts and descents. But, for a small handful of airports, you will also see that ATC ends up creating long conga lines of low, slow and loud arrivals (the Long Island Arc of Doom is the classic example) … simply because there are too many flights arriving in too small a time window.

The root problem is the hub system, and FAA’s policy of enabling undisciplined hub scheduling by the dominant airline. FAA does this to maximize a theoretical number called ‘runway throughput’, and thus to help the airlines to maximize their profits. In simplest terms, a hub airline can tweak their profits upward a percentage point or two, if they can process say a dozen simultaneous arrivals, sorting the passengers quickly between gates, then send all those flights outbound at exactly the same moment.

Obviously, this is only theoretically possible. Because of limited runway capacity, each arrival and each departure needs roughly a one-minute window where the runway is theirs alone, so the scheduled ‘banks’ of a dozen ‘simultaneous arrivals’ and ‘simultaneous departures’ get spread out over two 12-20 minute windows. To safely handle the arrival banks, ATC has to level off the arrivals and extend the arrival pattern to long final legs, spacing the flights at roughly one-minute intervals; to process the departure banks, ATC issues immediate turns on departure (with terrible impacts in places like Phoenix), so that takeoff clearances can be issued in rapid succession.

The reality that FAA and Bill Shuster refuse to accept is this: runway capacity is limited, and we can pretend to be creating new technological solutions, but so long as there are only so many arrivals that a key hub airport can handle per hour, it is folly for FAA to let hub airlines schedule in excess. It only guarantees delays, which then cascade into other airports that otherwise would never see delays. Also, it is important to note that hourly flow rates do not address the problem. Delays happen every time, when just two arrivals aim to use one runway at the same minute. So, if FAA is to work with the airlines to design delay-free arrivals, the schedule needs to look at small time increments, even how many arrivals every 5-minutes. Fortunately, this finer data granularity is easily studied with todays digital processing capabilities.

The solution is obvious: we need Congress to change the laws, so as to disincentivize excessive hub scheduling; and, we need FAA to aggressively restrict airport flow rates at key delay-plagued hub airports, so that the conga lines never need to happen.

An Example: Seattle Arrivals

Here’s an example of what happens at an airport, when just one more flight creates enough traffic, to necessitate ATC stretching the arrival pattern. Seattle is a great example, because it is a major hub airport but [KSEA] is far from other major airports, thus flight patterns are not made more complicated by airport proximity issues. The dominant airline is Alaska (including its feeder, Horizon), but Delta began aggressive hub growth in 2012. The airport has triple-parallel north-south runways; a south flow is by far the dominant airport flow configuration. Whenever ATC has enough arrivals to reduce spacing to less than two minutes apart, the arrivals are extended downwind, turning base abeam Ballard (12nm), abeam Northgate Mall (14nm), abeam Edmonds (20nm), or even further north (see this graphic that shows distances on final from the runway approach ends).

The scrollable PDF below has sample arrivals on December 29th, with altitudes added to the screencaps, to illustrate level-offs and descent profiles. Five sample arrivals are included:

  • Horizon #2052 vs Horizon #2162 vs Horizon #2405: all are Dash-8s, from KPDX. Horizon #2052 has no traffic and is able to use the preferred noise abatement arrival route over Elliott Bay; the other two flights both have to extend to well north of Green Lake, including a long level-off at 4,000ft.
  • Alaska #449 vs Alaska #479: both are from KLAX. Alaska #449 has no traffic and is able to use the preferred noise abatement arrival route over Elliott Bay; Alaska #479 has to extend to well north of Green Lake, including a long level-off at 3,800ft, starting to the west of Alki Point.
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.


UPDATE, 01/17/2017 — further details and graphic added, re distances on final for KSEA south flow.

Why They are so Upset in Malverne and Under the L.I. ‘Arc of Doom’

Below are two scrollable PDF plots, one for KJFK Runway 4L departures impacting Malvern, and the other for KJFK Runway 22L arrivals using the infamous low-altitude ‘Arc of Doom’. Both plots were extracted from the recent noise study report done for FAA, by ESA, posted online at the airport authority PANYNJ website (report referenced in this article). Be sure to expand the view to see the finely detailed color-dots for these routes.

