Think Tanks are Just Lobbyists

20160807at0505.. DC Think Tanks as corporate propagandists (L.Fang tweet re NYT article)

(click on image to read article at New York Times)

Interesting article by Eric Lipton & Brooke Williams, at The New York Times. Read it at NYTimes (click above) or via the PDF copy below. It lays bare the reality that nonprofit ‘think tanks’ are really just paid propagandists serving money interests. Not that different from what we are seeing with the mainstream media, in the presidential campaign: the entire process is of, by and for the MONEY.

And, the same is happening in aviation. Much of the continuing NextGen sales pitch is provided by lobbyists and think tanks that echo each other (they call it ‘collaboration’), always offering rosy pictures of economic growth and ‘jobs’, while consistently ignoring the noise and air quality impacts beneath newly concentrated NextGen departure and arrival tracks.

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

Whether it is a captured agency like FAA, a power-hungry presidential candidate like Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, or a multinational corporation seeking influence in Washington, the corruption model is very clear in 2016. Here is how these critters ‘get-rich-quick’ today:

  1. identify a public revenue trough (the premier aviation example is the billions collected each year on airline passenger and air cargo taxes);
  2. form one or more crony-partnerships, joining both private citizens and public officials; this includes making payments to PACs and candidates, to fund reelections in exchange for future paybacks on corporate-friendly legislation;
  3. conceive a scheme that requires a large influx of money with an outcome that can be spun as a ‘win-win’ for the partners and the people; notably, the spin does not have to be truthful or verifiable… just say anything you think may help sell the scheme;
  4. enlist the services of lobbyists & think tanks who, for a fee, will gladly promote the scheme using the same old money-centric bullshit sales pitches: it’ll generate jobs, it’ll fire up the economy, it’ll give us a competitive advantage over the world (especially over China), etc.; in the process, create the illusion that there is a wide base of support;
  5. flood the media outlets (not hard to do: mainstream media does anything and everything, so long as they are paid) with a tidal wave promoting the scheme, while also carefully undermining and discrediting any opposition that might emerge;
  6. rinse and repeat (in all cases, the best schemes come in multiple phases, and allow for future redesigns to perpetuate the funding).

This process is guaranteed to widen the wealth gap, flowing assets from the masses to an elite few. This process is strongly anti-democratic and fully corrupt, but that’s OK; it works for the few who are sick enough to initiate and participate in these schemes, and they are the ones running our government.

The Wasteful Joke That is FAA’s NextGen

Image

This simulated interview (plausibly, with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta) is non-stop funny, yet painfully too true in exposing FAA’s NextGen fraud.

Click here to open a PDF copy of the transcript in a separate window. Also, thanks to GolfHotelWhiskey and John Ewing of Aviation Mentor for sharing this online!!

When Viewed Through Cash-Colored Glasses, ‘Clouds Cause Delays’

Everyday, FAA creates a traffic report, then uses social media to report expected air traffic delays.

(click on image to view source tweet)

(click on image to view source tweet)

Cute little graphics are intuitive: the cloud image means delays related to cloud layers (here listing the DC area to NYC area), and the lightning image means delays related to thunderstorms (here listing all major hubs from Charlotte to Houston).

Mindlessly, we absorb this report and feel a bit more ‘aware’ of the system managed by FAA. But, if we are a bit more mindful, and actually THINK about what FAA tweets, we have to ask: are clouds really a valid reason for delays?

The answer is obviously NO. These delays are happening routinely, triggered only by clouds. Not severe weather … just puffy, calm, benign layers and pockets of water vapor. These delays continue to happen – and at the same few hub airports everyday – but it is not due to ‘clouds’; they happen because of unmanaged capacity. I.e., FAA continues to allow too many planes in time slots that are too short.

Take a look at the weather maps for this day. In the first image, clouds are white and precipitation is green. Note the existence of both clouds and precipitation in many other parts of the nation… yet, no delays are reported/expected at most locations. Again, the delays are all happening at a select few hub airports, where FAA refuses to impose needed capacity management. All FAA has to do is impose sufficiently reduced hourly flow rates, but FAA refuses. And the consequences are significant: flights are delayed, passengers lose billions of dollars worth of their time, and communities are inundated with excessive aviation noise and air pollution, all to accommodate more flights than are needed to serve each specific community.

