FAA and other industry players have been using some incredibly phony sales pitches for well over a decade now, in their coordinated effort to sell NextGen as ‘transformational’. One of those false pitch points is the claim that NextGen will do away with commercial flights flying zig-zag routes across the nation, from one electronic navaid to the next. Readers are led to believe that today’s air navigation is constrained by these locations, and a lot of people get fooled, simply because the vast majority of us are not trained and employed in a way that would cause us to know better. Well, today’s air navigation is NOTconstrained that way, and frankly has not been so constrained for many decades. Even as early as the 1970s, entire airline fleets were configured for direct navigation using inertial navigation systems, followed by many new and improved systems including Omega, Loran, GPS, etc.
It’s a fact, and an embarrassment on FAA, that for each of the airspace redesigns in recent years, FAA and contractors have created thousands of pages of slick documentation… and every documentation package, for each airspace redesign, has at least one copy of this image (or a close variation):
The graphic clearly implies that ‘current’ navigation is via zigzags over navaids. All you have to do is study actual flight routes, at a website like Flightaware. Everyday, multiple websites upload data for tens of thousands of U.S. commercial flights; for each of those days, you could spend a week or longer reviewing every individual flight history, and chances are you would NOTfind even one flight wasting time and energy on navaid-to-navaid zigzags.
So, it looks like all that propaganda is now taking a big victim: even the esteemed Wall Street Journal now believes we need NextGen to advance us past airplanes that ‘bounce from one radio point to the next…’!
…But the Community continued to cry out in ever greater numbers.
And their complaints numbered in the thousands,
and then tens of thousands,
and then hundreds of thousands.
Crying out in a loud voice they said
“Oh Lord, remove this plague of noise and pollution from above our heads.”
And the FAA said:
“For sooth. This has not happened before within our short memories. Why did the communities never before complain?”
And the Air Traffic Control angels replied saying:
“Verily, the number of aircraft popping out of our bottom in ancient times were few. But now the number doth wax greatly.”
A brilliant and humorous analysis of how FAA failed to serve the people impacted by NextGen arrival changes, feeding San Francisco [KSFO] from the south. The technical details presented in this are also impressive, and quite informative for anyone burdened with the health and quality-of-life costs imposed by FAA’s worsening NextGen implementation debacle.
The fight in Santa Monica continues to heat up. City officials have labored for nearly four decades, and patiently endured one FAA delay tactic after another, in their quest to assert local control so they can best manage their local airport. Now, an official at FAA Headquarters in Washington, DC, has issued an ‘Interim Cease and Desist Order’. For what it’s worth, here is a copy of the City’s official response:
(text of email by City officials; minor edits may have been added, but only to clarify)
The Order appears authoritative and very threatening, but a closer inspection suggests it is just another bluff by an out-of-control federal agency. Here’s the closing declaration, at page five of FAA’s 15-page document, signed by Kevin Willis, an FAA Director at the Office of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis, on 12/12/2016:
(click on image to view an archived copy of FAA’s entire 15-page ‘Cease & Desist Order’ package)
‘Cease & Desist’ … hmm, my first thought was, roughly,
“…where does FAA have the authority to issue a ‘Cease & Desist Order’, intervening in the relationship an airport authority has with an airport tenant? I mean, by this logic, FAA should also have the right to dictate all sorts of airport management details, not at all related to aviation safety.”
Evidence That This is Just a Bluff
FAA’s authority to issue the Order is cited as footnote one, on the bottom of page 1 which reads: “This Order is issued pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 46105 and 14 CFR § 16.109.” So in the probably 100-200 man-hours that went into drafting this Order, FAA’s legal team offered not one but two cites. But, is either cite valid?
I’ll lead off with the second cite. According to GPO’s eCFR website, FAA’s second cite DOES NOT EXIST. I.e., per the screencap below, 14 CFR § 16.109 is a ‘reserved’ section of the CFR framework, meaning there is no language to be consulted.
