Queens Quiet Skies: Latest Newsletter Offers Great Insight into FAA’s NextGen Failures

Janet McEneaney is President of Queens Quiet Skies, a group advocating for relief from aviation noise impacts related to both the LaGuardia [KLGA] and Kennedy [KJFK] airports. These are two of the three major airports that serve the NYC area. FAA’s full capitulation to the airlines, to expand flight schedules beyond what these airports can accommodate, has not only created terrible impacts that are destroying communities, but is also the root cause of nearly all delays in the U.S. ATC system. In other words, if FAA simply chose to apply rational capacity discipline on the NYC airports, system delays would be massively reduced.

Janet makes some excellent points in her latest update email to QQS members. A PDF copy has been created, with active links to the referenced materials. Hopefully this will help other aviation impact activists to learn about what FAA/industry are doing, why NextGen is failing, how workgroups tend to become coopted/steered by FAA/industry, and more.

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

BTW, Janet has been a great activist on this issue, for years. Read more here.

Also, archived copies of the documents linked within the QQS update may be accessed via these links:

Santa Monica is Failing Their Promise to Shorten the Runway

A big event happens tomorrow night (May 24th), when the Santa Monica City Council holds a Special Session with major airport-related items. Here are some key links:

It has been four full months now, since the ‘surprise’ press announcement of a Consent Decree between FAA and the City. No progress has been made. FAA had approved, and the city promised, an immediate runway shortening, but now we are seeing the City dilly dally with lots of money to consultants to create reports that defy common sense while making unsupported claims that prolong the status quo impacts.

The City hired consultants to study options for shortening the runway to 3,500-ft, as allowed now by FAA. Documents indicate the consultant delivered a report with four options, but for whatever reason, the City stripped two of those options out and is proceeding to pretend only two options are viable. These two options alone were shared with the Public a few weeks ago (the existence of the other two options were only revealed in the last few days, after City posted documents related to the 5/24 agenda; see links above).

Frankly, it looks like City is playing a drawn-out delay game. It also looks like City is ignoring the health of the citizens of Santa Monica and nearby West LA neighborhoods. Even the City of Los Angeles should be pressing hard on this matter: to protect their citizens, they should be demanding that Santa Monica quit the dilly dallying and shorten the runway … NOW!!

The City owns the airport, and the City owns the runway itself. With that ownership, the City carries risks and liabilities. At this or any airport, if a runway is dangerous – too close to homes, or even too close to hangars as at Santa Monica, where people died in the last fiery airport crash – the airport authority needs to restrict operations for safety. If only to manage their risk exposure, all airport authorities should have the right to deny access of larger aircraft to substandard runways – especially commercial operations such as charter jets.

The biggest progressive step this year, as declared by the Consent Decree, is that FAA has finally backed down just a bit, and is letting the City manage the KSMO runway. City airport officials should use this restored authority to do as they say: immediately close the northeast portion of Runway 21, making it illegal for any aircraft to touch the asphalt.

Likewise, at the southwest end of the runway, City needs to take full advantage of the existing taxiways and simply close to operational use the roughly 450-feet of runway between the existing runway end and the first set of crossing taxiways (A1 & B1).

City could have done this in late January. That they have done nothing strongly suggests that City has a different and unspoken motive. The City, managed by Rick Cole, along with the airport office and under the guidance of the City Council, is not really trying to mitigate the severe impacts on hundreds of homes within the Runway Protection Zones (RPZs). The City is not honoring the clear request of the citizens who passed Measure LC with a wide margin, back in 2014 – a measure which demanded closure as soon as possible, and which also prohibited commercial use of any land reclaimed from aviation use in the future.

Also, notably, the most severe impacts at this airport are by small- to medium-sized charter jet and bizjet operations, often carrying just one wealthy person. These elites are inflicting an extraordinary negative impact on Santa Monica residents’ quality of life, simply because they will not be inconvenienced. They could instead fly out of much safer and less impactful airports such as LAX, Burbank, or Van Nuys, which like most U.S. airports, have no homes within their runway RPZs. They could do this, but they choose not to … and FAA and the City allow this injustice to continue.

Many have picked up on this story. No Jets Santa Monica Airport posted this great analysis on FaceBook:

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

Similar concerns have been posted by Ben Wang, at SMO Future. There are a lot of good people around Santa Monica, like Martin Rubin, who have devoted multiple decades to restore local quality of life and protect health. These are good people, who have fought for a just resolution of the noise and air pollutant impacts. It looks as though FAA and a few of the current City leaders are just trying to wear them out. FAA’s intransigence, and the corruptibility of selected Santa Monica officials, has ensured no meaningful progress in all these decades.

