ANALYSIS: American Eagle ends up ‘Stuck in the Mud’ in Columbia, MO

(source: tweet by Courtny Jodon   @CourtnyKRCG13)

(source: tweet by Courtny Jodon @CourtnyKRCG13)

20150404.. KCOU mishap, left main gear in soft grassThe images indicate a simple pilot error, not unlike what can happen to us with our cars, if we misjudge our turn and sideswipe a curb or another vehicle while parking.

METAR shows winds were from the SSW at 10mph, so ATC would have issued a taxi clearance for a Runway 20 departure.

20150404scp.. KCOU mishap, RWY20 area SATview marked-up

Orange diamond shows mishap location, blocking both runways. Green curved line shows turn; green arrow was intended takeoff roll.

To get there, the pilot evidently used a short segment of Runway 13, then started a left turn to line up for the full length of Runway 20. This is good practice, as it maximizes runway length, improving the safety margin while also minimizing takeoff noise impact on nearby communities. Unfortunately for this flight crew, they misjudged the turning radius of their passenger jet; their attempt to get an extra hundred feet of takeoff distance ended up with a left main gear stuck in muddy grass. The runway is 150-feet wide, so they had plenty of room to do the turn correctly. They just turned too soon.

(click on image to view the airport webpage)

(screencap of the webpage notice by the airport authority. Click on image to view the airport webpage)

What makes this story more interesting is how the airport authority and the media whitewashed the mistake. The airport authority phrased the incident as ‘dropping a wheel’. The local media, which of course got their information from the airport authority, ran a headline that read ‘Plane slides off tarmac at Columbia Regional’. Um, nothing was dropped and nothing slid; this was a simple matter of cutting a left turn too soon, failing to account for the fact your main gear is half a plane-length behind you. As noted earlier, we do the same thing driving a car, even more likely if we are driving something long like a bus, or pulling a trailer.

The ‘Larger Story’ about KCOU

Sometimes a news story has more value for revealing a larger issue than for the minor news event itself. The news story can inadvertently shine a light into an area not thought about by the average person. This may be the case with this story.

Columbia, MO (locally known as ‘COMO’) is a progressive college town in central Missouri, home of the University of Missouri. The town’s airport is notable not just as the regional airport, but also for its extraordinary level of federal subsidy. In 2014, [KCOU] had 20,958 airport operations, thus averaged 29 takeoffs per day. ATC services are provided by a federal contract control tower, with controllers handling just two takeoffs per hour. The airport is relatively large, at 1,538 acres, and averages $2.5 million annually in FAA grant monies for maintenance and further development. Passengers (who pay the flight taxes FAA grants each year) have no choices at this airport. American Airlines is the only commercial carrier, with four total departures each day, two each feeding passengers to their super-hubs at O’Hare and DFW.

There is certainly a need for passenger air service in Columbia, MO. The airport is an asset. But, in a more rational national airspace system, this airport would not be as large as it is, nor as heavily subsidized. KCOU would be just as safe if it was much smaller (even down to just 200 acres), had no tower (saving roughly $600K/year), and received far less or even zero grant monies. The fact is, these subsidies primarily serve the industry (…just one airline (American) and one large tower contractor), the politicians (…who ‘bring home the bacon’ to get reelected), and the regulators (…especially the FAA retirees who supplement their retirement pensions by becoming ATC contractors).

Big Week in Santa Monica

Lots is happening in the next few days. A meeting of the Santa Monica Airport Commission (SMAC) on Monday, then a public Rally and a session of the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday.20150322.. [KSMO] busy week calendar 1-2-3

A copy of the 36-page Staff Report is viewable in the scrollable window below. Check back to this Post, as links for other resources will be added.


Links:
  • City Council HomepageThe Santa Monica City Council regularly meets at 5:30 p.m. on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month in Council Chambers, located at City Hall, 1685 Main Street, Santa Monica. The City Council may hold additional special meetings, as needed.
  • July 1, 2015: Measure LC beginslatest Post by Airport2Park, a local nonprofit formed to support and promote the creation of a great park on the land that is currently Santa Monica Airport.
  • Martin Rubin’s Statement to the Santa Monica City CouncilDelivered on 3/23/2015, in preparation for the scheduled 3/24/2015 City Council meeting. Includes numerous links to supporting documents.

New Global Group Opposes ‘Aerotropolis Schemes’

Anyone who has been employed in aviation or studied aviation history knows that airports, airlines and manufacturers rely heavily on political support and governmental subsidy. In fact, a whole new industry has developed in recent decades to feed this relationship. Just like the scandalous ‘banksters’ who created new ways to steal money, today we have many opportunists who set up various airport schemes so they can get rich quick. They scheme to connect private money and public authority, mutually benefitting all involved parties — but, not the citizens. They dress it prettily as a ‘collaboration’. Always, the promoters are careful to present only the positive spin, while knowingly staying quiet about the negatives.

This works fine (not for us, but for the schemers) when people lack critical thinking skills, or when they are too tired (or too burned out or too busy or too distracted) to participate candidly in public decision-making. So, we are lucky that some critical thinkers care enough to speak up, and to form new groups like the Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM).

