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).

TimesLedger Publishes a Full Page of Letters Disputing the NextGen Con-Job by A4A/FAA

20160312.. TimesLedger full page of airport noise letters re NextGen failures KJFK & KLGA (Becce, Jehn, Will)The ongoing propaganda parade by lobbyist A4A and federal personnel serving the aviation interests (both FAA employees and elected Congressional officials) included the Sharon Pinkerton letter in the NYC area on March 3rd. There are many smart people in the Big Apple, tired of this charade. They wrote some very good letters, pointing out just how incredibly false (and self-serving!) the A4A letter was. TimesLedger has created webpages to share these letters. Here are links:

A4A’s TimesLedger Letter: Further Debunked by Pilot/Author George Jehn

A retired airline pilot, George Jehn, offers this concise critique of the latest round of A4A propaganda, and specifically the Pinkerton letter at TimesLedger:

“Pinkerton’s article is way off the mark. The airlines have had the ability to fly direct for many years, via the use of things like GPS, OMEGA, INS, etc.**These are all navigation systems used in aviation. INS stands for ‘Inertial Navigation System‘, a major upgrade in air navigation that began to dominate around 1970 … making direct routes common more than four decades ago. It is the airspace problems in the terminal areas that are created by the sheer volume of aircraft taking off and landing that cause the noise problems. And NextGen is not going to solve any of these problems. That is the built-in folly of airline ‘deregulation’. You can only stuff so many planes into a limited amount of airspace and still maintain a safe operation — and the key word is safe.

In recent years, the airlines and the FAA have been shaving the safety margins bit by bit, in many different ways and in many areas. Two examples that most people aren’t even aware of are ETOPS, which stands for Extended Twin Engine Operations. Under FAA’s ETOPS Orders (the original version was adopted in December 1988, and the revised version was adopted in June 2008), FAA allows jets to operate over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with only two engines. If you recall, it used to be four engines, then three and now two. All of this is done to save fuel and maintenance costs. Prior to ETOPS, engine redundancy was mandatory for safety.

It isn’t a matter of if one of these twins goes into the drink, but when (think of MH 370, a twin-engine 777. What really happened there?). Also, there used to be two-thousand foot mandatory altitude separation above FL 290(twenty nine thousand feet) but now it is has been reduced to one-thousand by the FAA. And these are just two examples. There are many others. Very sad because the public is being hoodwinked by the FAA on many fronts, including noise abatement and flight safety.”

Spot on, George!G.Jehn

As a bit of background, George is a retired Eastern Airlines (and later USAirways) pilot, especially notable for the book he wrote in 2014, ‘Final Destination: Disaster. What Really Happened to Eastern Airlines’.20160305cpy.. 'Final Destination - Disaster' (cover pic, G.Jehn book on EAL)
His book offers a rare insider view at a fatal airline crash in South America, on 1/1/1985, that was never properly investigated or reported by FAA or NTSB officials. Essentially, a cover-up … as does happen sometimes, with aviation ‘incidents’.

George also was a high-ranking pilot union (ALPA) official, and his book points to the serious problem of top union officials becoming ‘joined at the hip’ with agency and airline officials. George is impressive for his knowledge and experience, but even more so for his whistleblower instincts, and his tenacity to expose and reform corruption.

A highly recommended read, if you want to better understand where politics and aviation safety conspire to corrupt.


See also:

AIRR Act is Shuster Serving the Airline Corporatocracy

This past week, in a very-coordinated effort including lobbyists, airlines, past FAA officials and the always-loyal aviation media outlets, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster released his proposed legislation, the AIRR Act.  The most significant element of the Aviation Innovation, Reform & Reauthorization Act is that it proposes to remove ATC from the FAA and place it into a corporate body with a governing panel consisting primarily of industry players.

20160202scp.. FAA Over-Delivering on Destroying Communities (A.Lilling tweet)

…a recent tweet about FAA failure…

Does FAA need reform? Absolutely. So, too, Congress needs reform. And both FAA and Congress need reform for the same reason: they are both failing to serve.