Two screen-captures by aiREFORM, from the current/valid electronic CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) website. These show that there is no valid 14 CFR section 109.
And note, too, this is NOTan out-of-date version; the GPO website declares this eCFR is current as of 12/12/2016 … the same date as Mr. Willis’s signature!
And now let’s consider the other cite. FAA cited 49 U.S.C. § 46105, but their error is immediately revealed by simply reading the language of the law. The actual section contains these words: “…a regulation prescribed or order issued by (…) the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration with respect to aviation safety duties and powers designated to be carried out by the Administrator (…) takes effect within a reasonable time prescribed by the (…) Administrator.”
Note the qualifier, “…with respect to aviation safety duties and powers designated…” FAA’s current action against Santa Monica has nothing to do with ‘aviation safety duties’, and FAA’s legal team has failed to actually cite any real authority. If you want to look even further, see this archived PDF copy of the entire Chapter 461, which contains all sections, from 46101 through 46111. It is a searchable copy, so it is easy to quickly establish: Chapter 461 contains neither the term ‘cease’ nor the term ‘desist’, and the cited § 46105 contains no real authority.
Now, just to be clear, I am not a lawyer. BUT, as a forced-to-retire FAA ATC whistleblower, I have plenty of experience with FAA’s bluff and bluster. FAA pays plenty for their hundreds of inside attorneys, and these civil servants are expected to distort and deceive at will, in support of the true and not-so-ethical FAA mission. If my quick legal assessments are flawed, please show me my error. And if they are not flawed, clearly, it is time for FAA to get off their bureaucratic butts and let the People in Santa Monica get on with owning ANDcontrolling their local airport.
UPDATE, 12/20/2016: — a week has passed and nobody has yet provided even a flimsy legal basis for FAA’s administratively issuing an ‘Interim Cease & Desist Order’ against the City of Santa Monica. The most substantial response I have yet seen was sent by Chris Harshman, and a screencap is provided below:
Here’s what I sent back to Chris:Chris did make one good point in his email. He identified my error in interpreting the CFR nomenclature. The Code of Federal Regulations are an extremely deep and tangled set of rules. When I researched my blogpost, I could not find a 14 CFR § 16.109 and ended up finding a list that looked like it was regarding 14 CFR § 16.109, but was actually declaring that 14 CFR Part 109 was reserved. The online version is viewable here (and I archived a copy, all 31-pages, here).
Of course, we also have the problem that the preamble for the 31-pages of 14 CFR Part 16 says that “…provisions of this part govern all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proceedings involving Federally-assisted airports….” This strongly suggests that Part 16 cannot be applied against Santa Monica, because Santa Monica dropped their addiction to airport federal assistance many decades ago.
Thankfully, all of this confusion is easily solved. We just need FAA to start serving ALL OF US, not just the elite aviation interests. Airports serve communities, not businesses; airport impacts need to be properly balanced against health, residential quality of life, and other issues. Attorneys can help make this happen… IF they choose to serve more than just the mighty dollar.
When she blew up at the Greenpeace activist who asked her a civil question, perhaps it was because she cannot stand the momentum shift? She was once invincible and only waiting through the process until election day. But not anymore. The Bernie Sanders campaign sent out this email today, illustrating the huge momentum shift in the past three weeks:
The next big step in the Democratic Primary happens on Tuesday, with the caucus in Wisconsin. For what it is worth, I find the Sanders platform attractive because it resonates deeply with the underlying mission of Aviation Impact REFORM. The Sanders platform emphasis is where it needs to be, aimed at producing long-overdue reforms:
equitable and just treatment of all people
verifiable accountability of government employees and officials
empowerment of individuals and local communities – give the people the data and information, so they can become meaningfully involved
acceptance of the need to rapidly end our dependence on fossil fuels; i.e., taking actions, including in aviation, to address the emerging climate change crisis.
