The destructive noise impacts of aviation are many and varied: from FAA’s newly imposed concentrated NextGen routes, to circling skydive climbs, to helicopter flight schools, and more. Add to that list air tourism, even in places as sacred and beautiful as Grand Canyon. This 4-minute video is well worth watching.
…please consult with your managers and correct the misinformation they evidently gave to you. You passing the misinformation on in your nice reply letters to NextGen-impacted citizens only exacerbates the KJFK noise impacts.”
This plea to FAA’s Regional Administrator is after viewing recent correspondence about noise impacts for residents of the East Hills area, when the Arc of Doom is being used to land runways 22 at KJFK. Here is the timeline…
On September 15th, a concerned resident sent an email to FAA, expressing concerns about repetitive arrival noise impacts. A month later, in an October 13 reply letter, Regional Administrator Carmine Gallo offered what on the surface appears to be a reasonable and responsibly reply. Here is a JPEG copy of a portion, showing two key paragraphs:
(portion of Carmine Gallo’s reply letter; red-line emphasis added by aiReform. Click on image to view full letter and source post at Facebook)
It is commendable that Mr. Gallo does send these reply letters to impacted citizens; that is the right thing to do, and often not done by other FAA Regional Administrators. The problem is, Mr. Gallo makes points in his reply that are indisputably false. Those false points include:
Mr. Gallo inaccurately states, “…the data illustrates that aircraft landing at this airport pass at no lower than 3,000 feet.” Not only does the radar data consistently show these arrivals level at 1,800 to 2,000 feet altitude in this area (see the numerous arrival examples, compiled at this link), but also, the primary approach procedures (ILS approaches for runways 22R and 22L, copies at this link) both have 3-degree glideslopes … which, at the East Hills location would mean arrivals shouldintercept the glideslope at roughly 3,000 feet altitude … or at 1,800 feet closer in at a 6-mile final.
Mr. Gallo inaccurately states, “…NextGen procedures are not a contributing factor for aircraft overflying Nassau County.” Well, actually, the REALpurpose of NextGen is to increase runway throughput (ops per hour), which clearly WILLincrease the frequency of arrivals, thus the intensity of repetitive noise impact by these arrivals. Thus, as perceived by many in East Hills and elsewhere, NextGen IS A REAL CONTRIBUTING FACTOR to the noise impact problem.
The superficiality of Mr. Gallo’s response to citizen concerns related to NextGen was preceded two years ago by another FAA Regional Administrator. That time it was Phoenix, when Glen Martin paused while speaking, in evident disbelief at what he had been given to read. See it here: link.
All FAA officials (as well as at airport authorities, and in Congress, too!) need to understand: whenever they send a reply, they need to be absolutely truthful and accurate. If instead a reply passes on misinformation, it will only make matters worse. Much of the impact of aviation noise is rooted in a sense that authorities will do nothing to fix it. And, nothing says ‘go to hell, citizen!’ more than a polished letter centered on a set of polished lies.
Summer of 1994 was one of the rare times where control of the White House, the Senate, and the House was owned by one party, in this case the Democrats. In aviation, 1994 was a time of transition into the use of new GPS technologies.
To put it into context, it was two years later, in June 2006, that Al Gore’s movie ‘Inconvenient Truth’ made CO2 pollution and climate change a ‘popular concern’; it was 12-years later, in the Fall of 2006, that the label ‘NextGen’ was first applied by FAA Administrator Marion Blakey as a brand name for supposedly ‘new’ GPS-based aviation management tools. And here we are, another ten years further along, and both FAA/Industry are continuing to propagandize for greater NextGen spending, but with almost no tangible benefits beyond what we were already able to do more than two decades ago.
How is this all relevant to the CatEx-approved version of NextGen being imposed since 2012? Well, reducing CO2 has now become one of the Av-Gov Complex’s key justifications for imposing noise impacts; i.e, they are trading noise pollution against CO2 pollution and thus Climate Change (…really! …they want us to believe that Congress believes in Climate Change enough to give FAA approval to NOTconduct environmental reviews so long as CO2 will be reduced by the proposal). On top of that, as another key element of the NextGen Fraud, they are careful to not talk about the significant enroute delays being imposed to facilitate the appearance that arrivals (in the last 100-miles or so) are less subject to holding patterns, long downwinds, delay vectoring, and other inefficiences. With NextGen, FAA is making airports look more efficient, simply because they have offset the inefficiencies into the enroute portion of the flights. It’s all just smoke and mirrors.