Click on the images below for a scrollable view; click here for a downloadable copy of the first PDF (Departures Runway 4L) and here for a downloadable copy of the second PDF (Arrivals Runway 22L) .

Generally speaking, repetitive noise impacts are more problematic the closer the flights are to the ground, but impacts tend to abate to a tolerable level at or above 8,000 feet altitude (blue dots on the Departure PDF, above).

Note also the extraordinary added distances being flown for these arrivals (see the light gray dots, at or above 6,000 altitude). Anyone who has been a passenger on a flight to KJFK has experienced the interminable arrival path that chugs along at low altitudes. This added work by ATC is created by too many flights, in too small an arrival window, forcing controllers to over-control the flights. The simplest solution, to reduce delays and noise and air pollutants, and to optimize efficiency, is for FAA to start managing capacity: setting and enforcing much lower hourly arrival rates and departure rates.

And What are PANYNJ Authorities Doing About It?

After years of complaints, Part 150 Studies were ordered for KJFK and KLGA. This formal process is designed to create an enormous volume of documents, many of which are almost indecipherable, to feed the illusion that citizens have an opportunity to aid in a decision-making process. In truth, it is all only for show; there is no meaningful or effective citizen involvement.

Here’s a challenge: go to this website (PANYNJ’s official webpage for the KJFK Part 150 Study) and spend a few minutes reading it and intuitively navigating. Try to learn from it, and see what valuable info/data you can find. More likely than not you will quickly leave your exploration, because PANYNJ, FAA and their well-paid pro-aviation consultant have created such an incredible volume of technobabble, and presented it in such a bizarre layout, that only the most obsessive individuals will press onward past the many click-deadends and long download times. I located some documents and spent well over an hour downloading the October 2016 ‘Draft Noise Exposure Map (NEM) Report’; 13 PDF files, measuring 1,349 pages (149Mb) total. Just finding and copying the documents is a substantial effort, and then to read all those pages? Do they really expect the average concerned citizen to do this much work??? Of course not.

If you liked that challenge, do it again at this website (same Part 150 page design, this time for KLGA!).

This appears to be what has evolved. Whether it is for a small and nearly dead airport in MN, AR, or wherever) or a huge chunk of airspace such as the LA Basin or the NYC area, FAA has evolved the public participation process (a requirement dating back to even before the 1946 Administrative Procedures Act) to make sure the average citizen is blown away with so much documentation (and much of it superfluous) that they simply give up even trying.


UPDATE, 11/25/2016: — A recent email by a resident with Plane Sense 4 LI points out repetitive noise impacts on Malverne, caused by approaches to LaGuardia. Click here to view an archived copy.

An Example of a Serious Weather Delay … but Delays Can Also Happen by Scheduling ‘Too Many Arrivals’

A recent day with foggy weather in the Puget Sound area produced a few examples of weather-related delays. ksea-20161110at1009-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-data-wxdlasIn the example presented below, Jazz Air 8089, a Dash-8, departed Vancouver [CYVR] on a short 30-minute flight to SeaTac [KSEA]. The flight departed at 8:55am, just as the KSEA visibility was reducing to a half mile. The crew was turned toward the Olympic Peninsula and issued turns to delay their arrival.

Here is a screen-cap of the METAR weather sequence, reading from bottom to top; thin red boxes have been added, marking the departure time at CYVR and the arrival time at KSEA. The column in the middle is most critical, showing visibility deteriorating from 10-miles to a half-mile; the magenta text to the right, reading BKN001 and VV001 is also significant, indicating low clouds and fog obscuring the sky at 100′ above the surface.ksea-20161110-metar-0825am-to-1120am-low-wx-markedupThe flight altitudes and times at points on the JZA8089 route have been added to this enlarged map view of the delay portion of the flight, over the Olympic National Park:ksea-20161110at1009-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-analysis-of-dlas-over-olypennIn normal weather conditions, the flight is routine, even boring to both pilots and ATC. ksea-20161109at0929-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-dataksea-20161111at0950-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-dataksea-20161112at0915-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-dataTo the left are screen-caps for the same flight on days before and after… on 11/9, 11/11, and 11/12. In all cases, KSEA is in a South Flow, so the minor variations in these three flights are almost entirely due to other arrival traffic.