It seems hard to refute that the political party duopoly in the U.S. is insufferable for its abuse of power and enabling of limitless corruption. This corruption consistently benefits corporations and elite wealth, yet hurts the diminishing middle class … and ALWAYSincludes rich kickbacks to the politicians nearest the top of the parties. Like Hillary’s $225,000 Wall Street speeches (and, yes, she really does need to share transcript copies!). And the problem is undeniably bipartisan: all of our recent Presidents – both Bushes, as well as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have reaped huge rewards by acting as ‘cheerleader-in-chief’ for the establishment, while doing nothing about whistleblower retaliations and agencies that blow off the FOIA laws. Think about it: if Hillary cannot even share a speech transcript, why would she EVERbe expected to demand FAA release records that show ATC’s watching movies or concealing controller errors? If she is such a beneficiary friend to corporations, how could she EVERinsist on cleaning up the NextGen impacts, or demand an end to excessive airline mergers?
Hillary Clinton has made it quite clear: she plans to emulate the Bushes and Bill and Barack. She plans to extend the failed practices of the corrupted modern U.S. duopoly. So, I hope Bernie Sanders does well in Wisconsin and continues onward to eventually win the nomination, as needed to help us all reclaim the future we are losing.
Another day, another article, and yet another provable example of an unaccountable authority offering more spin to sucker the larger public. This time, the spin is offered by the Global Gateway Alliance and published by Crain’s:
(click on image to view original article at Crain’s New York Business)
Yes, the NYC area has aviation delays, but the cause is not at all what the lobbyist claims. There are two lies (highlighted above) that pop out from Mr. Sigmund’s statements to yet another happy-to-publish reporter:
Sigmund says, “Passengers have better GPS on the phone in their pocket than most every pilot is using on the planes flying in and out of New York-New Jersey airports…”; and
Sigmund says, “They are also delayed because they use an outdated World War II-era radar system, leading to a constant traffic jam in the sky.”
Bunk on both counts.
Nonetheless, these are the core lies of the current ‘collaboration’ by Av-Gov Complex players, seeking more money wasted on NextGen. These lies are propagated not just by Mr. Stephen Sigmund (the executive director of Global Gateway Alliance) and other pro-aviation lobbyists, but also by FAA officials, union officials (NATCA, in the case of air traffic control) and elected officials (congressional comments last month by John Mica and Bill Shuster are two recent examples).
The fact is, FAA has spent tens of billions upgrading the computers that allow us to brag about what is indisputably an incredibly safe ATC system. But people like Sigmund have no idea what they are saying, when they repeat the spin mantra. Those ‘World War II’ radars used vacuum tubes and showed only tentative blips; they were operated by controllers trying to interpret static-prone crackling transmissions. The pilots sending those often unreadable radio transmissions had no onboard technologies to see hazards such as other flights or weather or even granite. The lack of technology suggested when using the phrase ‘outdated World War II-era radar system’ was corrected decades ago. And, further, all of this technology has been upgraded every few years for the past six decades … easily more than a dozen iterations of technological improvement. Not just to faster integrated circuitry and color presentations and digital processing, but also to include a robust array of automation and system redundancies (one of many great examples: ‘conflict detection and alert’ that aids controllers when they get bored and lose focus).
Frankly, today’s flight management systems and radars are so far evolved that the role of the air traffic controller has been largely reduced to sitting and monitoring, all while collecting some of the highest pay rates in the federal government. Ten years ago, NATCA was vehemently opposed to NextGen, because they saw it as attacking job security. So, why does NATCA support NextGen now? Because FAA threw them a bone: “…collaborate with us (agreeing not to oppose NextGen) and we will help you become privatized, so the current controllers can rise above the congressionally-imposed pay limit…” (currently capped at $174,000 per year, earned by thousands of FAA managers as well as controllers at the busiest facilities).
Enough is enough. This pattern of self-serving spin by aviation interests (FAA, Congress, lobbyists and even NATCA) must end. We need effective air service IN BALANCEwith local community quality-of-life. We can have the best for all; we just need FAA to start doing the job expected by Congress and the Public.