(click on image to view current image at ClimateReanalyzer; select the 'Precipitation & Clouds' view)

(click on image to view current image at ClimateReanalyzer; select the ‘Precipitation & Clouds’ view)

(click on image to view current CONUS infrared image at NOAA.gov)

(click on image to view current CONUS infrared image at NOAA.gov)

Although it conflicts with Congress’ original intent, the fact is that FAA serves the airlines, not the people. FAA, beholden to industry profit-interests (of the final-four major U.S. airlines, and of manufacturers, too), refuses to manage airport capacity by imposing reasonable flow-rate restrictions. Instead, FAA collaborates with their industry partners (aka, ‘stakeholders’) and creates manipulative spin/propaganda, trying to sell us on NextGen spending that creates greater impacts while producing little benefits.

FAA works to feed more money to the same industry partners who hire FAA officials when they retire. Just like the rigged U.S. political campaigns, where the system is manipulated by the duopoly parties. We suffer increasing impacts from failures that will never go away until we demand overdue reforms.

House Subcommittee on Aviation to Hold 6-15-2016 Hearing on ATC Issues

The House Subcommittee on Aviation, chaired by U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), will hold a hearing next week to review the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) air traffic controller hiring, staffing, and training plans and related issues. Here is a portion of the press release, including times and a list of the four witnesses:20160615scp.. 'FAA’s Air Traffic Controller Hiring, Staffing & Training to be Focus of Hearing' (portion of House Aviation Subcomm Press Release)


The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, under Chair Bill Shuster, has been pushing hard to privatize ATC. Although most controllers are opposed, the NATCA leadership has been offering testimony and news stories that are aimed at getting Congressional approval of ATC privatization. One of the witnesses is Paul Rinaldi, head of NATCA, who has been pressing an absurd point, claiming ATC is using archaic technologies including ‘paper strips’. Another witness, Randy Babbitt, was forced to resign from his position as FAA Administrator when he failed to report an alcohol/driving charge after a Christmas party in 2011; after his abrupt resignation, he was quickly hired by Southwest Airlines.


Below are scrollable PDF files listing the committee members. These may be helpful for identifying speakers during the proceedings. They also can be used to study how powerful Congressional committees are structured, and how severely gerrymandered their districts tend to be (to ensure their reelection).

Click on either of the two images below for a scrollable view; red shows republican members (R) PDF file, blue shows democrat members (D) PDF file.
Aviation Subcommittee members are marked with a blue box around their name. Click on the PDF links to download either list.


UPDATE, 6/15/2016 at 12:23 EDT: — The hearing ended at 12:19. Random notes are viewable on page 2 of this Post. Additional updates will follow.

FAA’s Latest Controller Workforce Plan Shows U.S. Air Traffic Remains Seriously Depressed

People under NextGen routes may be suffering depression due to repetitive airplane noise (and an agency that keeps them powerless to fix the impacts!), but there is another ‘depression’ that is worth looking at. Specifically, the number of takeoffs and landings in the U.S. is substantially below peak years, and showing no evidence of any major recovery.

Here’s a statistic to ponder: for the 504 control towers currently tracked by FAA, annual operations in 2014 were down 45% from the peak year. Further, an analysis of all 516 towers for which FAA offers ATADS data 1990-present shows that the average peak for towers was in early 1998 … more than 18-years ago.

In April, FAA released their latest ‘Controller Workforce Plan’ (CWP). This 60-page document includes a graph, showing both past and projected ATC workload and ATC staffing. Here is a copy of the graph, from the 2016 CWP:

20150919.. Traffic & ATC Staffing graph (from pg.7 of 2016 CWP)

ATC staffing figures as of September 2015 (source: 2016 CWP)

And, for comparison, here are two earlier graphs, from the 2012 CWP and 2009 CWP:

20110924.. Traffic & ATC Staffing graph (from pg.7 of 2012 CWP)

ATC staffing figures as of September 2011 (source: 2012 CWP)

20080927.. Traffic & ATC Staffing graph (from pg.6 of 2009 CWP)

ATC staffing figures as of September 2008 (source: 2009 CWP)

Yellow lines were added to each graph to identify the break point between actual past data and FAA’s future projections. Note that all graphs are indexed to the year 2000. Look closely at these graphs and you will see that:

  • in the 2009 CWP (the oldest of the graphs, at the bottom), traffic had fallen to 87% of Index.
  • in the 2012 CWP, traffic had fallen further, to 77% of Index.
  • in the 2016 CWP, traffic was still at 77% of Index.
  • in the 2009 CWP, FAA properly projected a decline for the first year (we were deep into the economic meltdown related to mortgage scams and the housing bubble), but FAA also projected a robust turnaround after 2009.
  • the robust turnaround never happened. While FAA had projected traffic to grow back to 94% of Index by 2015, the actual data for 2015 remained flat, at 77% of Index.
  • now, in 2016, FAA is being a bit more realistic (projecting a recovery to 85% of Index by the year 2026). But, FAA remains stuck on growth as a given …. with zero regard to history and to other major factors such as fossil-fuel related Climate Change.

So, what we have is a system that is not growing and an agency in denial about that stagnation. Meanwhile, FAA and other players in the Av-Gov Complex are insisting we must spend more money upgrading from World War II technologies, to accommodate record traffic levels.

Hey, Michael Huerta and Anthony Foxx, give us all a break; demand accountability within your rogue agency, and immediately revert to pre-NextGen departures and arrivals, so residents can recover from their sleep loss!


See also:
  • As a resource, aiREFORM has archived copies of all FAA’s CWPs that were found online. To view/download, click here.

NextGen Brings Us ‘Noise Canyons’

A recent tweet shared a new term: ‘Noise Canyons’. Evidently, the UK aviation authority, CAA, has adopted this term to describe the narrow corridors on the ground that are most impacted by newly deployed precision airline routes.

(click on image to view source tweet by @bakerainlondon)

(click on image to view source tweet by @bakerainlondon)

The image above comes from page 7 of the 17-page report, ‘Airspace Change Process & Airspace Trials in the context of Modernising UK Airspace’. Here’s a link to an archived copy of the report, which was created by Dr. Darren Rhodes, Head of the Environmental Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) at UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The report is well worth studying, even in the U.S., as the technologies as well as the implementation strategies (and failures) are of a global scope.

Why Are We Seeing These New ‘Noise Canyons’?

Under the ‘NextGen’ label, FAA (and in the UK, CAA) is using GPS-based aircraft automation systems to set up new routes, ostensibly to trim a few more miles, to shorten flight routes to the absolute minimum distances possible. In reality, the NextGen program is just a wholesale abandonment of the noise mitigation procedures that have existed for decades to minimize noise and pollution impacts upon community residents.

Of course, GPS has been effectively used for more than two decades. Moreover, GPS was preceded by inertial navigational systems, which have allowed airlines/ATC to use long direct routes for more than four decades. Despite this fact, the industry propaganda being foisted by Av-Gov complex players keeps trying to fool elected officials and the general public into believing NextGen has ‘benefits’ such as the straightening of routes. That is bunk. The only ‘shortening’ is happening near the airports, and ONLY due to wholesale abandonment of decades-old noise mitigation procedures.

And one more thing: the shortening near airports is often for naught. Time and time again, online flight tracking websites are showing enroute delays at cruise altitude. The real problem is simply overscheduling at major hub airports; i.e., FAA and other aviation regulators are doing nothing to stop airlines from trying put too many arrivals into too little time. When the arrival queue becomes too full, ATC needs to issue delays; so, flights are routinely issued large turns while cruising at altitude, to delay their arrival.

Silly, isn’t it. If FAA really wanted to minimize distances flown and fuel burned, the solution is easy: scale back the hub airports to flow rates that ensure enroute delays are needed only in the most extreme situations (not hourly, not hourly, but perhaps every few months or so).

FAA Offers $10 Million Giveaway to Buy Support for NextGen

The NextGen program that is destroying communities while supplementing airline profits has been needing more money to advance further. But, the program is seeing increasing resistance, especially from impacted homeowners. So, in order to garner more support and create the appearance of public acceptance needed to convince Congress to invest more public money into NextGen, FAA has announced an investment of $10,000,000 to subsidize ADS-B Out installations on small aircraft.

(click on image to view source article at AOPA.org)

(click on image to view source article at AOPA.org)

The new program will rebate up to $500 per aircraft to as many as 20,000 owners, which FAA believes to be roughly one-eighth of eligible aircraft. Bear in mind, rebate eligibility is restricted to single-piston-engine, fixed-wing aircraft that have not yet added this equipment, which FAA is requiring no later than January 2020, for all pilots who want to access ‘busier’ airspace. In other words, while NextGen is a program aimed at serving the airlines, FAA is directing its supposedly scarce resources to the lowest performing, personal-use aircraft … the vast majority of which will never have an urgent need to fly near any of our thirty busiest airline airports.

As some of the smarter online commenters have noted, what usually happens when a federal subsidy is announced is the industry jacks up the price of the product/service being subsidized. And also commonly, the subsidy is just a ‘gift’ for a huge number of recipients who had already planned to purchase the product/service anyway. So, in total, it is effectively FAA giving $10 Million to the aviation electronics industry. As if on queue, the aviation media reports that alphabet-group lobbyists are ‘applauding’.

20160607scp.. portion of article re $500 ADS-B subsidy, alphabet groups (GANews)

(click on image to view source article at GANews)

Congress never put this $10 Million scheme through an appropriation process. Congress never authorized this substantial expenditure. This $10 Million is just FAA, acting arbitrarily and on its own, as a lobbyist seeking to tip to the balance toward more NextGen funding by Congress. Which begs the question: if FAA has $10 Million or more to arbitrarily spend, how else might they spend OUR money to serve the Public?

How Might FAA Better Invest $10 Million?

Here’s two simple ideas (readers are encouraged to share their ideas, too!):

  1. for the NextGen-impacted people of Phoenix, offer a small subsidy to the airlines to fly the old departure routes out of KPHX. Try this for just 2-months, pay Southwest and American a couple million tops to cover their added cost, and see what it does to noise complaints and residential quality of life.
  2. for the NextGen-impacted people in the NYC area, take advantage of the current major project to upgrade the LaGuardia terminal (at KLGA). This is a great opportunity for a ‘test’. For a period of at least 6-months, get the airlines to voluntarily reduce their daily schedule by say 25%, and hourly flow rates to say a maximum of 25 takeoffs per hour. With these lower and more manageable KLGA traffic levels, revert to the old (and since-abandoned) noise abatement departures such as Whitestone Climb. Get the airlines to voluntarily make this happen, then see what a scaled-down LaGuardia does to improve efficiencies and reduce impacts for both JFK and Newark. The results may be surprising.

‘Noise Action Week’ 2016

One of the aviation impact activists in the U.S., MSPFairSkies, tweeted this:

20160531scp.. Great Info Graphic, re NoiseActionWeek (MSPFairSkies tweet re AEF tweet)

(click on image to view the full 3-page infographic; this image is at page 2)

They are correct… this is a good graphic shared by the Aviation Environment Foundation. It helps us see the real and growing impacts of aviation noise, including increases in:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • sleep disturbance
  • annoyance
  • depression and other long-term mental health problems
  • undermining memory & learning in children

The 2016 event was held during the last full week of May, and covered via a website, Further details can be found in the 60-page report, commissioned by HACAN and the Aviation Environment Trust.

Santa Monica Airport: One Step Closer to Local Control

KSMO.20160516.. Press Release re 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to remand (1p)It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. And, it is common (even more so, these days?) for the status quo to delay EVERYTHING for the simple reason that it perpetuates their advantaged position. So, in a situation such as the decades-old fight for local control of their airport, the people of Santa Monica just have to keep on keepin’ on.

Nearly three years ago, the City of Santa Monica filed a lawsuit seeking to establish the right to control the local airport. FAA (and the federal Department of Justice) fought back and successfully convinced a District Court Judge to kick the can down the road. Now, more than two years further along (and still no relief from jet fumes, leaded fuel, and noise), the City has prevailed in an appeal, and the Judge’s February 2014 decision has been ruled improper.

Yesterday, the people scored a small victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued their decision, remanding a case back to the District Court. Here is a link to an aiREFORM page with a transcript of the March 11th arguments, and below is a copy of the 7-page ‘Memorandum’ outlining the decision:

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


See also:

Enroute Delays are Routine as Part of NextGen, Even for Slower Hubs like SEA

The previous aiREFORM Post presented a sequence of eight arrivals from California to SeaTac [KSEA], during a half-hour window from 10:22 to 10:52 on Thursday May 12th. The sequence showed some very substantial enroute delays, mostly over Oregon. Well, it turns out the exact same series of arrivals had very similar (and again substantial) enroute delays on the very next day, during the time window 10:13 to 10:49 on Friday May 13th. Here is a JPEG compilation:

KSEA.20160513.. compiled ARRs, similar enroute delays as with 5-12-2016

Here are the important points to be made, looking at these KSEA arrivals for both days:

  1. For all flights, with the exception of the enroute delays, the routes are incredibly direct … proving that the current system is fully capable of maximizing efficiency by minimizing distance flown. That is, we do NOT need any new technologies to accomplish direct flights.
  2. In the big picture, SeaTac is a relatively simple ATC example, in that it is remote (far northwest corner of the nation), far removed from saturated delay-prone hubs (mostly in the northeast), has no major complications related to other airports, and has a very simple triple-parallel runway configuration.
  3. Despite this simplicity, empirical evidence viewed online indicates ATC begins imposing enroute delays to KSEA arrivals, even in perfect clear weather, whenever the arrival rate gets to around 30-40 aircraft per hour or more.
  4. SeaTac’s problems relate entirely to its current use as a hub by Alaska, Delta, and Southwest. Delta is the new player, aggressively initiating a hub expansion in 2014. At KSEA, Delta’s growth is creating many periods each day, with arrival flurries that necessitate enroute delays and long, inefficient landing patterns (e.g., extended downwinds to 20-mile+ finals).
  5. That the problem is caused by too many arrivals is proven by looking at the arrival data, and comparing days of the week that are slowest against days of the week that are busiest. Routinely, Thursdays and Fridays are two of the busiest days, while Saturdays are nearly always the slowest day of the week. As presented in this pair of aiREFORM Posts, the eight flights are all delayed on both Thursday and Friday. Odds are, if you study the routes for any of these same eight scheduled flights as conducted on a Saturday, you will find that no enroute delays were issued … simply because ATC is working 10-20% fewer arrivals.
  6. To accommodate an industry preference for large hubs (which maximize airline profits), FAA’s approach in the past decade has become to serve only the airlines and at the expense of taxpayers/citizens. Coincident with the evolution of the NextGen program, FAA’s efforts have included a wholesale abandonment of procedures that mitigate environmental impacts, while also doing the following:
    1. maximizing flow rates in/out of the airport (the term used in the industry is ‘runway throughput’);
    2. removing all airport-specific noise mitigation procedures (some of these date back to the 1970s, and billions have been spent installing noise insulation reference these procedures);
    3. creating RNAV departure routes that minimize distances flown, by allowing the earliest possible turns, in some extreme cases immediately after taking off;
    4. creating RNAV arrival routes that minimize actions by both ATC and pilots, proceduralizing the arrival into a steady repetitive stream along a narrowly defined route with a steady descent rate; a key part of this strategy is to get pilots to let the autopilot fly the arrival;
  7. Logically, FAA could manage/avoid hub-related delays by simply regulating hub traffic levels, to ensure arrivals never exceed a sustainable arrival rate upper limit. But, FAA refuses to regulate this, apparently due to their desire to accommodate the industry.
  8. The Av-Gov complex (and, yes, that includes shills like Bill Shuster) is pitching NextGen, but the technology essentially already exists, and has been in use for decades. Nonetheless, and despite rational opposition, they continue to pitch this in order to spend billions padding the financial positions of Av-Gov players (which includes many FAA employees who retire early and collect pensions but supplement their retirements working in industry!), while also using ‘NextGen implementation’ as an excuse to implement noise-impactful new RNAV routes.
  9. These two aiREFORM Posts look at the impacts related to KSEA, but the exact same situation is ongoing (and even worse) at many other major airports, including KSFO, KPHX, KCLT, KBOS, KLGA, KORD, KDCA, and KJFK.
  10. We can have all the whiz-bang technology we can buy, but if we allow the major airlines to schedule even brief arrival flurries that exceed airport capacity (which is ultimately a function of runway configurations), we will see delays. And, these delays not only magnify the environmental impacts of aviation, but they also wipe out all efficiency improvements that are potentially realized with more direct RNAV routes.
  11. The agency is failing, and our elected officials are also failing us. They are too busy fundraising, abandoning their duty to serve constituents. Like FAA, Congress has become too beholden to money.