These are but a few of the people at the forefront of the movement by the majority of Santa Monica residents, who simply want to control and close the airport .. and they need to control it for their health. They are vocal activists, but they are not the only residents who find this is a major issue. These vocal activists represents the opinions – and the votes – of probably 5,000 Santa Monicans each. This is why there have been surprisingly long public comment sessions at City Council meetings when an airport issue has come up. The citizens have a network that lets them know when to come out in force to voice their opinions. Every day, more and more citizens are learning exactly which City Council members are secretly pro-airport. A clear story has emerged. The people will vote-out the now exposed pro-airport insiders.

This all has to change. If this does not change, we really do not have any functioning Democracy.


UPDATE, 6/1/2017:Written Public Comments, submitted to the City (copy posted by CRAAP, 89p)

Maryland Governor’s Great Letter Demands FAA Revert to Ease NextGen Impacts

This is a great letter. It precisely defines the NextGen problems, points out FAA’s casual indifference that only delays while sustaining these impacts, and all but demands that FAA revert to pre-NextGen procedures until the problems are corrected. The Governor and his Chief of Staff should be proud to post this, as it shows a proper focus, serving real people ahead of corporations.

(click on image to view source and video at Baltimore Sun)

The only thing that will improve this letter is the follow through. I.e., at some point, when FAA continues to fail, requests must become demands. Concern must morph into outrage. Not just in Maryland, but everywhere, and for every instance of FAA impacts upon local communities: from Boston to San Diego, and at places like Santa Monica and Longmont, too.

If our leaders continue their general aversion to showing outrage and demanding reform, we will only continue to slide deeper into the new realm: a corporatocracy that produces profits, narrowly enjoyed by an elite few, while growing negative impacts – the diminishment of health and loss of quality of life – are born by a wide swath of citizens.

Thank you, Governor Hogan, for recognizing this is unacceptable, and demanding FAA reform NextGen.

[ai-RCHIVE] 1997-02: Sea-Tac International Airport Impact Mitigation Study, Initial Assessment & Recommendations (347p)

Take a close look at this impact study done more than two decades ago, which includes these opening paragraphs:

(click on image to view a downloadable copy of the report)

Twenty years later, how well have the Port of Seattle (POS) and local elected officials applied the content in this study, to protect and serve the local residents and taxpayers?

Is the proper BALANCE in place, so that the airport serves the local community rather than destroy it?

Is KSEA becoming yet one more case of an over-expanded airport creating benefits for airlines and the industry, at great costs in destroyed communities and lost quality of life?

Today’s FAA: Serving only Aviation Money by Perpetuating Environmental Impacts

Three current satellite views that illustrate how different nations balance aviation commerce with residential quality of life. The images also show how backwards the U.S. FAA has become, with the widening failures to protect people from aviation impacts.

The first image shows Austria’s largest airport, Vienna International Airport, which serves a metropolitan area with a population of 2.6 million. The airport is 11-miles southeast of the urban center, and surrounding by farmland. This airport was a recent news splash, when a federal court ruled against the addition of a third runway, on the grounds it would prevent Austria from achieving carbon-reduction goals associated with the Paris climate agreement.

The second image shows Portland International Airport [KPDX], in Oregon, which serves a metropolitan area quite comparable to Vienna (with an estimated 2.4 million residents). The airport is 6-miles northeast of the urban core; the land was formerly agricultural but has generally been industrialized and commercialized, often after the regional port authority uses federal funds to buy up adjacent properties.
The third image shows what may be the worst example of FAA obstructing local control, forcing noise and air pollution upon a densely developed residential community: Santa Monica, California [KSMO]. No farmland, and no other buffers to protect residents, with houses literally just past the runway ends. People have had fences and lawn furniture knocked down by the blast of private jets, and even charter jets carrying just one VIP passenger. The noise and the exposure to toxic lead and carbon soot is far beyond what is found at even much busier hub airports. FAA has allowed the airport to continue to operate despite effectively having no safety buffers, to protect both aircraft occupants and aircraft neighbors. The fiery crash that killed four in September 2013 is an example of how critical it is for jets to have ample clear space, to keep everyone safe.

Operationally, Portland and Vienna are quite similar. The Vienna airport website includes a news release noting there were 226K operations in CY-2016.FAA’s ATADS-OPSNET database notes that Portland International had 228K operations in CY-2016. One distinct difference, though, is that the Viennese traffic is stable, while the Portland traffic has steadily declined for two decades, and is now down 31% from peak year 1997.