Privatization Plan Holds Promise but Gives Big Carriers Too Much Clout – a fairly moderate opinion piece, but still using the same ‘WWII technology’ talking point. One line sets a high bar: “…if a spinoff could improve the system without costing passengers more or silencing the public’s voice in air traffic control, it would be worth doing.” Yes, that would be worth doing, but with the ongoing set of self-serving players, those costs are inevitable – indeed, demonstrable at places like Long Island and Phoenix.
There is so much work to do, just trying to stay on top of FAA’s full frontal assault. Over the past three years, and under the guise of ‘safety and efficiency’, FAA has begun imposing NextGenHell and OAPMfraud, and thus destroying quality of life in residential neighborhoods across the nation. [NOTE, added 12/10/2016: FAA has frequently amended their webpages after issues have been raised in aiREFORM Posts; a copy of the FAA webpage connected to the ‘OAPMfraud’ link above is archived here.]
New Posts by aiREFORM will soon discuss the OAPMFraud issue, and will also cover impacts around Atlanta [KATL], the Bay Area [KSFO], Boston [BOS], Charlotte [KCLT], Chicago [KORD], Minneapolis [KMSP], Seattle [KSEA], and other emerging NextGenHell Impact Zones.
But other important news is happening, and it is quite related. For example, the rain events and deadly flooding, particularly in Texas, are indicative of what we can expect when we seed more intense weather by adding more water vapor (melted ice) and more energy (higher air temperatures, including enhanced solar energy absorption by much higher CO2 levels) to our changing atmosphere.
The Arctic Ice situation continues to worsen.
NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent graph for 5/25/2015. Gray band is +/- 2SD’s off the mean value (solid black line). Dashed black line is 2012. Dark blue line is 2015. The year holding the record low value is labeled in orange, at bottom. Note that the current 2015 value is more than two standard deviations below the historical mean. (click on image to view current graph at NSIDC)
Ten days ago, an aiREFORM Post offered a pair of graphs showing low Arctic sea ice extent. The Post also noted that 2015 looks likely to set many new records. Well, we are now five days into a third new record this year.
Thus far in 2015, new low-records for Arctic Sea Ice Extent have been set from March 4th through March 22nd, April 4th through April 10th, and May 20th onward. And worse, not only is the sea ice extent plummeting, but weather and other conditions stand to keep it plummeting, maybe even accelerate it. For example, loss of white sea ice is replaced by dark open water, which tends to reflect less and absorb much more of the energy (thus, heating). This is an example of ‘positive feedback’ with negative climatological consequences.
Here are two ClimateReAnalyzer images, for May 26, 2015:
In both images, the North Pole is depicted by the crossing dashed lines (main meridians) centered and a third of the way down from the top. These modified satellite images are updated daily at their website (once you are at the website, note that the words listed to the left of the globe are all links to images; click on ‘Sea Ice & Snow‘ to view the left image, and click on ‘Temperature Anomaly‘ to view the right image).
The left image shows ‘Sea Ice Extent’. Open water is dark blue, 100% ice is solid white, and partial melt is in darker white shades. A thin cyan line marks the average sea ice extent for the years 1979-2000.
The right image shows ‘Temperature Anomaly’ for air temperature at 2-meter height above the surface. Colors grade toward warm extremes (brown) and cold extremes (blue). The anomaly values are relative to a baseline for temperatures during the 1979-2000 timeframe. The predominant brown shows that the Arctic Ocean is substantially warmed, with areas near the North Pole at 10-degrees+ Fahrenheit above normal.
It’s Global Warming, and it is Anthropogenic
These images, when compared with past Sea Ice Extent images, destroy the claims by those who deny Global Warming. Here are two earlier images, for the same date in 2000 and in 2012.
The year 2000 was chosen because it most closely matches the ‘average 1979-2000’ graph (see the solid black line).
The year 2012 was chosen because it was the blockbuster year with the most records and the lowest readings during human history (see the dashed black line in the large graph near the top of this Post).