Our Founding Fathers designed a system that was to protect the delicate balance between government powers and the rights of individual citizens. This system means that, where a federal agency (such as FAA) is imposing burdens on communities (such as Charlotte, Boston, Flushing, Phoenix and many other ‘NextGen-victims’), the Congress will act to remedy the problem. But, due in no small part to both extreme gerrymandering and plutocratic allegiance, we have not had a functioning Congress for well over a decade. Instead, for the most part, we have had a fraternity of rich lawyers all hyper-focused on manipulating district boundaries and collecting contributions to fund their reelections.

When you think about the long list of FAA failures in recent years, and the consistent inability of most elected officials to take decisive actions, it starts to appear as if our elected leaders actually wanted to perpetuate the failures, to create a population so desperate for impact relief, they would be easily manipulated to call their representatives and tell them to vote in favor. Thus, stacking up these problems might actually up the odds of passing the eventual proposal.

So many failures went unresolved, and virtually everywhere:

  •  the lack of control by local authorities to manage problems at their local airport.
  • the horrific impacts related to NextGen implementations, creating new noise-ghettos.
  • the many lies and misrepresentations – the outright fraud packaged under the name ‘NextGen’.
  • the continued spewing of toxic lead by small planes DECADES beyond health-mandated deadlines

We have seen a few rare exceptions (they are almost always freshman representatives who perhaps have not yet lost their idealism and loyalty to true service?), but, for the most part, Congress continues to do nothing. Then, suddenly, we as citizens watch as Mr. Shuster springs to life and offers the AIRR Act. Of course, at the same time, via a media blitz, we are also being told by Mr. Shuster, by the airlines, by lobbyist ‘Airlines for America’, and by a gaggle of former FAA officials (including David Grizzle and Russ Chew) that this is a great idea. Even the controller’s union, NATCA, announced support … though all the other unions came out in strong opposition, which raises the question: what bone has been promised to NATCA for the inexplicable support?

There are many things WRONG about the AIRR Act. The main objective is clearly to insulate ATC from both Congressional oversight and public accountability/transparency, neither of which is a worthy or acceptable goal. But, for now, consider just the simple truth, that failure should never be rewarded. Passing this legislation would reward players in both the Congress and at FAA. Congress should not be in the business of giving away authority in exchange for contributions from profitable airline during a campaign year. FAA should not be functioning as a captured regulator, serving only the industry while creating more and worsening problems for the People. Both are failing, so why would any intelligent person want to reward that failure?

How about this instead: if FAA et al really want to outsource ATC, grant their proposal only after both FAA and Congress have cleaned up their acts and are performing their duties. We all deserve and demand an ACCOUNTABLE Federal Aviation Administration.

More Examples of ‘Enroute Delays’ for KSEA Arrivals

Three months ago, five arrivals to Seattle were analyzed in A Set of KSEA Arrivals Helps to Expose FAA’s NextGen Fraud. In the time since, on repeat occasions, readers have submitted other examples of more arrivals for which ATC issued substantial en route delays, sometimes with multiple loops. For example, check out the extensive work by ATC to sequence the December 7, 2015 arrival of ASA124 from Fairbanks, as shown in this FlightAware satview:

ATC issued multiple delays, including a huge loop east of Dungeness Spit, then a turn to Alki Point only to be turned downwind and extended on the downwind all the way back to Whidbey Island.

KSEA is the tiny orange text in the bottom-right corner. ATC issued multiple delays to ASA124, including a huge loop east of Dungeness Spit, then a turn to Alki Point only to be turned downwind and extended on the downwind all the way back to Whidbey Island. The same flight on Saturday 1/16/2016 was issued no delays, during a more moderate arrival flow. Click on the link to study all recent ASA124 arrivals.

