Great to see this photo, shared by Andy Schmidt, showing the full house attending at the Milton Board of Selectmen 2/28 meeting. Item #5 on their agenda was “Public Meeting – Airplane Noise”.
This past week, numerous local citizens met with city airport officials, to discuss the DRAFT Minimum Standards for Commercial Aeronautical Services. This 41-page document (archived here) may be well worth reading … not just for those who fear continued air charter operations at the shortened KSMO runway, but also for people at other U.S. airports, seeking to clarify who is to be held accountable for the airport impacts.
Some of the content is mere boilerplate, but other details make it clear that the two key airport regulatory parties (FAA and airport authorities) both tend to ignore area residents while serving only commercial operators. And how is this done? Well, if and when a citizen raises a concern, the airport regulatory party is quick to pretend they are not accountable while also directing all concerned citizens ‘to the other party’. The result is regulatory failure; where safety and environment demand real and timely accountability, instead we find an accountability vacuum.
At Santa Monica, the impacts continue. Although the runway was substantially shortened, jets and charter operations still fly. Area residents remain fearful that the City will allow – or even encourage – the development of increased air charter operations.
‘Minimum standards’ should exist, especially as related to safety and environmental impact. Given how marginally unsafe the shortened runway is for larger, fuel-laden commercial flights, it is absolutely appropriate for the city to refine their minimum standards in a way that shuts down commercial charter operations. But, will they do so?
Submitting suggestions or comments on this Draft
Readers who wish to may submit their own suggestions. The two key airport officials to contact are:
- Stelios Makrides — email at email@example.com
- Suja Lowenthal — email at Suja.Lowenthal@SMGOV.NET
Something Else to Think About: Who pays for these airport officials?
Mr. Markos is Airport Manager, a position he has held since 2013 (per this news release). After a quick online search, it was not yet clear what his annual salary is. But, that same search revealed that Ms. Lowenthal, as the Senior Advisor to the City Manager on Airport Affairs, earns a $162,036 annual salary. (click here to view the City’s 9/28/2017 press release)
Here’s something to think about. In good form, to justify a high salary, the city’s press release proceeded to identify Ms. Suwenthal’s substantial background, both educationally and professionally. But, that point aside, if senior assistants earn this large a salary, it suggests that the costs to manage KSMO, which frankly caters to just a small group of charter operators, are quite substantial. And these costs have to be born by someone.
These high costs beg a few more critical questions:
- what exactly is the full extent of city subsidy for this airport?
- if the city subsidies ended, would area residents finally obtain relief from air pollutant, noise, and safety impacts, especially those caused by charter operators and leaded-fuel local flights? In other words, is this subsidy pattern actually perpetuating impacts that destroy health and residential quality of life?
- if the city continues the pattern of impact upon nearby residents (both in Santa Monica and in adjacent neighborhoods, such as West LA), where is the money coming from to pay these subsidies?
Whether they are locals or vacationers, people have a hard time enjoying the beaches of Northwest Florida, when overrun by helicopters. They also wish FAA would serve THE PEOPLE, not just the aviation interests.
Below, Jack Simpson notes that this is probably the most boring column he has yet written, but his annoyance with FAA is crystal clear. This meeting could have been held anywhere, and about so many similar situations involving FAA. The federal agency with all the power to manage U.S. aviation is instead in the business of enabling abuse by aviators, who profit while diminishing local quality of life. Through it all, FAA employees pretend they can do nothing about it. And notice, too, FAA using the same old trick: put the burden on the citizens to comply with onerous requirements, reporting details that often are impossible to compile.
This article was about helicopters, but the same framing could also represent a community impacted by NextGen, skydiving, air tours, etc.
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.
The NextGen impacts at Vashon Island, under the HAWKZ RNAV arrival route, are terrible. This early-November presentation shows much has been learned by pushing past the roadblocks, getting the data, and framing the problems. Just 15 slides, and far more informative than the dog-and-pony shows FAA, POS and other ‘aviation stakeholders’ produce. Excellent work by David!
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.
Especially, look at the slide on page 10. Flights are now substantially lower over Puget Sound than they were, prior to the start of HAWKZ. The plan was to turn them down the center of Elliott Bay (the core idea in the Greener Skies program), thus there was a need to jam them lower and sooner. But, Elliott Bay is almost never used, because congestion at SeaTac is simply too high; instead, the lower and slower (and thus louder!) flights just cruise on north, burying Queen Anne, Ballard, Shoreline, Edmonds, and sometimes even Everett with more repetitive noise.
Ponder this, too: why are FAA and POS failing to locate HAWKZ arrivals mid-channel, between Three Tree Point and Vashon Island? Might it have something to do with the number of FAA/POS families living along the shorelines west and north of Burien? This could easily be done, using GPS waypoints that can minimize impacts on neighborhoods. NextGen technologies can be used to improve the environment, not just destroy communities in the name of air commerce.