In an extreme case, if traffic volume is sufficiently large, ATC may need to issue a holding loop, or multiple turns to achieve even 20+ minutes of delay. Note on these screen-caps, the busiest day of the week for air travel (Friday) shows the most extreme excess turns to final; the slowest day of the travel week (Saturday) shows essentially no added delays.

One way that FAA fails to prevent excessive delays is by refusing to manage capacity. Especially at hub airports, arrival rates are set too high, so as not to restrict the airlines. In their NextGen studies, FAA has repeatedly referred to maximizing ‘runway throughput’. The problem, though, is that when arrival rates are set too high, it takes just one minor weather glitch to create a cascade of delays, one airplane after another, often for hours. In the worst cases, typical at LaGuardia Airport, cascaded delays can cause arrivals to finish well after midnight, even more than two hours beyond their schedule times. And these delays nearly ALWAYS result in continuous arrival streams, with repetitive noise patterns impacting residential neighborhoods, a problem being exacerbated under NextGen.

(All graphics & flight data from FlightAware)

Unspinning the Spin: A Liberal Rant by the Conservative Wall Street Journal

It is bad enough that the mainstream media tries every trick in the book to manipulate the outcome of our major elections … and, more often than not, they succeed. Their greed and power know no boundaries. No surprise, then, that the media applies these same propaganda tactics to prop up industries and bogus programs, such as NextGen and the Av-Gov Complex co-conspirators’ latest stab at privatizing ATC.

A new opinion piece was published yesterday by the Wall Street Journal editors. One reader’s comments summarize it very well: “…Although I think the FAA is completely inept and has bungled the NextGen rollout on all levels, some of the WSJ’s statements were very unfair (aka the old ‘World War II technology’ argument), and I fear the airlines being in charge even more.”

Another reader’s comments are drawn from his profession, as an airline pilot with extensive knowledge about labor and aviation politics:

“This article has absolutely nothing in it except for many errors and convenient omissions. For example, the comparison to the 1960’s is totally inaccurate because today all aircraft have the ability to fly direct, point-to-point with GPS and other similar navigation devices that all airliners have, even the “older” ones. The United States has complete, 100% radar coverage, so the statements referring to enroute delays are totally incorrect. Plus, it states that Schuster’s proposal “isn’t perfect” without pointing out what those imperfections are.

This is “airline deregulation” all over again, but this time targeting ATC. As far as FAA “oversight” goes, just look at the fines the airlines have accumulated for improper maintenance—and those are only the cases that were caught.

The true problem lies in the terminal areas of the busiest airports and neither NextGen nor any other fancy-sounding baloney has come even close to resolving that. All it has done is increase the noise levels for airport neighbors.”

Here’s a PDF of aiREFORM’s analysis of the WSJ piece, with numerous rebuttal notes added as footnotes:

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

Clearly, this will not be the last of an ongoing series of lame propaganda pieces. The collusion by members of the Av-Gov Complex – called a ‘collaboration’ – will not end until they pull off yet another change that serves industry profits at the expense of everyone else. A Congress weakened and compromised by too much focus on fundraising may eventually capitulate to this fraudulent campaign.

Airports and Cities: Can They Coexist?

As often happens, a good lead was tweeted regarding an interesting article. This time, @NoFlyDay tweeted with a link to an article by Ed Ayres, Airports and Cities:  Can They Coexist?, archived at WorldWatch.org. The article was first published in the July/August 2001 issue of  World Watch Magazine, for which Mr. Ayres served as editor.

The article points toward the enormous land-grab to create the Denver International Airport (DIA) or [KDEN]. That massive project, undertaken from 1989 into 1995, was intended to accommodate major hubs that pre-existed in Denver, for both United and Continental. But, Continental decided to abandon their Denver hub (and decades later was merged with United), causing annual operations to decline substantially. This huge new airport has never come even slightly close to operating at the capacity it was built for.