Santa Monica is most famous as the airport where Harrison Ford hangars his toys; his playtime, even when it involves forced landings on golf courses and nearly hitting a commercial jet while failing to land on the Orange County runway, is more important than the health and happiness of thousands of residents. So, the same federal regulator that expends thousands of hours impeding local control and a safer SMO airport, would never even dream of clipping the wings of Mr. Ford.

This is a no-brainer: FAA needs to let local officials close KSMO, or at least disallow jets. The main impediment to cleaning this up is Michael Huerta’s FAA. If he cannot get his captured employees to do their jobs, he needs to leave.

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.

Working to Solve the Problems Created by NextGen

There is a new Chair for the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus, actually two: Representatives Tom Souzzi (pronounced “swah’-zee”) and Eleanor Holmes-Norton were elected as co-chairs, to replace Representative Grace Meng.

Both Souzzi and Meng are from the NYC area, serving Queens and Nassau County. This is where the Caucus originated in 2014, primarily to address NextGen impacts. Essentially, health and quality of life are being destroyed in dozens of suburban neighborhoods, under arrival and departure paths for both LaGuardia [KLGA] and Kennedy [KJFK] airports.

Representative Souzzi spoke during Members’ Day, to the House Committee on Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee. Here is a link to the start of his statement, which presents many of the concerns of his impacted constituency. The statement is very thorough (click here to view a PDF of the prepared statement). In less than 6-minutes, he offers the following key takeaways:

  1. the impacts are national
  2. FAA and airport authorities routinely dismiss concerns without due consideration
  3. FAA is failing to recognize that this is an objective problem harming human health
  4. health studies are needed to compel action by FAA

Impacted residents asked aiReform to prepare an analysis, to help sharpen the focus on what the NextGen issues are and how they can be fixed. After a lot of discussion and review, the following document was created:

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


See also:
  • NATCA’s Position on NGATS-NextGen –  (9/8/2005) the position by NATCA, stated by Doug Fralick at a conference: “…the real limiting factors are runway capacity and weather, no fancy en route automation system is going to change that fact.” Note that he refers to NGATS, not NextGen, as this marketing term had not yet been created.
  • 2005 Annual Performance Report – (March 2006) the first appearance of the brandname ‘NextGen’, in a glossy annual report for 2005, pitching great progress by the air traffic organization (ATO). Note that both FAA Administrator Blakey and ATO COO Chew prominently push the ‘NextGen’ moniker in their letters. Note also that many technical advances are claimed, yet Shuster, A4A, and complicit media hacks are all routinely pressing the idea FAA is using technology from World War II.
  • DoT-IG-Dobbs report to a Congressional committee, hearing re NextGen – (July 25, 2006) this DoT-IG report assesses NGATS but makes no reference to ‘NextGen’. Evidently, although Blakey and ATO started pushing the NextGen brandname in March, as long as four months later other entities such as the Inspector General had not yet adopted the term.
  • AIRR: Going Nowhere (while Shuster schleps in Florida!) – (2/24/2016) aiReform Post, at the end of the last big push for ATC privatization and accelerated NextGen funding
  • FAA’s Refusal to Manage Airport Capacity – (1/7/2017) aiReform Post offering a closer analysis

Video of the February 4, 2017 Protest at Santa Monica Airport

The video produced for the latest Santa Monica protest rally is an outstanding example for how to conduct a peaceful and informative protest. Other aviation impact activists can learn from viewing this.

One point that comes through repeatedly within the rally is the deep concern the people have about health and aviation pollution. Incredibly, in the Consent Decree signed earlier that week, both FAA and the City were totally indifferent to these concerns; indeed, the only mention within the 63-page formal document is this paragraph, where FAA is pressing the City to formally abandon all environmental concerns.

Just a guess, but I suspect the four who voted to accept this Consent Decree (Pam O’Connor, Terry O’Day, Gleam Davis, and Ted Winterer) had not read this particular portion of the draft … and if they DID read it, they need to explain their ‘yes’ vote to the voters!