Can we find just one candidate for elected office who prioritizes community health and quality-of-life? Who will fight for balance, to empower local airport curfews and limits on hourly operations at impactful hub airports? Sal Albanese may be the answer for New York City. Check out the debate this week…
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.
(…thanks to NextGenNoise.org, the source for this info!)
What is going on in Santa Monica? Is the City honoring the will of the people who rejected massive campaigning by aviation lobbyists, and resoundingly approved Measure LC back in 2014? Or, is the City pulling a fast one on its people?
Increasingly, it looks like the City is pretending to care about the lead, the particulates, the noise, and the obvious health impacts, yet is doing nothing to correct these problems.
Then, too, there is the problem of airport proximity to dense residential properties; airport neighbors have actually had lawn furniture blown over by the blast behind jets taking the runway; the smell of jet exhaust is a regular occurrence in backyards, where children play.
The fiery crash of an arriving bizjet back in 2013 killed four, but would have been far worse if that volume of jet fuel had ignited while crashing through the houses within the designated Runway Protection Zones (RPZs). Yep, although RPZs are supposed to be vacant land, hundreds of houses exist in the trapezoidal spaces at the ends of the Santa Monica runway; both FAA and the airport authority – the City – are going to be held accountable and found totally liable, if and when a crash happens in the RPZs.
The Consent Decree itself is suspect … no, doubly suspect. The City had a solid legal case, Nelson Hernandez had been insisting to noise activists that there were no discussions toward settlement, and yet City suddenly gave away all their advantage and caved to FAA pressures … AND Chamber of Commerce pressures, … and wealthy jet owner and wealthy airport users’ pressures. Twelve more years were added, with no guarantee of eventual airport closure. The only ‘gains’ received by the City were the right to shorten the runway, from 5,000-ft to 3,500-ft. The shortening was supposed to be immediate; rational people assumed it would take at least a few weeks or months to formally shorten the runway on paper, and add some surface markings. Instead, this process is being badly bungled, and is really calling to question, the integrity and intent of City Manager Rick Cole and key personnel such as Mr. Hernandez. Here are some examples of their bungling:
- on 4/25, a meeting was held to share options for how to shorten the runway. The only options offered were to shorten it by clipping 750-ft off each end, or to shorten it by removing the bulk of the 1,500-ft from the west end. There was no option offered to remove 1,500-ft from the east end, which would best serve the most impacted airport neighbors (because the airport is nearly always in a west flow, the engine runups and idling by bizjets and charter jets nearly always happen on the east end; the jets often fly out IFR, thus have to wait until ATC can alter the LAX flow, to safely allow the SMO departures … so the jet idling can go on for a long time; also, the predominant winds push the concentrated pollutants to West LA, just east of the airport).
- the meeting invitations went out only to the so-called ‘stakeholders’: pilots, airport operators & tenants, and other aviation folk. The local non-aviation community was not invited.
- eventually, the local non-aviation community found out. Understandably, they felt slighted. Trust in Rick Cole and Nelson Hernandez has plummeted.
- now, tonight, the Airport Commission meets, to consider the limited options, which reportedly carry an extraordinary $6 Million price tag, mostly just for adding paint to pavement!
- It’s as if the goal is to so frustrate activists that they just give up (but they can’t: the stakes are too high, when you are fighting for health!).
So, that’s how bad it is. Now, if the City really cared to resolve decades-old airport problems, what would they have immediately embarked on after finalizing this Consent Decree?
- as a first step, declare the closure to become effective at the earliest allowable date. If any operators of the airport need more than 3,500-ft of runway, they would have a reasonable time window to depart, but after the closure date, that option would no longer exist.
- designate a runway portion for the initial closure. This does not have to be the final closure portion, but it does have to be designated. The surface markings have to be added, and the ATC procedures modified, to make it illegal for any flight to use this runway portion except in an emergency. Thankfully, the surface markings and modified ATC procedures are not a large or expensive task, and are easily completed.
- simultaneous with the above, define a full set of runway shortening options. The present set is woefully deficient. A full set would include at least three final runway positions, where the final runway portions to be closed would be all at the east end, all at the west end, or equally on both ends of the runway.
- a second set of ‘options’ – and equally important for addressing airport impacts – is what to do with the closed runway portions. Are they to be maintained, to enable longer takeoff or landing distances for larger bizjets, or are they to be declared unusable? So, this second set of options should consider removal of the asphalt versus painting the asphalt, and should also consider how the surface of the former runway sections are to be finished and maintained (grass, sand, or ??).
- if the goal is to maximize safety and minimize environmental impacts by bizjets and charter jets, the solution should be to discourage use of the airport by jets. Therefore, it would be a no-brainer to tear out the asphalt and create an earthen EMAS – perhaps sand, or perhaps just compacted soil seeded to grass, as is found at most airports. A small jet, aborting a takeoff or with a brake failure on arrival, would have its speed safely arrested in the overrun area; larger charter jets would simply avoid SMO, using longer runways in less impacted communities instead. LAX, for example, which has a brand new VIP terminal aimed at serving elite charter clients.