The article also notes how, in shifting the burden to airline passengers to drive long distances away from their homes, total air pollution was substantially increased … and all at public cost. All this was done ostensibly to better serve the general public, but in truth served only to improve airline profits. *until ten years ago, the strategy at Southwest was to completely avoid the major hubs for the legacy airlines, such as ATL, BOS, DEN, MSP and SFO … and even when their strategy was changed, they were careful to not really ‘compete’ with the dominant carrier at each hub.And, as is the case throughout the U.S. commercial aviation system, Denver has virtually zero competition on routes, and serves as a hub dominated by one airline: United (with a lesser hub by Southwest, who only began serving KDEN in 2006*).

Two other interesting aspects to contemplate while reading this article (and the related documents accessible via the links below):

  1. first, all of these documents were researched and created years PRIOR to the inception of NextGen by FAA and industry stakeholders; and,
  2. second, the article came out just prior to the 9-11 attacks, which arguably were used to justify enormous ‘Shock Doctrine’ changes in all aspects of U.S. commercial aviation, most significantly modifying security, ATC procedures, and environmental impact mitigations.

Here are links to a PDF copy as well as some related documents archived at aiREFORM.com:

MHFC: NextGen Enroute Delays & Noise Impacts over Vashon Island

An incredible airshow: Michael Huerta’s Flying Circus.

20160408.. Michael Huerta's Flying CircusIn service to the airlines, FAA has carefully worked to bypass environmental review procedures while also embarking on a scheme to abandon wholesale decades worth of noise mitigation procedures. In their effort to increase ‘throughput’, turns are being made lower and closer to the airports, for both departures and arrivals. This would reduce fuel consumption by a small amount, but the savings are routinely more than lost when excessive airline scheduling necessitates that ATC must issue delay turns (even entire delay loops) during the enroute/cruise portion of the flight.

It is really a circus. ATCs work harder, and pilots also work harder. More delays are incurred, all so that FAA can justify increasing the repetitive-noise-pattern impacts on neighborhoods that previously had no aviation noise issues.

This Analysis looks at how NextGen is destroying quality of life for residents of Vashon Island, west of SeaTac [KSEA]. As shown in the map below, with FAA’s NextGen redesign of the Seattle airspace, ATC is compressing small planes to fly lower in corridors crossing east-west over KSEA (specifically, note the magenta arrows and magenta text boxes). This is to accommodate lower (and heavier) arrival flows on north-south downwind legs roughly 6-miles west of SeaTac (over the island’s eastern half). KSEA.20160512.. portion of VFR sectional focused on S ARR flow impacts Vashon level-offsOn a beautiful clear day (May 12, 2016), KSEA was landing south. In a south flow, all arrivals from California/Oregon are aligned northbound on a published RNAV route over the east half of Vashon Island. Thus, Vashon Island residents become subjected to the noise of one flight after another. Problematically, with the NextGen changes, this noise impact pattern is repeated all day long and all night long.

A scrollable PDF of the Analysis is presented below. Note that the Analysis also looks at how NextGen is being oversold and consistently fails to deliver on the ‘benefits’ claimed by FAA and others. In this example, every KSEA arrival from California was turned early after taking off, and then given a direct flight to the KSEA arrival fix at Battle Ground, just north of Portland. But then, once enroute, ATC issued significant delays to each arrival, eliminating all time and fuel savings benefits of the NextGen departure procedures. These delays were necessitated by the excessive arrival flows that happen at hub airports. In this example, KSEA is a major hub used by both Delta (including Compass, or CPZ) and Alaska (including Horizon).

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

If FAA chose to, they could substantially mitigate these Vashon Island noise impacts. Notably, a natural descent corridor exists a few miles to the east, over Puget Sound. NextGen technologies would easily allow FAA to create a simple customized noise-mitigation arrival route over the middle water area. But, unfortunately, it appears FAA is set on cookie-cutter downwind legs.

Debunking the A4A Op/Ed Letter at TimesLedger

Airlines for America is the largest lobbyist for U.S. airlines – and the main force behind years of coordinated spin seeking to dupe Congress and the Public. With added intensity these past few years, Airlines for America has been pressing to both privatize ATC and waste billions to ‘transform ATC’ by supposedly adding satellite-based NextGen technologies (while ignoring the fact these technologies are already widely used). Airlines for America is also known as ‘A4A’, and formerly known as the trade group, ‘Air Transport Association (ATA)’.

Doubtless, with possible rare exceptions, the people who work at Airlines for America are all good people:  hard-working, protective of their families, civic-minded and loyal to our nation, and careful to optimize quality-of-life in their home communities. And, when they don their most expensive outfits, they are Washington DC lobbyists.

Here is a picture of three of A4A’s lobbyists: Rubino, Calio, and Pinkerton:

(click on image to view bios for all A4A executives, at airlines.org)

(click on image to view bios for all A4A executives, at airlines.org)

The online bio for CEO Nick Calio notes his professional background. He co-founded a DC law firm, worked for Citigroup, and also worked within the presidential administrations of both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. All that before he became A4A’s CEO, in early 2011. The Wikipedia entry for A4A notes that “…Calio was hired after the Republicans made big gains in the 2010 midterm elections….”

One of the A4A VP’s has been reported to be dating House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, of Pennsylvania. That would be Shelley Rubino, and her official title is ‘VP, Global Government Affairs‘ (perhaps this is more acceptable than ‘VP of government relations‘?). For what it is worth, Mr. Shuster has offered assurances that his relationship with this A4A VP does not have any bearing on his tenacious advocacy of privatizing ATC and accelerating NextGen.

Another A4A executive is Sharon Pinkerton, Senior Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Policy. It appears that Sharon’s in-basket receives occasional directives to produce public relations material. One recent result was a letter with Sharon’s name, published in the TimesLedger, an old newspaper serving the borough of Queens, New York. Queens is highly significant here, because this is a densely populated area impacted by not just one but TWO major U.S. airports – both Kennedy and LaGuardia. As heavily covered in the news, Queens is one of those places where FAA’s NextGen implementation is destroying quality-of-life, and creating noise-ghettoes out of historic neighborhoods. Oh, and just like those executives at A4A, the residents of these impacted Queens neighborhoods consist largely of good people: hard-working, protective of their families, civic-minded and loyal to our nation, and careful to optimize quality-of-life in their home communities. And, all the more to their credit, very few of the Queens residents are lobbyists.

So, for your reading pleasure, here is a copy of the A4A letter, as published in the March 3rd edition of TimesLedger. Highlights and footnotes have been added, to rebut the misinformation being pushed by A4A. Following the letter is a compilation of graphics from the online flight-tracking website, FlightAware. This compilation shows all factual data (routes, times, speeds, etc.) needed to ascertain the efficiency of all 29 commercial airline flights, from LaGuardia to Reagan National, as flown on March 3rd, the day of the TimesLedger Op/Ed by A4A.

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

A key line within the A4A letter says: “…twenty years ago, a flight from LaGuardia to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport took less than an hour. Today the same flight takes 90 minutes, as airlines have to account for ATC delays.” This is not a casual slip, though, as the letter reinforces the delay concept by referring to ‘our Nation’s antiquated air traffic control system’ and citing ‘WWII-era radar technology’.

The facts prove the A4A line is totally false. Instead, the real data shows:

  1. On Thursday, March 3, 2016, there were 29 airline departures from LaGuardia to Reagan National.
  2. This route segment (KLGA-KDCA) is a duopoly, between two airlines pretending to compete, each offering hourly flights on the top of the hour, from 6AM until 8PM. American offers 15 daily flights, and Delta offers 14 daily flights.
  3. American schedules their flights at 84-minutes long, but the flights averaged 50-minutes; this means that, while airborne and under ATC control (using the present blend of radar and satellite technologies), each American flight ‘made up’ an average 34-minutes against their advertised schedule.
  4. Delta schedules their flights at 86-minutes long, but the flights averaged 49-minutes; this means that, while airborne and under ATC control (using the present blend of radar and satellite technologies), each Delta flight ‘made up’ an average 37-minutes against their advertised schedule. Also, Delta does not actually fly these flights; instead, they use a contract regional feeder, Shuttle America, a very common practice (used by United and Delta as well, and at nearly every major U.S. airline hub).
  5. In the A4A letter, it was claimed that “…twenty years ago, a flight from LaGuardia to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport took less than an hour….” Well, the same is true today: 50-minutes is comfortably under an hour.
  6. Looking closely at the screen-captured routes, it is clear they are VERY direct. In fact, the only significant route adjustments are all related to fitting the flight into the arrival sequence at Reagan National, and thus has NOTHING to do with LaGuardia. [NOTE: the primary route adjustments are a slight delay vector frequently applied near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, and the extension of the downwind leg (those sometimes-long U-shapes prior to landing), to accomplish spacing in the landing sequence]
  7. Both airlines are using small commuter-sized aircraft on essentially all flights: 69-seats for Delta (using the E175), and 100-seats for American (using the E190). Only American’s first flight of the day has higher capacity: a 128-seat Airbus 319 … which makes sense, since lots of people fly to DC to see their dealer elected representative.
  8. The small aircraft size points to an interesting possibility: if FAA and the airlines wanted to reduce delays and noise impacts, they could agree to fewer LGA-DCA trips per day, using larger aircraft (130-seat to 160-seats or more) that have essentially identical flight profiles (thus no greater noise impact per flight).
  9. Chances are high this same reduction strategy would apply on other route segments to major hubs (O’Hare, Atlanta, Charlotte, DFW and Boston, for example). That is to say, if use of many small planes was disincentivized but use of fewer large planes was incentivized, between LaGuardia and other hubs, we could easily reduce the number of flights using LaGuardia; huge improvements could be realized – and virtually overnight – in both local noise impacts and national airspace system delays.

About this data compilation:

The PDF below is a compilation of screen captures, showing all 29 airline flights from LaGuardia to Reagan National, on March 3, 2016. For each screen capture, the map on the left side clearly shows New Jersey and adjoining states, depicting shores, highways, etc. Notice how the flights consistently pass over the same locations, one flight after another.

On the right side of each screen capture is a datablock about each flight. It shows flight number, scheduled times, actual times, airspeed, filed altitude, aircraft type, and route of flight. Be sure to pop-out the graphic, so you can read the finer details. Pay attention to the actual departure times, actual arrival times, and compare them with the ‘official’ times scheduled by the airlines.

One important thought to keep in mind while studying these flights: controllers are like regular people, in that they try to do as little as possible. They try to keep things simple and easy. So, if other air traffic was not an issue, every one of these 29 flights would have been cleared to fly a beeline from off the departure runway to land on the arrival runway. Every variation from a direct route is solely to adjust the flight, to keep it out of conflict and to finesse it into a safe arrival flow. A tiny tweak, turning the flight to the left or right, while passing north of Baltimore, is generally all that is needed to add a minute of delay to the overall flight, enabling a smooth arrival flow. Alternatively, a speed adjustment ordered by ATC can accomplish the same end result. Look closely at the thin green line and you can see these route adjustments.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded. You can also click on the pop-out feature (dwell over the upper right corner and it will appear) and the magnifier to view the finer details of the maps and data/times for the 29 flights.

The flight data, as well as the maps, shows all 29 commercial flights from LaGuardia to Reagan National on March 3rd. These facts, when juxtaposed with the A4A letter, present a compelling case: A4A is in the business of making money by lobbying, and as with all examples of lobbying today, their methods sadly include the manipulation of facts and perceptions. In wartime, their methods would be called propaganda. In peacetime, too, A4A’s methods are destructive. Not just to local quality of life, but also to the larger issue: functional and effective democratic process, with empowered citizens, knowledgeable and responsibly engaged.

So, A4A, if you are sincerely committed to hearing concerns and finding solutions, please cease your attack on our ears, our homes, and our democracy. Start serving the nation, not just your ‘lobby base’.