Here’s an embed of the video, followed by an expanded timeline, with a few quotes:

  • at the start of the video, Martin Rubin & Joan Winters (Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution) opened the rally.
  • 14:47Mike Bonin, Los Angeles City Council Member from District 11. A few quotes: “This has been a battle that has been going on for a very long time, and I will say that, for the past four years, I actually thought we were moving in a very good direction. I was thrilled and was glad to support the grassroots efforts of Santa Monica to push for the victory of LC and the defeat of D. And I was pleased to see the increasingly aggressive actions that the Santa Monica City Council was taking, as they went forward in trying to shut the airport down, in their battle against the FAA – a big, scary, monolithic organization, in that battle to try to get this airport shut down.”“My first reaction was, ‘wow, they’re going to shut this down, that’s good news’, and I was happy. And then I began to look into the details of the agreement. And my staff began to look into the details of the agreement. And, I began to hear from Marty, and others, who are experts and fluent in this. And while I was doing that I got a text from someone, a former elected official in Los Angeles, who said, ‘I just heard the news, Santa Monica Airport is shutting down; Bill Rosendahl is looking down smiling’. And, I texted back: ‘You know what? He sure as hell isn’t. He sure as hell isn’t’.”“Keeping this airport open for twelve more years is wrong,” followed by a series of injustices the airport is forcing onto local neighborhoods. Also, “If this runway is going to be shortened, it damned well better have a 1,000-ft buffer zone. It is unconscionable that the FAA, which is charged with protecting safety, has allowed a shorter than usual runway buffer zone in this area. It is absolutely unconscionable, and it puts people’s lives at risk. And I’m encouraging and calling on Santa Monica to do everything they can, to get rid of the damned leaded fuel sales at that airport. When I saw the LA Times story last week, I had hoped this was the end; it’s just another chapter.”
  • 20:40Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer was one of four who voted to accept the consent decree, and had been pre-scheduled to speak at the rally. He could have backed out, but bravely attended to explain his vote. Martin Rubin diplomatically introduced him, humorously asking the audience to hear him out and scream at him later.
  • 29:33 – Martin Rubin offered a civil rebuttal to Mayor Winterer’s comments, focusing on the need for engaged citizens and public process in an effective Democracy. “If the City thinks they’re fooling the people, well the FAA thinks they’re fooling the City. The FAA’s interest is in aviation – promoting aviation, economically mostly. They do not incorporate the views of the impacted communities. All around the country there are people that are very upset with things that have been going on with the FAA. This one friend of mine put it, ‘how can you tell when the FAA’s lying? Their lips are moving’.”
  • 40:10 – former Mayor Tony Vazquez was one of three Santa Monica City Council Members who voted against accepting FAA’s Consent Decree. Tony was not a scheduled speaker, but offered strong support for the work being done by Congressman Ted Lieu.
  • 43:54Sue Himmelrich, another of the three Santa Monica City Council Members (the third was former former Mayor Kevin McKeown) who voted against accepting FAA’s Consent Decree. Sue also was not a scheduled speaker, and offered strong support for Congressman Ted Lieu. She noted that both she and Ted Lieu are lawyers; that, she read the entire agreement prior to voting ‘no’, and she is sure Ted will read the full agreement, too, and will then make a just decision.
  • 47:02Laura Silagi, Venice Residents Against SMO, questioned the City’s ‘Fly Neighborly Program’. She explained how FAA dodges accountability and blames the program on the City. And, she explained the program’s impacts are a problem that needs to be solved now.
  • 52:10Alan Levenson, founder of ‘No Jets SMO’, read a review of the history of this airport, going all the way back to the Douglas airplane factory. For each change and each obstruction to progress, he noted: “The simple answer is money.”
  • 1:02:28 – Martin Rubin discussed facts and propaganda: “What the City put out is all propaganda.”
  • 1:02:56Susan Hartley, former Santa Monica Airport Commissioner: “Well, in 2007 I got you all to say ‘enough’, we thought it was enough, we had it then and now look at this now. All the time I was on the airport commission they kept saying, ‘2015: it’s going to be done’. Then, we saw 2015 come, and now they want us to believe it’s going to be done twelve years later? Forget it. Forget it, forget it. Under this so-called agreement, no … nothing about noise violations, nothing about pollution, nothing about … it’s going to get worse.” “I just don’t buy this twelve year thing. I don’t buy it. I would like to buy it. I think you need to think about recalling the people.”
  • 1:05:43 – Martin Rubin discussed Susan’s role in the history of activism against SMO impacts; he also discussed the evolution of the Airport Commission away from rubber-stamping airport staff projects, to instead become a representative for the People.
  • 1:07:44David Goddard, former Chair of Santa Monica Airport Commission, discussed his opinion on the apparent sweetheart deals, wherein City has illegally and fraudulently leased public property to Atlantic and other major airport tenants, far below market values. As Alan Levenson said in his earlier speech, “The simple answer is money.”
  • 1:12:41Bob Rigdon, an independent citizen, and 35-year airport neighbor, very effectively pointed out that, with the sudden vote to accept FAA’s Consent Decree, City Council has effectively thrown out decades worth of work.
  • 1:15:18 – after Martin Rubin suggested the airport could be renamed ‘Satan Monica Airport’, he introduced Mike Salazar, Ocean Park Association. Mike added his disappointment with the Consent Decree, and reviewed some airport history, including the 1981 vote to close the airport … which was forestalled by FAA when they imposed a 1984 Settlement Agreement. He discussed the need for the airport to close, including these quotes: “What we have to remember is, Santa Monica Airport is an outdated airport. It’s not the quaint, historic airport that anti-neighborhood folks cite, as this ‘wonderful, historic venue’.”“Not even shortening the runway will make this polluting dinosaur beneficial. When we close this airport, aviation will survive, and they’ll relocate, hopefully sooner than later.”“This outdated airport has no economic benefits when the costs are weighed.” He noted how non-aviation jobs vastly outnumber aviation jobs at the airport (which he finds economically comparable to a small strip mall), and in closing he mentioned toxic lead, ultrafine particles, and other airport health impacts. “Where is the FAA on health and safety, which is their mandate?”
  • 1:27:16 – Martin Rubin gave closing remarks, including: “So, it does take a large number of people, a lot of groups, a lot of different directions, to crack this very difficult nut – of aviation being able to do whatever it wants to do. There are problems all around the country. We are just the poster child for general aviation, and we have an important message to send out.”