Even with a new year, the pattern of en route delays to the airport at SeaTac [KSEA] continues. A particularly galling aspect of this is that both FAA and the management at this airport have expended a huge effort promoting these so-called ‘NextGen improvements’, even going so far as to over-use a ‘Greener Skies’ eco-moniker. To help reveal this propaganda, an analysis was recently done, looking closely at 25 arrivals during a half-hour-long push on the late evening of Thursday, January 14, 2016. Here is a table listing the flights, with departure airport, times, color-coded delay amounts, and time gained/lost en route:KSEA.20160114.. Data on delays related to 2120-2131 Arrival pushA more in-depth analysis was prepared for the first ten in this series of arrivals (those landing between 9:20pm and 9:31pm). A distinct pattern is apparent, revealing the following facts for how ATC is routinely issuing en route delays (which consistently cancel all NextGen time-savings, thus negating all ‘potential benefits’ being oversold to the Public and to Congress):

  1. The bulk of each route of flight is extremely direct, for both transcontinental and regional flights.
  2. During the last hour of each flight, ATC consistently delays the flight, typically with vectors or one or more ‘loops’. Delay durations of 10- or 20-minutes are common. The most common location for these delays is in the sectors at the Center/TRACON boundary.
  3. Even with these en route delays, the arriving flights are routinely subjected to additional delays, such as extended downwind legs stuck in low level flight.
  4. For each flight, any time-savings gained by early turns after takeoff is more than lost if and when ATC issues delay instructions

For the record, airlines have flown these optimized direct routes for decades, using technologies deployed more than three decades prior to FAA’s first use of the term ‘NextGen’. In other words, the ‘benefits’ FAA and others are claiming when they seek Congressional funding are a bald-faced lie, just selling again benefits that already exist.

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

FAA’s NextGen Fraud

The SeaTac airport has a triple-parallel runway configuration, oriented north-south. Thus, arrivals to KSEA will land in a NORTH FLOW or a SOUTH FLOW, depending on winds.

Like most major U.S. airports, the Seattle area has winds that are reliably consistent and, most of the time, changes are accurately predictable. This is important, as wind reliability means airspace can be designed to flow arrivals to strategically located ‘gates’ that efficiently feed arrivals into a manageable final flow.

If FAA chose to use NextGen technologies optimally, the airspace would be designed to minimize distance flown while also ensuring minimal noise and air pollution impacts, particularly on noise-sensitive areas in the airport vicinity. Airspace would also be designed so as to keep arriving flights as high as possible, and as late as possible… to minimize noise and air pollution impacts. Unfortunately, FAA is not using NextGen to accomplish these improvements: instead, FAA is using NextGen as a ‘shortcut’ to eliminate pre-existing noise-abatement procedures.

In short, NextGen is a fraud being foisted on both the People and the Congress. The alleged ‘benefits’ have been grossly oversold, and the very real impacts are routinely ignored by an agency captured in service to the industry.

The Incredible Shrinking NAS (…that FAA & the Av-Gov Complex Don’t Talk About)

A new year is upon us and it is clear that forces in Washington, DC are carefully applying pressure. The current deadline for renewing FAA’s budget authorization is in March. So, the lobbyists, many of whom receive FAA paychecks every two weeks, are coordinating their daily efforts, with two goals in clear focus:

  1. they hope to aid the airlines in achieving even higher profits by accelerating and expanding their ongoing NextGen implementation debacle; and,
  2. they hope to further insulate FAA – and the industry – from accountability.

They are aiming to accomplish these two goals by getting elected officials to remove ATC from FAA (creating a sort-of privatized entity run largely by the so-called ‘stakeholders’), and by getting Congressional authorization to spend more on NextGen. The lies and misstatements used to justify their targets are many and frequent … and increasingly egregious. For example, out of one side of the mouth, they boast how incredibly safe the U.S. commercial aviation system is; then, out of the other side of the same mouth, the cry about how absolutely critical it is that we invest billions in Public money to ‘modernize’ the ATC system.

As another example, the NextGen-&-Privatization ‘collaborators’ are repeatedly shouting a false claim that our National Airspace System (NAS) is limited by serious ‘capacity issues’. Here are four snippets from online articles:20160109scp.. four samples of propaganda on Capacity need for NextGen

These snippets hammer home the idea we are maxing out, needing to extend capacity. But, the data shows a very different reality: that air traffic operations peaked in the late 1990s and have since declined substantially. Frankly, the ONE REAL capacity issue impacting the system of U.S. airports is that FAA refuses to impose rational capacity management controls. Instead, FAA sits back and lets the airlines routinely over-schedule at even the most capacity-sensitive airports. FAA does this because airlines want to maximize profits, and this captured agency does everything it can to not impede that airline objective. And the controllers union (NATCA) goes along with this charade, because the flight proceduralization being imposed via NextGen means they do much less real work while continuing to collect some of the highest paychecks in all of Federal civil service.

So, here is some hard data…

The PDF file below was compiled using FAA’s own data from their ATADS/OPSNET webpage. Annual totals for each year from 1990 through 2014 were compiled, for all 516 airports that submitted data into the 2014 ATADS database. The ‘Peak Year’ was identified for each airport. Data for both the Peak Year and Calendar Year 2014 was then refined into the presentation, and statistics were added to show key change parameters: changes in total annual operations, as well as itinerant air carrier (ITIN-AC) and itinerant air taxi (ITIN-AT) operations. (NOTE: this pair of parameters accurately reflects passenger flights, and also reflects how the airlines changed their mix of aircraft sizes between the larger AC fleet and the smaller AT fleet). Additional parameters include local operations (primarily flight training), and VFR operations (primarily general aviation). Some color-coding has been added, to aid in identifying trends (mostly downward) and airport types (three types stand out: primarily commercial air passenger airports, vs. primarily instructional airports, vs. primarily GA airports).

One of the most shocking realities illuminated by this 64-page spreadsheet is how far downward the aviation industry has declined, in terms of the need for ATC services. Specifically, of the 504 airports in this PDF file for which ATADS data shows a ‘change’ in annual operations (i.e., takeoffs and landings), the trend is overwhelming downward:

  • the average 2014 traffic for all 504 airports is 45% below Peak Year.
  • even the strongest performers, the current top-ten airports in terms of daily traffic counts, had declines in 2014 that measured 12% below Peak Year.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the top 30 airports (an accurate indicator of traffic demands by the commercial passenger aviation sector) is 21% below Peak Year.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the top 100 airports (the busiest 3% of airports on FAA’s list of 3,300+ NPIAS airports) is 31% below Peak Year. Please note, this list of the top 100 airports is a very accurate indicator of traffic demands by the entire aviation system, as these airports produce nearly all commercial passenger flights and enplanements.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the top half of the 504 airports is 38% below Peak Year.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the bottom half of the 504 airports is 52% below Peak Year.
This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Not only is there no pressing need for NextGen to alleviate capacity issues, but, in fact, the data shows an industry in a steep and prolonged decline. Put it this way: if the U.S. commercial aviation sector was to make a truthful presentation seeking venture capital, they would have zero success, because the charts show steady decline and no reliable growth. Given other major trends (downsizing of the U.S. middle class, growing wealth inequality, and fossil-fuel-related Climate Change impacts, for example) it appears increasingly improbable that commercial passenger aviation will change into a ‘growth’ industry.

Efforts to Limit Federal Subsidies Paid to Helicopter Schools

Aviation officials never lose a chance to spread the illusion that airports are incredible generators of money. To be sure, money does tend to be spent around airports, but most often, that money is not being created but is instead in the form of a subsidy. A massive annual subsidy, to the tune of billions per year, mostly collected from airline passengers and then carefully allocated by FAA, with a maximized strategic political effect.

One way the airports are propped up is with money for flight instruction, especially via GI Bill subsidies for veterans who want to become pilots. Unfortunately, there have been many flight schools that see these veterans as a ripe opportunity to access federal money. And, the industry is top-heavy with qualified pilots, which not only drives down pay, but also places more pressure on pilots to bend rules and cut costs. Here is a PDF of an article from last March, looking at two helicopter flights schools in the Southwest.

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

That’s the background, illustrating the need for federal officials to take action against waste, fraud and abuse. Four months after the article appeared in the LA Times, an almost completely unrelated legislative proposal was submitted to Congress. After spending more than four months waiting in the Committee on Veterans Affairs, the legislative report was moved to the floor of Congress. Needless to say, the helicopter industry is not happy with the cleanup efforts.

(click on image to view original article at AviationPros)

(click on image to view original article at AviationPros)

The main lobbyist for the helicopter industry, HAI, has issued a ‘Call for Action’. HAI’s claims were not validated in the HAI-link to the Legislative Report (e.g., there is no mention of the words ‘helicopter’ or ‘flight’ in the 27-page report). Nonetheless, HAI claims that there is a ‘Section 306’ with language calling for severe limits on how much GI Bill benefits a single student can apply each year.

In  other words, HAI claims the legislation seeks to end taxpayer subsidies for students who spend $200K to $500K in a single year of part-time helicopter training. So, like all active lobbyists, HAI is using the industry media outlets to gin up a campaign, aimed at re-enlisting the support of elected officials, so that the rich subsidies to a few aviation operators can continue.

One wonders: what fraction of a typical rich federal aviation subsidy has to be reinvested, as a campaign contribution or to buy the service of lobbyists, to keep the whole balloon from crashing?

There can be Many Winners With this Legislative Proposal

Waste can be reduced, but we also can improve local quality of life in communities near these helicopter flight schools. If Congress cuts helicopter training benefits, we will not have to endure as much low-level helicopter noise. And, helicopters are not just noisy; they guzzle a lot of gas while beating all that air, just to stay aloft. As the reality of climate change comes into focus, this form of aviation should become a ripe target for a quick extinction.


See also:
  • H.R.3106 – a Congressional webpage with summaries, actions, links to documents. Perhaps the ‘Section 306’ is a rider that has not yet been posted online?

Boston & NextGen: The Impacts Continue Unabated

“…part of a congressionally mandated, nationwide program ‘that is modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system to make it even safer, greener, and more efficient’….”

– FAA spokesperson Jim Peters

When it comes to spin and propaganda, the most dangerous FAA employees are the mouthpieces: the FAA Administrator (and a few lesser officials who speak at industry luncheons, conferences, conventions and other events), and the public affairs ‘spokespeoples’ (sic). People like Jim Peters, quoted above, in this recent Boston Globe article about NextGen and noise impacts.

click on the image below to view a copy of the article in a scrollable PDF file…

Saying the right thing (and ONLY the right thing!) is critical, to pull off intended manipulated outcomes. So, there is an emphasis on creating and using key phrases, repeated over and over again – quite similar to the manipulative methods we see employed by candidates and their spin-meisters, during major elections. In fact, most FAA employees are strongly conditioned to say nothing, and defer to the mouthpieces. Even written correspondence routinely has to pass through a hierarchy of multiple desks, with everyone initialing off in the ‘grid’ on the cover page. Call it what it is: a culture of fear.

This latest Boston Globe article is fairly good, as it does lay out the problems created by NextGen. But, as is so common, it also provides FAA/industry with a chance to further promote, by inserting pro-NextGen phrases. Here is a table listing the pro-NextGen points, included within this Boston Globe article:

Page 1, paragraph 1: “… and the agency responsible for the decrease energy-saving policy…”
Page 1, paragraph 2: “… FAA has said the Next/Gen satellite-based navigation system is designed to decrease jet fuel consumption and increase safety by making the sky routes more efficient.”
Page 2, paragraph 7: “…Lynch said he understood that the new flight paths increased fuel efficiency and “the industry is probably saving a lot of money by having these planes fly the optimum route…”
Page 2, paragraph 9: “FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the flight paths are part of a congressionally mandated, nationwide program “that is modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system to make it even safer, greener, and more efficient.”
Page 2, paragraph 10: “He said the program reduces air traffic delays and cuts the amount of fuel used by aircraft, and as a result reduces carbon emissions into the atmosphere.”
Page 2, paragraph 11: “The FAA is working with Massport and the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee to develop a runway-use system that will provide relief from noise while adhering to FAA safety and operational requirements, Peters said.”
Page 2 paragraph 12: Massport spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan: “The airport and the FAA have worked together to reduce noise in communities, and we will continue to do so.”

Note that these alleged benefits, none of which are proven true, originated with the FAA/industry ‘collaboration’, aimed at dressing up NextGen and selling it to Congress and the general public. Just a lot of unsubstantiated greenwash, paid for using the billions FAA takes from airline passengers each year. And the alleged cooperation, between FAA and the airport and community groups? Routinely, this is just a show, done for appearances, not to solve real problems. Articles such as this show that FAA is a failing agency, out of control and serving only the industry it refuses to regulate.

