Updated Remarks, by Petition Signers Nationwide

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

This is an extraordinary collection of comments, well worth studying. Here are some conclusions that are readily apparent:

  • The noise impacts of aviation are EVERYWHERE, and exacerbated by a federal agency (FAA) that is totally indifferent to the impacts … too busy serving their industry with fewer restrictions and regulations. A classic example of fully formed Regulatory Capture.
  • The melting pot that is our nation is beautifully reflected in the comments, especially in the impact areas around Flushing, Queens, and Roslyn, New York. The many comments suggest that even people who have recently come to live in our nation are shocked at what they see is happening to local quality of life.
  • Many people may have become conditioned to not speak up. For example, the largest skydiving noise impact in the nation right now is being caused by Frank Casares’ Mile Hi Skydiving, operating out of the airport in Longmont, Colorado. For a few years now, impacted people have seen the hostile, uncivil, and in some cases frighteningly aggressive comments by skydiving advocates in various online forums. They have become conditioned to stay quiet. Yet, with this petition, dozens have chosen to speak up by adding their valuable comments.
  • Probably the community most intensively impacted by NextGen is Phoenix, due especially to FAA’s giving the airlines early turns in west flows (impacting the Grand Ave and Laveen areas). Thousands of residents are impacted, but their property values are plummeting, and it appears that many have become afraid to attach a name and a concern that might undermine their negotiating position while selling the homes they once loved. This is terrible: that elected officials and federal authorities (like you, Michael Huerta and Glen Martin!) do nothing to mitigate an undisputed impact, letting it persist long enough to force people to move on for their health … and that people in our nation are afraid to speak up! We all owe a lot to those who have posted their comments.

Click on page two to view the roughly 280 comments, sorted by location, and be sure to look at your own community. Also, if you or someone you know is concerned about unmitigated aviation noise, please sign the petition and add your comments! Even better, tell your elected representatives you signed and they need to ‘get to work’. We all need to speak up if this problem is to be remedied.

GANews: ‘Polls show voters overwhelmingly oppose privatizing ATC’

General Aviation News, one of the oldest periodicals serving GA and based in the Seattle area, posted the above headline. The article went on to discuss a telephone survey of 801 registered voters conducted in mid-August by Global Strategy Group. Officials with the polling company concluded that voters are very clearly expressing an “if-it-ain’t-broke don’t fix it” attitude about FAA and so-called ATC privatization.

A more focused discussion ensued between two GANews readers. One person argued for ‘privatization’ on the premise that FAA is so broken, gosh, we’ve got do something. The other person argued that ‘privatization’ of ATC will only make things worse, by further insulating FAA and ATC from accountability, for example:

“Privatization of the ATC and/or FAA is a very bad idea. It is not efficient and a waste of time and money.

Mr. Schuster, Congress will lose control over the agency just like AMTRAK. There will be no one to hold their feet to the fire when things go wrong. More monies will be wasted just thru the added bureaucracy. Also don’t forget about the additional time factor of everything.

There really are some people within the FAA and ATC system who really try to do the right thing but as with all organizations there are politics. If your idea of privatization happens then a completely new set of politics will rule and nothing will ever get done or done correctly.

I know – I have worked for a very large organization for over 32 years and many of the higher ups play the game so they can maintain their position because they enjoy manipulating things. They are not looking for solutions. It’s called “Job Security”, and WHY? Because they can. Plain and simple.

ATC Privatization is wrong and a very bad idea in this instance.

The full interchange is an interesting read, accurately presenting the two sides of the argument. Click on page two for a scrollable PDF created to cleanly present the back-and-forth between these two readers:

Multiple Awards won by Mario Diaz’s Series on FAA Failures

U.S. News reporters who ask the hard questions and do the investigating to expose FAA failures are rare. One of the best today is Mario Diaz, at PIX11 News, serving the New York market area. He won multiple award for ‘Below the Radar’, a five-part series that aired in mid-2014. This website posted twice about the series, first in mid-May (after the first four episodes), and again in mid-August (after the fifth episode).

Mario’s awards include:

A compilation of the full series of five episodes has been posted at YouTube. It runs nearly 30-minutes, and offers much to think about:

(click on image to see the full video of the investigative report)

(click on image to view the investigative report at YouTube)

Relief From Helicopter Noise: It Can be Done!

As we spool up to endure the next General Election, some campaigns may seek to control the impacts from aviation at the events they stage. They may want to eliminate or reduce noise (don’t we all!!); they may want to prevent the media from presenting an uncontrollable perspective; and, they may cover these self-serving goals by claiming a need for heightened security. We will see over and over again that FAA will bow to these campaign requests. At the same time, regular folks with deep investment in their homes and communities will get ZERO RELIEF from aviation noise that FAA is hell-bent on promoting. The forecast for cleaning up any of the NextGen debacles: No chance, not under Michael Huerta’s FAA. And, FAA will continue to obstruct all efforts to regain local control: at Santa Monica, East Hampton, Charlotte, Phoenix and everywhere else.

20150613.. TFR Roosevelt Park ref Clinton campaign event

Graphic by FAA, showing the TFR that closed airspace below 2,000 feet, for 3.5 hours, on June 13.

The loudest impacts come from helicopters. Helicopters generate lots of irritating noise, which is made even more annoying because it happens while producing little or no real benefit. Whether it is a nosy media helicopter beating air over your backyard, a spendy ‘air-taxi’ zipping CEOs from Manhattan to East Hampton, a Grand Canyon air tour chopper with just four tourists aboard, or a federally-funded local police copter flying around to justify future federal funds — in all cases, the cost of the noise on many far exceeds the minimal real benefits to a tiny few.

The Clinton campaign recently helped expose what most of us have known for a long time: if FAA wants to, they can easily alter airspace parameters to alleviate noise and other concerns. A reporter, Spencer Woodman, covered this in an article at The Intercept, published by First Look Media. The article, On Disputed No-Fly Zone, Clinton Campaign Got Its Way With the FAA, includes a 4-page response from FAA to a FOIA request seeking to document the process that produced the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR).

The one good thing from the coming campaign-related TFRs is they will prove, time and again, FAA CAN impose airspace restrictions that bring relief from aviation noise. Maybe, just maybe, some of these candidates will start using their misplaced clout to serve the people, and help us get FAA to properly regulate the environmental impacts of aviation.

As a side note, this particular FOIA production reveals an FAA that is incredibly protective of the identities of employees doing official business. Incredibly, FAA claims that to show the employee’s identities would violate their personal privacy. And, despite FAA’s excessive redactions, the document also shows a very bloated agency, in terms of how many people got dragged into the email chain. Reform, anyone?

NTSB’s Preliminary Report on the Monck’s Corner Midair Fails to Present Critical Airspeed Data

It took NTSB ten days to release a report on a midair collision that killed two men, when their Cessna was broadsided by a USAF F16 ‘training flight’ north of Charleston, SC [KCHS]. A PDF copy of the report text has been created, and includes footnotes pointing at areas needing further detail and investigation.

As noted earlier on this website, both FAA and NTSB need to become more immediately transparent on serious incidents, especially low-altitude fatal midair collisions. At a minimum, we should be able to see radar presentations (showing positions at key times, as well as datablocks that reveal altitudes and groundspeeds at those times), just as we should be able to listen to a copy of the audio between the F16 pilot and the KCHS approach controller.

What new information was produced? Here are a few key points:

  1. Very significantly, the impact occurred at just 1,500 feet altitude, an incredibly low altitude for an F16 to be passing at high speed near a small general aviation airport (Berkeley County, SW of Moncks Corner, [KMKS]).

    20150720scp.. VFRmap re Moncks Corner midair (showing Shaw AFB E to KMYR S to KCHS)

    VFR sectional showing: F16 departure from KSSC (orange triangle), F16 practice approaches at KMYR (orange square), final destination for F16 at KCHS (orange circle), and approx. route of Cessna from KMKS toward KCRE (red line).

  2. The report notes a 10:20 departure by the F16, a flight to KMYR to conduct two instrument approaches, then a flight to KCHS for another practice approach. Thus, it took just 40-minutes for this F16 to fly 79 direct nautical miles to KMKS, fly two approaches, then fly 63 direct nautical miles to the collision near KMKS. The time used up to fly two practice approaches at KMYR is substantial, thus suggests: this F16 was likely screaming through the sky, and at only 1,500 feet altitude (though interestingly, at the initial press conference on July 7th, the USAF commander said they believe the collision was at 2,500 to 3,000 feet altitude).
  3. Although NTSB provided many valuable details, they made absolutely no mention of a hugely important factor: the F16’s airspeed leading up to the collision. Historically (and this goes WAY back to the almost weekly fatal midairs that happened in the 1960’s, when jets were first introduced commercially), airspeed differentials are a major contributing factor to midair collisions. Certainly a Cessna at just 1,500 feet altitude would have very little opportunity to avoid a fast-moving jet pointed straight at the Cessna. This pattern, with NTSB failing to mention a very pertinent detail in their Preliminary Report, is a repeat of what happened a year ago when a student from Germany was killed in a crash near St. Cloud, MN, for which there was strong evidence an arriving Allegiant flight was too low and too close, creating a wake turbulence upset.
  4. The controller’s handling suggests a systemic ATC aversion against ‘controlling’ military training flights. ATC should never have allowed the F16 pilot to scream along at just 1,500-feet, particularly since the collision was at roughly 18-miles northeast of the runway in Charleston. Typically, a normal stabilized approach descends roughly 300-feet per mile, so a ‘controlled’ civilian flight would expect to be descending through 5,000+ at 18-miles out. Had the F16 flight been properly controlled, ATC would have held the flight higher, to at least 3,000 or 4,000 feet, and with a moderate (even minimal?) airspeed consistent with safe operation of the F16 while mixing safely with low-altitude civilian flights. In the image below, note the TACAN approach is normally flown via a 24-mile arc (much further out) and has a crossing at LADRE at or above 3,000 feet. It appears ATC dove the F16 early to enable the pilot to get under the scattered layer, to conduct a quicker ‘visual approach’ to land KCHS Runway 15.

    Red circle marks the approximate midair location.

    Red circle marks the approximate midair location.

  5. The simple fact is, if this controller had asserted earlier and aggressive control of the F16 flight, or if the controller had NOT told the F16 pilot to turn south (which turn was delayed by the F16 pilot), there would have been no midair collision. I.e., timing and timidity conspired to translate ATC instructions into two fatalities and two destroyed aircraft.

As a former air traffic controller (forced into early retirement due to whistleblowing), I find this incident and the post-incident handling very troubling. Two men lost their lives unnecessarily, but the F16 pilot and the FAA controller were also victim. They have to live with what they saw unfold, and they will forever wonder, what could they have done differently to have prevented this accident?

An FAA that routinely looks the other way while F16 pilots scream at low altitudes is only enabling risky flying that will eventually produce tragic consequences. Frankly, it would not be at all surprising to see this controller retire on a stress-related disability, primarily because FAA is so eager to accommodate aviators, they too often fail to assert real and needed safety controls.

UPDATED 7/20/2015

FAA, NTSB Need to Accelerate Transparency about Midair Collisions

Two men were killed three days ago, when their Cessna was broadsided by a low-flying Air Force F16. This was a tragic accident that should never have happened, and would not have happened if any of the following practices had been followed by FAA:

  1. ensure the instrument approach procedures designed and approved by FAA do not create high-risk conflicts with nearby airport operations (in this case, the GA field at Moncks Corner);
  2. regulate military jet instrument practice in civilian airspace to include much slower maximum airspeeds (i.e., if  ATC cannot ensure that the route is clear of all other aircraft, then ATC must restrict the military jet to much slower speeds, as they would a civilian jet).

The Cessna occupants died, so it is easy to try and pin the blame on them for having just taken off and being in the wrong spot when the collision occurred. But, based on statements made to reporters in the immediate aftermath, it is clear that FAA’s controllers were working the jet, and that it was at a very low altitude either setting up for or actually on a published instrument procedure. It is also clear that high-speed low-flying military jets were a huge concern in South Carolina, even a week prior to the midair. For example, a news article on June 29 generated the following selected reader comments:20150707scp.. Comments re low-flying SC military jets, from recent WYFF article, 'Fighter jets heard, spotted over Upstate'

There appears to be a developing trend toward more aggressive military training flying, with more impact upon residents below. This incident reveals the worst-case consequences of this trend. The ATC clearance issued by the radar approach controller to the F16 pilot is a matter of documented fact. It is recorded digitally, and the audio data is saved, by FAA. Likewise, the radar data used by the controller working the F16 just prior to the midair collision is also digitally saved. This data will show conclusively, where the actual collision occurred (the lat/long as well as the altitude), the flight directions of the two aircraft at time of impact, and what opportunities ATC had to ‘save’ the accident from happening.

These digital files are immediately retrievable by FAA, thus have already been shared with NTSB. When Boeing 787’s had battery fires a few years ago, NTSB did a fantastic job showing the problem (with pictures of a burnt battery, no less) in a timely news interview. Likewise, when the Asiana flight crashed while landing at San Francisco, NTSB again was wonderfully transparent. We need this transparency, not only to help answer the reasonable questions and concerns of many citizens, but also to accelerate the ‘lessons learned’ from aviation tragedies, to help active pilots avoid tragic repeats. It has been three days, and FAA needs to post these files online, for the world to see the scenario that led to this tragic midair collision.

The Need for Safely Designed Approaches

Many people do not realize that the flight of the arriving F16, reportedly doing instrument practice into Charleston AFB [KCHS], is not at all random. That is to say, the flight was communicating with FAA ATC, was flying in accordance with an ATC clearance, and was either on or joining a published approach procedure. These published procedures are supposed to be designed so as to minimize safety hazards. Dozens of different offices have to sign off before a new procedure is finally published, so it should never happen that a procedure is published that routinely puts aircraft at risk of collision. That said, take a look at this published approach, the RNAV (RNP) Z Runway 15 to KCHS:


(click on image to view larger PDF copy)

Note the fix KREIS (upper red box), with a hard altitude of 3,000 feet. Note also the first speed restriction is at JCEEE fix, 4.4 miles after KREIS fix (lower red box). 20150707scp.. Midair VFRmap, showing potential routes & KREIS fixThe lat/long for KREIS places it as indicated in red on the VFRmap portion. A left-turnout departure by a Cessna from KMCS to Myrtle Beach would approximately follow the green curve. The red line leading south to KREIS fix would approximately depict an arrival from Shaw setting up to fly this published procedure (i.e., a radar vector or a ‘Direct KREIS’ clearance). It is common practice for pilots to level off at the next crossing altitude (in this case 3,000 feet) at least a few miles before arriving at the fix. So, IF the arriving F16 was in fact being set up for this published approach, the pilot would have likely been screaming along, even in excess of 300-knots, and at a very low altitude of just 3,000 feet. Also, look closely at this published approach and it quickly becomes clear: with the annotations about ‘Radius to Fix required’ and very advanced (low) RNP requirements, this is clearly an approach NOT for regular GA flights, but most likely for military use.

We do not know if the F16 was flying this approach or another. FAA can easily answer this question, as they need to do with no further delay. As a matter of practice, to best serve the entire public (not just the narrow interests of aviation), FAA needs to routinely and immediately disclose audio recordings, transcripts, and radar presentations that depict the facts, following significant aviation incidents such as midair collisions. Clearly, a timely internet posting at the FAA website would be both effective and efficient.

FAA Opacity on Safety Data: the ATSAP Black-Hole

It is also highly likely that the FAA controller immediately filed an ATSAP report. This program grants immunity to controllers if/when they have an incident, so long as they voluntarily report what happened. The controllers are not required to report all details, and being human, they tend to report a story that places them in a positive light. But, even with that, they do report important details, that need to be disclosed if the public is to understand the incident. Regrettably, FAA has gone to considerable effort to permanently conceal all ATSAP report content; i.e., the details reported are held in such strict confidence that FAA even tries to hide them from Judges. Despite the fact FAA could easily (and routinely) sanitize the report contents with minimal redactions (similar to the way NASA ASRS reports are slightly altered) and then immediately disclose the amended report, FAA refuses to do so. Thus, when people want to learn from tragic accidents that ATC failed to save, there are no facts to be studied. Instead, we have to wait until months and years later, when a fully sanitized and carefully coordinated story is released by FAA and NTSB.

GIGO: Lessons Learned from FAA’s Bad NextGen Deployment at Phoenix

GIGO: Garbage in, Garbage out. Here is the quick definition from Wikipedia:

“…in the field of computer science or information and communications technology refers to the fact that computers, since they operate by logical processes, will unquestioningly process unintended, even nonsensical, input data (“garbage in”) and produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”)….”

GIGO is a very old principle in computer programming. In fact, it is so old that the concept was first discussed even before the Civil War ended! Charles Babbage, considered the father of the computer, created mechanical systems to crunch numbers and automate the textile industry, as far back as the 1820’s.

Two centuries later, in 2015, our technologies have advanced considerably, but the validity of the GIGO principle has not changed. In fact, it is becoming even more meaningful today, as ‘experts’ use GIGO to manipulate outcomes. GIGO explains how we end up with NextGen implementation debacles like the one that has destroyed quality of life in Phoenix neighborhoods for the past nine months.

FAA’s Manipulation of Phoenix NextGen

When faced with a desire to implement new NextGen departure and arrival procedures at Phoenix, FAA had a problem. The noise abatement procedures, which had evolved over many decades, called for straight-out departures over the Salt River during the predominant west flow. But, a very large number of Phoenix departures were heading for destinations to the north and east, and FAA and the two primary airlines at the airport, Southwest and USAirways, wanted earlier turns. So, to save a couple miles per flight during initial climb, FAA built a campaign around NextGen, making grandiose pro-environmental declarations when their real goal was just to bypass the environmental rules.

When exaggerated, the benefits of NextGen could be used to justify early turns, but FAA was still stuck with a time-consuming environmental review process. Following the financial collapse of 2008, there was intense pressure to find ways to stimulate the economy. Thus was created an opportunity for FAA to manipulate Congress into approving a waiver from environmental review. After a couple years of crying to Congress that ‘gosh, we are sure trying, but we just cannot speed things up’, FAA was able to slip some ambiguous language past Congress; starting in 2012, the Categorical Exclusion was allowed.

(click on image to view article online)

(click on image to view article online)

To finish setting the stage, FAA’s last important step was to ‘buy’ a support program, by hiring a cadre of ‘experts’. These are the people who hopefully would appear credible when they signed off on the FONSI’s and CATEX’s. For this, FAA tapped their deepest revenue source – the airline passenger taxes that we all pay to fly – and applied them toward a series of large NextGen implementation contracts. One of those contracts, worth $106 Million, went to SAIC, who then hired a collection of ‘Yes Men’ who would do whatever was needed to implement NextGen.

Garbage in, Garbage Out: the Phoenix CATEX Sign-Off

On June 23, 2015, Skyharbor Airport officials announced completion of an investigation into how the Phoenix NextGen departures became implemented. The officials also posted a collection of 25 supporting exhibits. One of these, Exhibit 21, measures a whopping 121Mb to present a 255-page PDF. The first 20-pages is presented below. This is the document in which Caroline Poyurs, a SAIC contractor who later hired on as an FAA ‘Environmental Protection Specialist’, signed off on a Categorical Exclusion for the PHX NextGen Departures and Arrivals. With her signature, Ms. Poyurs was essentially declaring that the impacts were not significant. Read it for yourself and just try to make sense of it.

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Imagine you have the job as the representative for Phoenix. You are the one and only person FAA is showing this garbage to. There are well over a dozen people in the room, and they all represent the airlines, FAA (management and union personnel from both the tower and the radar room), and FAA’s hired contractor, MITRE. They all seem to know what the plan is, and you really feel like an odd man out. Everyone else acts like the 255-page CATEX sign-off report is crystal clear, but your head is screaming, “This is garbage!” You survive the surreal meeting, take the garbage back to your cubicle, and shake your head wondering, “Do I have ANYTHING substantial to share with my supervisor?”

You don’t; FAA gave you nothing but indecipherable garbage. So, it sits on your desk, time marches on and then, one day, the shit hits the fan when FAA starts flying these impactful departures. And eventually, the blame gets pinned on you. Are you having fun, yet?

Fix this Problem now, FAA

This has gone on long enough. Southwest and USAir need to immediately reject the flawed NextGen Departures and exercise their final authority by demanding straight-out departures like they used to get. File the Silow Four, the St Johns Eight, or other non-RNAV departures, and REFUSE to fly the MAYSA Three, LALUZ Three, and other RNAV procedures.