The 140-pages in this Congressional hearing transcript (with submitted letters, etc.) is illuminating. It helps to clarify not just the goals of 1994, but the spin models used then and still used today.
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.
NextGen is a label, a brand name if you will. The name was created by FAA and industry more than a decade ago. The product this brand name is attached to is essentially an evolved technology system for air traffic control and navigation that reduces the jobs of controllers and pilots to one of monitoring what the automation is doing. That is to say, under NextGen, the flight procedures become so precisely proceduralized (defining exact altitudes, lat/long positions, and speeds) that pilots will not want to try and hand-fly the procedure as doing so would risk a violation… so they let the airplane computers do the actual flying.
For the entire last decade, FAA and industry (with a LOT of help from Congressional insiders like Bill Shuster) have been carefully coordinating what is effectively a propaganda campaign, and they keep pressing Congress with the idea that NextGen is something new. It is not. As far back as 1994, Alaska Airlines was allowed to develop the first RNP approach, at Juneau, where difficult weather and nearby mountainous terrain made FAA unable to develop approach procedures landing to the west (i.e., to Runway 26).
What Alaska did was apply pre-existing technologies built into their Boeing aircraft. As noted in a Spring 2008 article by David Nakamura in Boeing’s ‘Aero’ magazine, “…all Boeing commercial airplanes manufactured since the 1980s include RNAV capabilities … Boeing began implementing RNP on airplanes in 1994 … (and) as of 2000, every Boeing commercial airplane included RNP capability.” Research Airbus and you will find a similar timeline for these new technologies. By the way, one of the principle authors of this Boeing article, David Nakamura, is a very significant person in the evolution of NextGen. He chaired the Performance-based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC) and authored a 4/21/2009 letter to Margaret (Peggy) Gilligan, an FAA Associate Administrator. Read the letter carefully to learn the strategies for NextGen implementation, as they existed more than seven years ago, in early 2009.
In other words, the airlines have had the capability of flying NextGen-type departure and arrival procedures for roughly two whole decades. In that timeframe, at the 35 primary U.S. airline airports (the OEP 35), the number of airline operations has declined by more than 20%. This has not stopped FAA from spinning the ‘new technology’ idea into billions of dollars worth of Congressional funding authorizations that in reality have produced little meaningful change from what Alaska started doing in the mid-1990s.
The Juneau RNP Runway 26 Approach
For reference, here are a couple maps (with links) showing the geography at Juneau.
(click on image to view source map at Bing)
(click on image to view source VFR sectional at FlightAware)
Interestingly, a PDF copy of the approach procedure cannot be found online. Although Alaska has an ‘OK’ from FAA to fly this approach, it would appear that none of us are allowed to see what that exact procedure is; i.e., FAA considers the approach to be ‘proprietary’ for Alaska Airlines. Nonetheless, we can see what the approach looks like thanks to these two videos; the first is a video by Alaska of a passenger arrival during ‘nice’ weather, and includes use of a heads-up display and checklists; the second is what appears to be a very well-made simulation created by a gamer.
The New York City area has many neighborhoods that are substantially impacted by airport noise, including new NextGen procedures. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that all three NYC major airports (KEWR, KJFK, KLGA) serve not only the large local population, but ALSO many people from around the world who use these airports to travel THROUGH NYC (while not actually visiting). More through passengers translates to more flights, thus more pressure to cram too many arrivals into each hour. This works well for for airline profits, but is terrible for the quality of life of local residents.
Part of the collection of tactics Av-Gov Complex uses to nullify citizen involvement in local airport noise mitigation plans is to bog down processes with long delays. Multiple overlapping committees are formed, with large memberships. The committees are seeded with pro-aviation players who reliably spin and reset the process (imagine how impossible it would be to fully bake a cake, if you kept pulling the cake out of the oven; that’s what these committee members do).
Len Schaier is a retired electrical engineer who serves on the Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) for both the JFK and LaGuardia airports. He recently shared this insightful email (scrollable PDF below), attaching the latest draft noise maps being studied by the two TACs (also below, as JPEGs).
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.
Here’s the bottom line, as seen by aiREFORM: people are losing sleep and quality of life, and they need relief, not years from now but RIGHT NOW! The DNL metric itself is flawed, yet FAA and industry players (aka the Av-Gov Complex) continue using this metric to obscure impacts and to obstruct and delay long overdue changes needed by people. So, …
Should the DNL threshhold be reduced, from the current absurdly high 65 DNL to the international impact standard of 55 DNL?Absolutely.
Should DNL be replaced or supplemented with new noise metrics that recognize the impact of repetitive noise patterns?Absolutely.
Should we delay further, wasting any more time bringing relief – and enabling a decent night’s sleep – for the impacted residents?Absolutely not!
Let’s get on with it … use the 55 DNL contours on these maps to earnestly formulate solutions that give relief to the tens of thousands of people currently impacted at these two airports. Think outside the box this time. Press FAA to scale back hourly flow rates at these airports, so the community is better served with less noise and pollutant impact.
“This NextGen system … has been a huge detriment to the quality of human life to us little ants on the ground … (and has ruined) the ordinary pleasure of sitting in your backyard and listening to the birds and the trees.”
– Barbara Deckert, Homeowner near KBWI
Yet another example of FAA imposing NextGen to benefit airline profits at the expense of local community quality of life. Same patterns found across the nation, too:
FAA imposes NextGen changes to increase ‘runway throughput’, enabling improved profit margins for the airlines; the airlines are thus able to pack more departures or arrivals into compressed time blocks … which means neighborhoods now have to contend with a ‘drip, drip’ of repetitive aircraft noise;
Among the greatest lessons learned from this year’s democratic party primary debacle was the complicity of the mainstream media in aiding corrupt party officials. Those leaked DNC Emails – nearly 20,000 emails total! – showed an incredible level of collusion between DNC officials (unapologetically hell-bent on defeating Bernie Sanders and nominating Hillary Clinton) and the mainstream media players (also corrupted, hell-bent in their lust for campaign advertising dollars).
Just to be clear, this was NOTa lesson about solely the democratic party; no, this was a lesson about the troubling reality of U.S. politics today… that We The Peopleare being manipulated by the two dominant parties, using tools of propaganda. This is being called ‘engineered consent’ and, yes, this manipulation is being done by both oppressing political parties. In the process, the reigning duopoly that serves up ‘lesser-of-two-evil’ choices each cycle, has all but destroyed our so-called Democracy.
One critical tool of this manipulation is in the repetitive framing and reframing of so-called facts to crystallize acceptance of a historical perspective that fits the needs of the established political powers. We see this in politics, and we see it outside politics in retrospective news stories, for example. One of those retrospectives just happened again: the ten year anniversary of the horrific crash in Lexington, of Comair 5191. Here is a PDF copy:
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded; or click here to view original source article.
If you read the article and research other U.S. aviation disasters, a clear pattern emerges: FAA’s response consistently is to hide disclosable information, obscure employee/management accountability, obstruct any proposal that would cost money, and delay-delay-delay on what few reforms are eventually emplaced. See for example the 10-year restrospective on the ValuJet Everglades crash in 1996, opined by FAA Whistleblower Gabe Bruno.
A few analysis points about the Comair/Lexington accident:
FAA’s failures surrounding the Lexington crash were many. Not just the chain of seemingly tiny failures that led to the fatalities, but also the many, MANY efforts since to distort facts and reject long overdue safety and culture reforms.
the principle cause of this accident was fatigue, for both the flight crew and the air traffic controller. This was perhaps the most important fact revealed by the extensive NTSB investigation. Cost-cutting by both the airlines and the FAA contributed to a combination of fatigued personnel that led to a chain-reaction of inattention, costing 49 lives.
this accident should never have happened. The same combination of fatigue (in both the control tower and on the flight deck) had occurred over and over again, and continues to occur even today. BUT, the fact that aviation professionals can and will become bored/inattentive/fatigued is a given, and a key part of why so many redundancies are built into the aviation safety system. When simple redundancies – like, re-scanning the runway – are skipped, the system can and will break down.
the controller, Chris Damron, simply failed to look out the window, not even once during the critical 2-minutes between when he issued a takeoff clearance and when he called out the emergency crews, nearly 45-seconds AFTERthe crashed jet exploded in flames.
just one look, during the critical 50-second window prior to start of takeoff (the time it took to move forward, turn onto and line up on the runway, finish the checklist and open the throttles), would have produced a quick transmission, cancelling the takeoff clearance.
the transcript at the back of the 174-page NTSB investigative report shows the abrupt end of audio and data recording a half-second after the last audible exclamation by the pilots; thus, it appears that the explosion happened immediately, yet the controller did not make the crash phone call until another 44-seconds passed. It was a quiet Sunday morning, and there were no other airplanes. When he did make the call, his voice was markedly different, with a clear panic (the call was initiated at time 6:28 in the Crash Phone ATC recording, and the airport emergency crews picked up the call almost immediately).
was the controller inattentive? Absolutely. He did not actually watch what played out, or he would have spoken up. He was either focused on nothing at all – resting while on position – or focused on another activity (distracted).
was he possibly resting on position? Yes, quite possibly. It was the end of his workweek and the final hour of an overnight shift, so he was certainly tired. When fatigued while on position, nearly all seasoned FAA controllers do this: they physically rest, even shutting their eyes, while vigilantly listening to audible cues such as the power-up sequence. In this situation, with no other traffic, fatigued controllers are conditioned to apply an internal timer, reflexively waiting another half-minute or so after the last audible jet-noise cue, to then perform the next task for that flight – establishing radar contact on the digital radar display. While waiting, a common physical posture would have him reclined in his controller chair, eyes shut, but otherwise attentive and listening, much like a reliable watchdog. This is a strategy of fatigue management; it is practiced by both controllers and pilots. The pattern is repeated ad nauseum; it commonly creates a workplace boredom that can potentially become a lethal complacency, as happened at Lexington.
how might he have been distracted? Three possibilities: he may have been doing other controller duties, he may have been doing administrative duties, or he may have been distracted with non-ATC activities.
controller duties? not possible. He had no other controller duties to perform, since all his other traffic was gone.
administrative duties? not plausible. The only excuse offered to investigators comes nowhere close to explaining nearly two minutes of inattention. The only cited administrative task was counting fourteen (14) 1″ by 8″ computer-printed paper strips, representing the entirety of his work the previous six hours. Any truthful controller will note this task I a quick finger-shuffling and recording a half dozen figures, thus would require less than 10-seconds. Any competent controller would perform this task quickly, only when traffic allowed, and then immediately scan the runway and airspace.
non-ATC activities? very possible, and indeed likely, if he was not resting on position. He may have been reading, watching a movie or a TV show, playing a game on his laptop, online and surfing the internet, or texting with his cellphone device. In my FAA ATC career, I saw all of these activities routinely happening, and all were accepted by most on-duty supervisors as helpful strategies to manage fatigue.
was the controller’s fatigue excessive and noticeable on the audio? No. Listen to the official Tower ATC recording and, frankly, Mr. Damron sounds professional, alert, and competent. His speech is quick and focused; he is clearly doing tasks that have been done many times before. He efficiently handles a departure push, with three flights to hubs at Chicago, DFW and Atlanta. There is no slurring and no hesitation. Based on this, his momentary inattention would logically happen ONLY if he was distracted into another activity such as using a digital device.
were there larger national-level issues between FAA and NATCA? Absolutely. At the time this happened, controller morale was extremely low and FAA management was imposing draconian work rules onto all air traffic controllers. It was nearly three years later that a mediation panel ordered FAA management to abandon these imposed work rules (aka ‘The WhiteBook’).
would a second controller have helped? Probably not. A few years after Lexington, in 2013, a fatigued controller lost two fatigued pilots when a UPS flight crashed at 4:49am on approach at Birmingham [KBHM]. One of his first actions was to use the tower phone system to call the other controller back to the tower. On overnight shifts, as another fatigue-management strategy, it is very common for paired controllers to alternate; one controller works the combined positions (which is generally easy, since traffic levels are very low), while the other controller can relax, catch a nap, or stay alert with other non-ATC activities (internet, DVD movies, music, studying, etc.)
The TV set at another FAA tower, that caused a near-midair when a controller became distracted watching the NCAA basketball playoffs on a sunny Saturday in March.
what does the controller probably want/need to say? As a retired ATC whistleblower, I spent decades working inside the ATC culture. I do know that concealment of facts is a big part of that culture. I also know that concealment is very destructive to those stuck concealing. My first whistleblowing was about a TV set at my first ATC tower, that was connected to a near-midair collision; I spoke up and endured retaliation, and was eventually fired 6-months prior to turning age-50, to force me to voluntarily retire at earliest eligibility. My gut-sense is that when the investigation started, Mr. Damron wanted to tell the whole story and was probably ready to talk, but was shut down. He would have had both FAA management and the union (NATCA) leadership scaring him into silence, with ample help from the attorneys brought in from the start. It is chilling to imagine his having to live today with the knowledge of what really happened, yet not be allowed to talk about it.]