Aerotropolis is the aviation equivalent of Walmart. Each new project is conceived in a boardroom, then implemented with a mountain of financing and political leverage. Sometimes, darker tactics are deployed (e.g., kickbacks, bribes, threats, etc.). Once the development is done, you have a monstrous economic engine quickly draining the life out of hundreds of older family businesses (and, often doing so while receiving huge tax waivers and other public subsidies). Sure, the new monster creates a few new jobs (after destroying more than a few old jobs), but the new jobs tend to be mostly at the lower end of the wage spectrum.

Just as with other self-serving, cronyistic adventures, with airport projects a scant few get filthy rich. And, what do the locals get?

  • it is not uncommon for tens of thousands of families to be forcibly displaced. And aviation abuses eminent domain everywhere — not just in the darker ‘less democratic’ corners of the world, but increasingly in the hollowed-democracy heartlands of even the most advanced economies.
  • farmland and natural habitat is destroyed, along with other declines in environmental quality. There is the air pollution and noise pollution that will always be associated with fossil-fuel-powered aviation (and worse yet for our climate future, each aerotropolis is consciously designed to maximize the rate of human consumption of fossil fuels). There is the land pollution via pesticides to ‘efficiently’ manage ‘wildlife hazards’, followed by wholesale killing when that fails. And, there is the use (and misuse) of de-icing and other aviation chemicals.
  • there is the loss of former open space when huge acreages become fenced off. On the other hand, locals get to ‘look at’ miles of this fenced-off open space every workday, during long drive commutes from their distant ‘almost-affordable’ residences.
  • whatever control the locals had BEFORE the project, once it is built, the locals almost ALWAYS lose that control. The corporations (and captured faux-regulators like FAA) take over, operating out of view.

And someday, if the distant Board and CEO decide to nudge a different profit margin, they may just move on to a greener taxbreak pasture. This has happened many times in aviation. Cincinnati ([KCVG] … thanks, Delta!), St. Louis ([KSTL] … thanks, American!), and Pittsburgh ([KPIT] … thanks, USAirways!), are three extreme examples. And it continues in a more subtle form today, as operations are increasingly concentrated into a dozen or so fortress hubs. We are now down to the ‘final four’ (American-USAirways, Delta-Northwest, Southwest, and United-Continental), and FAA looks the other way while airline officials carefully coordinate schedules to avoid any real competition.

Here are two PDF’s from the new organization. Scroll through the first window to see the invitation to join GAAM, written by Anita Pleumarom in Thailand. Scroll through the second window to read an analysis of the impacts caused by the Aerotropolis projects, written by ‘Plane Truth’ author Rose Bridger.


See also:

ANALYSIS: Airport Expansion Proposal at Ravalli County in Hamilton, MT [6S5]

[6S5] VFR Sectional, north to KMSO and showing nearby mountainsRavalli County Airport sits approximately forty miles due south of the commercial service airport in Missoula, Montana. The airport elevation is 3,642′. To the west is the Bitterroot Range (and Idaho), with summits near 10,000′ elevation; the Sapphire Mountains are on the east edge of the valley, with summits around 9,000′.

A proposal funded by FAA calls for building a new and longer runway, the construction of new taxiways, and the addition of dozens of new hangars. Farmland and wetlands would be consumed for airport expansion. A step in the plan process is to complete an Environmental Assessment (EA).

Millions may be spent to build out this airport. None of this would even be considered if FAA did not collect billions in airline passenger fees each year, then dole them out as AIP grants. A tiny few reap financial gains in what often are crony handouts. Incumbent officials steer these grants to help ensure their reelection. And meanwhile, many near the airports see their lives diminished by noise and pollution. Maybe this pattern needs to end soon…

Here is a link to a newspaper Op/Ed by Rich Morissey, from November 19, 2013.

An Analysis:

Here are some short notes on factors that FAA and local residents might consider when deciding if this plan should be abandoned, modified, denied, or approved…

  • Should jets be discouraged from using this airport? Jets and other high performance aircraft could more safely use (and hangar at) the airport in Missoula [KMSO], which provides contract ATC services, averages more than $3 Million annually in federal grants, and has enormous capacity to add based aircraft and flights.
  • The plan shows construction of many new hangars, including numerous large hangars to accommodate jets and larger aircraft. This may be an inappropriate development for this particular area. To encourage these aircraft to base at this rural airport that is generally boxed in by tall mountain ranges only invites an eventual accident. Operations at Missoula would be far safer.
  • Destruction of wetlands and other natural terrain on and adjacent to airport property. The north half of the airport is built on and surrounded by wetlands. Should these be left alone?
  • Removal of agricultural land from production. The new runway construction on land to be acquired to the east would reduce crop land under a center-pivot.
  • Noise and leaded fuel impacts on neighbors. Deep, U-shaped valleys commonly have an amplifying effect, furthering the noise impact upon all residents. Plus, after forty years, FAA has STILL not remedied the use of lead in Avgas.
  • Conflict with ongoing residential expansion. Note the new development close-in, just southwest of the airport.
  • Compatibility with the developer of the largest subdivision in the valley, who also happens to own nearly all parcels to be sold for airport expansion.

Here is the proposed airport layout plan: [6S5] proposed airport layout For further information, please click on page two, where you will find:

  • a link to the airport webpage at Ravalli County
  • a satellite view
  • AFD airport data page
  • the local Noise Abatement guidelines
  • links to elements of the new Master Plan proposal
  • and more (added in the future).