Senate Unanimously Passes Amendment to Address NextGen’s CATEX Flaw

Out of a clear blue Arizona sky – the kind best enjoyed while soaking in the vast silence at Grand Canyon – Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake introduced a 3-page amendment aimed at repairing NextGen noise impacts. The Senate promptly passed the amendment, by a unanimous vote. Here is a copy of a McCain Press Release:

20151118scp.. Senate Unanimously agrees to McCain-Flake Amendment (Sen.J.McCain Press Release)750px

(click on image to view the Press Releases page at Senator McCain’s website)

The amendment was thus added to the 2016 THUD Appropriations bill, HR2577. The Senate is expected to make their final vote on the full bill, perhaps within a week. It will then need to obtain House approval of the amendment (and any other changes) before it can become law.

‘THUD’ stands for ‘Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies’. In other words, this single piece of legislation covers FAA and all other units of the Department of Transportation (highways, rail, maritime, pipelines, etc.), AND ALSO INCLUDES public housing, community grants, and other vast programs under the Department of Housing & Urban Development. Therefore, it is not surprising that, of the eighty amendments tabulated on the Congress.gov webpage, only a few have to do with FAA.

A close look at the FAA-related amendments suggests, in most cases, each proposal was simply to make a statement of protest against a specific agency expenditure or action. Many of these proposals also appear to be a sort of ‘grandstanding’ on narrow issues, perhaps to make a good impression on voters back home. Interesting, too, is that the last surge of amendments was on June 9th, and then there were no additional amendments for more than five months. The ONLY subsequent amendment, 160-days after House passage, was the McCain/Flake amendment, which was quickly passed by a voice vote, and with no votes against.

According to the HR 2577 webpage at Congress.gov, the bill was introduced on 5/27/2015, passed by the House of Representatives on 6/9/2015, and reported to the Senate on 6/25/2015.

The amendment applies only to the busiest U.S. commercial airports, known as the OEP-35 Airports. (this aiREFORM webpage provides a list of all OEP-35 airports, notes their operational trends, and includes links to webpages with information about each airport)

It is important to recognize that the rush to implement NextGen was not needed, as U.S. commercial airline operations have declined substantially (and fairly steadily) for most of the past 15-years. The data showing this is viewable year-by-year, for each OEP-35 airport, at this aiREFORM webpage: Total Annual Operations & Trends for FAA’s OEP-35 Airports, 1990-2014. Or, here is the data presented graphically, from an informative presentation by Katana Consulting.

(click on the image to view the 'Real Impact of NextGen' presentation video by Katana Consulting)

(image from a presentation video by Katana Consulting)

Three Questions…

We certainly owe a ‘thank you’ to Senator McCain for finally taking this action, and we hope the eventual legislation, if passed, will quickly produce noise relief at places like Phoenix, Flushing, Charlotte and Palo Alto (and, the botched NextGen implementations are also impacting Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and other communities). But, as a career elected official, Senator McCain (and other Senators) should also welcome hard questions about his actions. The facts behind this latest action beg three such questions:

  1. Why was this proposal not made five months ago? It was quickly approved after it was offered, so it seems plausible that many different Senators (from both parties, and from numerous states) might have offered this amendment proposal as early at last June, to potentially accelerate relief for the thousands of impacted people. The most likely Senators would be those with the largest numbers of NextGen victims, and at locations with intense media coverage and even legal actions against FAA. These Senators would include: Schumer or Gillibrand (NY), Feinstein or Boxer (CA), Warren and Markey (MA), and of course, McCain and Flake (AZ). Each of these Senators would have served their constituents well, if they pushed this proposal last June or July. Why so long without any progress? Has the evidently bipartisan failure to serve constituents become this stark? Is this further evidence that U.S. Senators today serve money, not people?
  2. Was the timing of this amendment proposal connected to Senate discussion on the Syrian Refugee crisis? On the same day that McCain introduced his amendment, and in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Senators were cuing up with their positions on our national role, whether to accept or block Middle Eastern refugees. McCain was quoted in an article at theHill.com, insisting there was no connection, while also referring to his differences with the White House. This echoes a similar situation two years ago, when a rift developed within Republican ranks, on the issue of authorizing air strikes in Syria. Then, too, both McCain and Flake were on the hawk end of the spectrum, while newer Senators (and Presidential candidates) Rubio and Paul were on the dove end, questioning the U.S.’s role and use of force. It seems that a seasoned politician may well understand, when you are about to do something unpopular, doing something positive may help to diminish opposition. With this in mind, is it conceivable to think that our elected officials may appreciate agencies creating problems so that, when the timing is right, the elected official can become a quick and momentary hero?
  3. Is McCain cleaning up, perhaps trying to make amends for some of his past misdeeds? Back in 2012, this Senator, teaming up with Senator Harry Reid (NV), single-handedly stopped a carefully crafted proposal by the National Park Service to get air tourism noise impacts under control, at the Grand Canyon National Park. In so doing, McCain was capitulating to the profit-interests of Papillon, Maverick, and other helicopter operators, who make millions each year in these lucrative flights, while severely diminishing the quality of the experience for millions of park visitors.

So, what is REALLY driving FAA’s NextGen program? It is not safety or capacity. It is simply MONEY. As has happened time and again with FAA, they scheme up ways to sell a new program, to get Congress to pay out more money, which then benefits FAA employees as well as the industry. Contractors, manufacturers, the airlines and other so-called ‘stakeholders’ all get a piece of the pie in exchange for not opposing the wasteful congressional handout. And, in a few years, yet another round of slush-slinging will follow.

Some would call it a fraud that is generating waste as well as excess aviation noise, an irresponsible action by an unaccountable FAA that is destroying neighborhoods around the nation. It would be nice if the current Presidential candidates in both major parties would start to debate how to repair the ongoing performance failures at FAA.


UPDATE, 11/20/2015: — Just a few hours after this aiREFORM Post was published, an Airport Legislative Alert by AAAE was posted by the Phoenix airport management. The title of the Alert was ‘Senate Halts Consideration of DOT-FAA 2016 Appropriations’, and it discussed the many political maneuvers underway, all related to the Syrian refugee crisis.
UPDATE, 11/24/2015: — Hoping to accelerate resolution of this problem (which began 14-months ago!), a letter was sent to the U.S. Senate, signed by all Phoenix councilmembers and the mayors of Phoenix and other nearby communities.

See also… (blue dates link to online content)

2/14/2012
FAA Modernization & Reform Act of 2012
REFERENCE – a copy of the 145-page Public Law-112-95. CATEX is discussed in Section 213.
4/25/2015
¡¿Happy Earth Day, Mr. Huerta?!
Blog Post – After FAA had the audacity to post on their Facebook Page on the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, dozens submitted comments. A Post was created by aiREFORM, firing back at FAA’s hypocrisy and archiving copies of those reader comments.

Finally! … a Fair Article about NextGen Impacts!

QUOTE

“…Over and over again, it’s like a stab in your brain….”

– a resident of Palo Alto, describing FAA’s NextGen Impact on her home

Thank You, Los Angeles Times, for your article about FAA’s NextGen impacts in the Bay Area. You got it right.

There are many articles being published about these NextGen impacts nationwide, particularly at Phoenix, at Boston, and around New York City’s LaGaurdia and JFK airports. This article did not go so far as to reveal the NextGen fraud FAA is pulling, with their greenwashing the public and manipulating Congress to spend billions, but it is truly one of the best articles yet. The reporter actually looked into the situation and compiled her own story, instead of lazily posting the pre-spun talking points that FAA and the industry provide. And, critically, the article was published without being re-spun by editors catering to FAA/industry money and power … a democracy-killing problem at most of today’s news outlets.

With their botched NextGen implementations and tone-deaf arrogance, FAA is making itself the poster child of failed federal agencies. A captured agency, serving only the industry they were created to regulate, while also destroying quality of life for the masses. This must end. We are long overdue for real FAA reform, with full accountability and transparency.

A short video, posted by Save Our Skies Santa Cruz, showing the impact on people, south of San Francisco…