Look particularly at two map features: terrain snow cover, and open water. The terrain snow cover is a light gray overlay of brown land, and has clearly declined in Alaska, across northern Canada, and in the Rocky Mountains, from 2000 to 2012 to 2015. Likewise, the dark blue ‘open sea water’ has extended far northward, including:
the Bering Sea is now nearly ice free, and earlier melting in the Chukchi Sea north of the Bering Straits.
earlier open water in the lowest latitudes of the Beaufort Sea, around the MacKenzie River delta.
recession of the northern tips of both the Greenland Sea and the Barents Sea, north of Europe.
earlier meltoff of both Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay.
“…A hundred percent redacted. This is a blank form that they will not even allow Congress to see. Now, if that’s the type of cooperation we’re going to get from the TSA, we’re going to have some very difficult times.”
The news this year has been abuzz with Aviation Noise articles, and it does not appear to be slowing down.
Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Judith LaBuda heard closing arguments in a Boulder, CO trial, where impacted residents are seeking relief from the noise of Mile-Hi Skydiving Center, operating out of Longmont’s Vance Brand Airport [KLMO].
On the East Coast and the West Coast (in East Hampton, NY, and in Santa Monica, CA), citizens have ‘Just Said No’ to FAA grants for decades to get out from under ‘grant obligations’ and try to regain local control of their airports. They are now working diligently to finish their trek, to ensure local officials will not cave to late pressures from FAA and the industry. For once, they hope to see their local officials act to manage aviation noise and preserve ‘quality of life’. At East Hampton [KHTO], residents want relief from noisy commuter helicopters. At Santa Monica [KSMO], the biggest noise offender is also commercial, in the form of charter jets using a too-short runway, and also spraying soot and jet blast onto neighboring homes.
And, of course, there are the ongoing (and growing!) NextGen debacles impacting hundreds of thousands of sleep-deprived residents. Phoenix, Chicago, and New York have generated lots of big stories; Charlotte, Minneapolis, Seattle, Boston, Palo Alto, … the list will grow on. At each impacted community, millions of taxpayer dollars are used by FAA to attractively (and fraudulently) ‘green-wrap’ the debacle, and always stated as ‘in collaboration with industry stakeholders’. And, in case you missed it, FAA even wished everyone a Happy Earth Day!
Lots of news, but very little progress. Such is the politics of FAA and aviation noise.
Censorship in Colorado
As an example of how intensely political aviation noise is becoming, a conservative-leaning paper in Longmont recently censored out a reader comment. The paper, TimesCall.com, has generally been doing an excellent job of covering the citizens’ lawsuit against aviation operator Mile-Hi Skydiving. And their articles provide a ripe forum for people to express their views. As has come to be the standard in today’s online forums, the views are hugely polarized and sometimes downright rude and uncivil.
So, here’s a short overview of what happened at TimesCall.com. A person using the tag ‘JustSayinEP’ (Estes Park?) had made a comment which was promptly deleted by the website administrator. But, before the deletion, another person using the tag ‘Querty123’ responded, questioning if ‘JustSayinEP’ was threatening to use a rocket launcher to shoot down the main offending Mile-Hi Skydiving airplane, the loud white/purple Twin Otter. ‘JustSayinEP’ then promptly replied, and within his reply noted the content TimesCall.com had censored. To their credit, TimesCall.com did not censor this follow-up. Thus, we are all able to plausibly reconstruct their justification for the censorship. Here’s a screen-capture showing the comment thread (orange-box added by aiReform.com):
(click on image to read original article and reader comments at TimesCall.com)
The censored comment included lyrics from Bruce Cockburn’s 1984 song about oppression in Guatemala, ‘If I had a Rocket Launcher’. The opening stanza of the song lyrics includes, “Here comes the helicopter, second time today, everybody scatters and hopes it goes away, how many kids they’ve murdered only God can say….” The second stanza includes, “I don’t believe in guarded borders and I don’t believe in hate, I don’t believe in generals or their stinking torture states….” See the full lyrics here; the song is short and simple, and the lyrics webpage has lots more information about how the song came to be written.