With the next charting cycle, FAA needs to replace the flawed NextGen Departures with new procedures that use NextGen constructively, procedures that continue westbound to an appropriate distance and altitude to minimize noise impact on Phoenix residents (hint: 9DME has worked well for years). On top of that, FAA needs to become fully transparent by creating REAL documents that ensure anyone can understand their proposal, and posting these documents online, well in advance of implementation. If they had done this in the first place, we would not have this mess to clean up today.

[QUOTE]: Floor Speeches by Rep. Gallego & Rep. Schweikert


QUOTE Congressional Floor Speeches About FAA’s NextGen Failure in Phoenix…
(click on image to view Rep. Gallego's website)

(click on image to view Rep. Gallego’s website)

“…imagine that all of this discomfort was both needless and avoidable; that it was caused by out-of-touch bureaucrats who rerouted major flight paths over your community without bothering to consult the people that live there….”

(click on image to view Rep. Schweikert's website)

(click on image to view Rep. Schweikert’s website)

“…they’re arrogant, they don’t return calls, we point out the fact that they’re violating last year’s law … and they just grin at you, and then walk out of the meetings with this sort of arrogant vanity….”

These are some of the best floor speeches yet by Congressional representatives. To view the video (under 5-minutes) and read the transcript, click HERE.

A Matter of Trust

It was more than eight months ago that FAA implemented NextGenNoise upon the residents of Phoenix. Literally tens of millions of individual noise ‘events’, some impacting thousands of people at a time. People have lost sleep; teachers have had to pause mid-sentence so students could hear their lessons; neighbors have shared expletives (and stress) while losing trust in government; and, city officials have wasted hours trying to smooth the waters, and pleading with FAA officials.

FAA has not yielded even the slightest; the agency shows stone-faced indifference and just continues to blow an ill wind.

20150524scp.. window screamer in Matter of Trust video

“Shut Up!!”

All of this impact, all of this wasted energy and time, just to save the airlines roughly one million dollars per year by allowing earlier turns that slightly shorten west flow departures. It’s enough to make you want to lean out the window and scream!

20141016scp.. G.Martin folding his forearms to brace himself while reading FAA's statement re PHX NextGen

Glen Martin folding his forearms to get through his formal statement. (click on image to view a 2-minute clip and read the full transcript)

In Phoenix, the first opportunity for citizens to formally present their concerns directly to the FAA happened on October 16th. Glen Martin, FAA’s Regional Administrator, flew in from L.A. and sat through an FAA Community Outreach Meeting that lasted for more than two hours. The video is viewable online, and is well worth watching by anyone impacted by NextGen. It includes dozens of thoughtful (and sometimes passionate) comments by impacted local citizens.

Mr. Martin formally addresses the group in a 5-minute statement, between times 18:45 and 23:45 on the video. For more than 90-seconds, in the middle of this address, he reads the words on his paper and never looks up. Here is the short video clip (and transcript by aiREFORM). He implies FAA did an environmental analysis and says:

“…The results indicated that the project would not cause a significant increase…
(He pauses, cocks his head slightly, and raises his eyebrows slightly, showing his own disbelief at what he has been given to read)
He then squirms in his chair. The audience erupts with laughter and other calls of disbelief. He then folds his hands (in body language that says, ‘I’m going to get through this’) and continues reading. For more than ninety seconds, he just reads the paper and NEVER looks up.
“…a significant increase in noise for noise sensitive areas or result in other significant environmental impacts….”

A Matter of Trust

20150524scp.. Billy Joel singing 'Matter of Trust'Decades ago, in the streets of East Village (Lower Manhattan) and not far from LaGuardia [KLGA] (where NextGenHell is impacting residents in Flushing and other areas), Billy Joel created a video, ‘A Matter of Trust’. The song he had written was about love and relationships. In Phoenix or in Flushing, there is no love for FAA, and the relationship is one where the people deeply distrust and despise the federal agency that imposed NextGenHell. One line near the end of the song is especially resonant:

“…After you’ve heard lie upon lie,
there can hardly be a question of why…”

Let’s hope that Michael Huerta, Glen Martin, Carmine Gallo and a few others at FAA will take a quick look at both of these videos, and think, just for a minute:

“Is there anything FAA can do,
anything I CAN DO,
to help bring relief to impacted airport neighbors,
and to help restore trust in the FAA?”

 It’s a matter of Trust.