the controller’s identity was protected for four months, even though the identity had to be revealed eventually. A basic purpose of the NTSB investigative process is to give the public some transparency on transportation safety issues. FAA’s initial opacity was a classic knee-jerk reaction: acting from bureaucratic fear, protecting culturally entrenched failures from becoming exposed, and hoping to salvage what they could by over-controlling the flow of information.
an initial effort was made to pin the blame on the Lexington tower manager, Duff Ortman. This failed when emails soon emerged, showing how Mr. Ortman was rebuffed in his many efforts to secure resources needed to cover the staffing: either two additional controllers, or an increase in allowed overtime funding. The emails included comments by Eastern Terminal Services Director John McCartney, attempting to brand Mr. Ortman as a ‘renegade’.
TVs, DVD movies, and other workplace distractions have been documented elsewhere and in numerous national news stories, including:
There was the controller at Cleveland Center, who took off his shoes while watching a movie DVD on an overnight shift; he accidently had a hot mic when a shoe tipped onto a pedal-switch. A ham radio operator was doing his thing that night and heard a movie soundtrack on an ATC frequency, so he called FAA to report what appeared to be a dangerous situation. The FAA manager on duty promised to investigate; while walking down to the control floor, he stopped at the technicians’ desk and mentioned the problem, and they noted ‘well, he’s probably watching a movie!’. Sure enough, he was. Made the national news but NOBODYwas disciplined because it was a ‘prior working condition’ and had been condoned by supervisors for more than a decade. An aiREFORM FOIA request [F11-8134] eventually yielded hundreds of pages, including a confirmation that nobody was ever disciplined.
There was the case at New York Center (Ronkonkoma, NY) where in 2010 a new supervisor, Evan Seeley, spoke up about common practices of sleeping on the job, early undocumented departures, and use of personal electronic devices while working. He was then subjected to vandalism and harassment, and found a management team that could do nothing to correct the situation. An OSC investigation confirmed Mr. Seeley’s claims.
There were the many cases of sleeping air traffic controllers in 2011. Eventually, the Air Traffic COO, Hank Krakowski, was forced to resign.
There was another news story that broke in 2012, when a controller Whistleblower at White Plains, NY [KHPN] leaked cellphone images and video exposing widespread napping and personal electronics in the control tower.
And, there was the TV wired into a cabinet at Troutdale, OR (the photo above). This was the safety risk that launched my career as an ATC Whistleblower in 1989, and eventually led to a forced-voluntary retirement in 2009; see that Whistleblower case study here.
FAA needs to come clean, and tell the truth: Why The Huge Increase in Departures Over Northeast Queens?
One of the lead groups advocating for balance between airport commerce and local peace and quiet (and air quality, too!) is Queens Quiet Skies. They submitted a data request to the airport authority, and then created the analysis below. It shows that there have been very substantial changes in the pattern for departures off LaGuardia [KLGA], with much larger numbers of flights impacting especially the residents of northeast Queens, Jackson Heights, and Woodside.
These impactful changes are coincident with FAA’s adoption of the TNNIS departure off Runway 13. The changes are also coincident with FAA’s NextGen strategy of using categorical exclusions to ignore noise impacts caused by turning departures at lower altitudes and closer to the runway ends. Essentially, FAA has chosen to help the airlines to potentially save a minute or so per departure, but the cost is shifted onto local homeowners, schoolchildren, and others in the communities below.
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.
This analysis was shared online by PlaneSeneLI.org, and noted as a document from an August 30th press conference at the Bayside office of Senator Tony Avella.
The most damaging impacts are being caused by the TNNIS departure, introduced to slightly shorten the older Whitestone departure. For both departures, flights make a long left climbing turn after taking off from runway 13. The key difference is that TNNIS throws out the noise abatement that was included in Whitestone. Whitestone included a turn to the south; pilots abated noise by making their initial climb over a strip of parklands, and departures were thus higher when they commenced the long left turn over densely populated Flushing. So, when FAA implemented TNNIS, they essentially discarded noise abatement procedures that had been created with community input and had helped for decades.
FAA is not only failing to manage aviation impacts (noise and air pollution off LaGuardia) but is also failing by lying and hiding the facts. For years, FAA has claimed this change is triggered by winds and weather, yet there is no tangible evidence to support this false claim.
(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:
identify a public revenue trough (the premier aviation example is the billions collected each year on airline passenger and air cargo taxes);
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;
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;
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;
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;
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.