Here are two embedded YouTube videos. Take your pick (or, better, listen to both). The first is the video at the link posted by ‘JustSayinEP’, which has video images showing the human face in Guatemala; the second video is an acoustic version, on a stage in Canada, that many find more artistically impressive:
Both videos present a great song. This song is NOT intended to stir up violence. It is clearly intended to stir up PEOPLE, to get us to CARE ENOUGH to take non-violent action, to right an obvious wrong. As Bruce Cockburn explained about his new song, in a late 1984 interview, “this is not a call to arms. This is, this is a cry….”
A cry. In 1984, and again in 2015.
Which is why it seems surprising that TimesCall.com would see fit to censor it.
The Politics Go Back to Ronald Reagan
The deeper story gets into politics, and reveals some of the oppressive dark-side of aviation. Mr. Cockburn wrote this song more than thirty years ago, early in the Reagan Administration. Two of the biggest presidential moves on aviation were done by President Reagan in 1981. In August, he fired most of the FAA air traffic controllers, for their strike, an action that still resonates with labor today. Earlier in the year he had persuaded Congress to support his proposal to shut down the Office of Noise Abatement and Control (ONAC) at EPA, an action hugely relevant to the NextGen implementation debacles.
That was Reagan’s first year, 1981. In early 1982, in Central America, General José Efraín Ríos Montt staged a military coup and became President of Guatemala. He had distant support from a few other nations, including the Reagan administration, and he used aviation as perhaps his most powerful tool of oppression. Bruce Cockburn visited the Guatemalan refuge camps in the Mexican state of Chiapas, during the Montt dictatorship. He saw the way helicopters routinely ignored national borders to fly menacingly over and sometimes fire into refugee camps. An avowed pacifist, he was outraged by the inhumane oppression he saw, so he wrote this song. And, thankfully for the Guatemalan people, the presidency of General Montt was short-lived; it ended in August 1983.
Mr. Cockburn’s song does a fantastic job of illustrating the simple fact that people who are oppressed need relief from their oppression. No matter how peaceful people are, if a state of oppression is sustained, it is only right to stand firm and resist. The individual standing against oppression was once at the heart of our national identity. If the oppressor denies the oppressed effective recourse, in due time some may feel compelled toward violent action to retake their freedom. We took up arms against the British, and that crystallized our national identity. We all want to avoid violence, which is why we want to believe we have an open press and deliberative Courts, the essential nonviolent venues for maintaining civility. But history has shown, if the press and the Courts fail, peace too will soon fail. Thus, we MUSThave a strong press and reliable Courts, openly covering the NextGen noise debacles, and justly deciding cases like the one in Boulder.
In the big picture, if we truly want a happy and peaceful world, we have to start with preserving basic quality of life, which includes vigorously guarding against oppression.
Noise is oppression.
Noise is oppression. Not as horrific and potentially lethal as an armed helicopter, but still oppressive. And bureaucratic inaction, as FAA consistently shows, doesn’t just frustrate the noise-oppressed; it also scuttles their chance for relief from other venues, such as when Courts reflexively defer to FAA, ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT FAA IS DOING ITS LEGISLATED DUTY. Which, by the way, FAA is NOT.
For reasons unknown, FAA has completely abandoned their federal responsibility to manage aviation noise. Some would conclude it is easily explained, if you simply understand that FAA today is a captured regulatory agency, existing solely to serve the industry.
In essence, the only difference between an aviation lobbyist and an FAA official in Washington is that the latter is still making small contributions into their federal retirement pension. So, as it stands today, if the airlines want political cover to add a few more million in annual profits by making early turns to climb out over Phoenix and Flushing, FAA provides that cover. Complaining citizens are just beaten down and ignored.
Today’s Noise Politics: On a Collision Course?
Today, NextGen noise is Oppression, and FAA is the intransigent Oppressor. Near NextGen airports, where new procedures are being implemented without needed environmental reviews and citizen input, ‘We the People’ are now ‘We the Oppressed’.