- for the record, FAA’s version of EMAS is very expensive. A specially formulated ‘crushable concrete’ is poured, and the cost to repair is also very high. Not just for actual accidents, but also when a pilot blunders and accidentally taxis onto it, as happened at Burbank with a private jet carrying baseball player Alex Rodriguez, in October 2006.
The Santa Monica Airport should have been closed decades ago; that it has not yet closed testifies not only to the power of the aviation lobby and the depth of FAA’s corruption in serving that lobby, but also to the lack of will (and intentional deception?) by City officials. From a distance, it is hard to watch this play out and not wonder, who’s getting paid off with what? Is Santa Monica just a wealthier version of the Bell, CA scandal?
here.— a petition for writ of mandate was filed by two citizens, seeking to have the Consent Decree declared null and void, on grounds that it was negotiated in violation of open records laws; see 98-page PDF copy
Take a close look at this impact study done more than two decades ago, which includes these opening paragraphs:
Twenty years later, how well have the Port of Seattle (POS) and local elected officials applied the content in this study, to protect and serve the local residents and taxpayers?
Is the proper BALANCE in place, so that the airport serves the local community rather than destroy it?
Is KSEA becoming yet one more case of an over-expanded airport creating benefits for airlines and the industry, at great costs in destroyed communities and lost quality of life?
Here’s a letter-to-editor that concisely summarizes the impacts NextGen is causing upon residents of Milton, under the arrival paths into Boston’s Logan Airport [KBOS]:
The problems around Boston are repeated across the nation, and they are expanding as FAA continues to push NextGen. The alleged benefits of NextGen are fraudulently overstated, while the costs are cautiously hidden. And the entire reason for FAA’s pushing NextGen?
It is not about helping the environment; that’s just a cynical façade. NextGen is solely about increasing ‘runway throughput’, by eliminating any and all barriers that reduce airport capacity as measured in arrivals per hour.
FAA is failing to serve the public because they serve only the industry. FAA refuses to manage capacity, and has stolen away the rights of local officials to mitigate impacts with curfews, flow rate restrictions, and other measures. The airlines get profits; the residents get the shaft – sleep loss, stress, and many other health impacts.
Here’s a video and two NYU journalism projects about the impacts caused by LaGuardia [KLGA] air traffic.
By far, the worst impacts by KLGA flights are in the Flushing area, where residents endure repetitive noise and air pollution for arrivals to Runway 31 and departures off Runway 13. The impacts at Jackson Heights happen mostly when wind conditions cause ATC to use Runway 4 for arrivals or Runway 22 for departures. Although this configuration is relatively rare, the impacts are still quite significant, as evidenced by the video and articles.
At the root of the KLGA impacts is the fact that FAA refuses to manage capacity. Quite the opposite, FAA is promoting NextGen to help the airlines maximize ‘runway throughput’, seeking ever-higher flow rates of arrivals (or departures) per hour. The airlines are all for this, as it helps them increase corporate profits. The downside, though, is the airlines are increasingly doing this with banks of near-simultaneous arrivals that allow for passengers to use LaGuardia not as a destination but as a transfer point. More flights and more through-passengers translates to more pollution and more congestion, reducing quality of life and threatening health.
Click on the images below for a scrollable view; the files may be downloaded at these links:
- ‘Airplane Pollution in Jackson Heights’ by Mercedes Barba (3p)
- ‘Noise Pollution Affects Jackson Heights’ by Veda Shastri (3p)
This is an excellent documentary covering five decades worth of airport expansion impacts on Boston residents, even back into the 1960s. Somebody who knows this history more intimately, perhaps an East Boston resident, needs to write up a chronology about this history.
If someone takes on this project, aiREFORM will offer support, helping to create a webpage that includes maps, photos, links and more to share this story.
The film appears to be connected to Airport Impact Relief, Inc., a nonprofit.
Timeline (subjects & appearances) in the film:
- (1:24) – Mary Ellen Welch
- (2:18) – Chris Marchi
- (3:14) – Wood Island Park
- (3:28) – Anna DeFronzo
- (4:16) – Rich Gavegnano
- (6:06) – Frederick Salvucci
- (7:20) – Father Corrigan
- (7:30) – SEP 1968, residents follow the example set in the 1960s civil rights marches. They realize that letters and attending airport meetings was not changing the airport growth ambitions; so, they began to protest more actively, blocking construction trucks.
- (16:07) – Brian Gannon
- (17:21) – Gail Miller
- (20:16) – Wig Zamore
- (21:28) – Sumner Tunnel & Callahan Tunnel
- (23:13) – “It’s really frustrating … they really have a hold of our neighborhood, our community, in such a way that you can’t really challenge them….”
- (23:35) – Father Sallese
- (24:27) – Frank Sargent
- (26:46) – Luz Heredia, her two children have asthma
- (36:57) – an example of the propaganda machine in East Boston