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Protest Today: Local Residents need Local Control at Santa Monica Airport

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The recently announced ‘consent decree’ between FAA and City officials, is a total capitulation to FAA, and thus to the aviation money interests that own FAA. This latest action shows FAA, Administrator Huerta, and four City elected officials have zero regard for the very real health impacts upon residents near this airport.

BTW, this group (Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution, CRAAP) does a phenomenal job on their protests. Check out the video archived for their protest ten years ago: [KSMO]: A Video Collection of Speeches at a Protest in April 2007

City of Santa Monica FAA Reaches Settlement Agreement with FAA, Allows Shorter Runway and Eventual Closure – in 12 Years

The Santa Monica City Council announced in a Saturday press conference that they have agreed to a Consent Decree in which FAA will allow total closure of the airport [KSMO], but not until at least January 1, 2029.

Twelve years is a long time, and will mean a lot more health impacts due to jet air pollution. Some will see this as nothing but another unacceptable extension of FAA’s agreement with the City signed way back in January 1984, (1984 to 2029: FAA has dragged this out for 45-years!). That agreement was to allow City to assert full local control of their airport land, on July 1, 2015. FAA reneged on that promise, blocking City’s efforts and intent to close nearly two years ago. And, FAA abused their administrative authority to embrace – and even encourage – the use of Part 16 administrative complaints. FAA’s slow administrative processing of these complaints is used to perpetuate use of the airport while also impeding and delaying progress by the City.

The one element of the Consent Decree that offers residents some jet air pollution relief much sooner is this detail: the City will be allowed to reduce the length of the runway, to 3,500ft. While most of the present 4,973ft runway will likely be retained as pavement for safety overruns, the actual runway available for use will be reduced substantially, and the 30-passenger charter jet proposed by JetSuiteX (under a contract with an outfit called ‘Delux Public Charter’) will not be able to safely or legally operate.

Should the City have gotten better? Absolutely. Settlements are supposed to reflect a meeting in the middle, with proper consideration for both parties in a dispute. FAA continues to abuse their authority and play the bully in the playground, forcing communities like Santa Monica to expend thousands of hours of effort and even millions of taxpayer dollars fighting skirmishes enabled by FAA’s arrogant attitude. At the least, FAA should have granted City authority to exclude jets almost immediately, and absolutely once the runway is shortened. Why? Because the residential neighborhoods around Santa Monica are uniquely too close, and too impacted by jet pollution.

An actual signed copy has not yet been shared, but if the agreement has been signed, FAA has the power to repair this failure. Simply, FAA can declare that, due to health and safety concerns and unique local impacts, the Santa Monica runway is officially closed to jet arrival operations.

Here is FAA’s Press Release:

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


See also:

UPDATE, 1/29/2017: — Reactions from activist groups question the City’s sincerity, and note the lack of transparency and trust. The Airport Protest Rally is still on for Saturday, February 4th, at 11AM. Here are more archived records: