SeaTac’s NorthSTAR Project: The Av-Gov Robber Barons Are on a Roll

A project ground-breaking ‘ceremony’ for a few means further aviation impact misery for many others.

SeaTac International Airport [KSEA] is currently the fastest growing U.S. commercial airport, because Delta decided to scale up a new hub in 2012. Thus, SeaTac has become a major hub for both Alaska (the dominant carrier) and Delta. The problem, though, is that this is causing the KSEA flight schedule to become over-saturated; so, ATC stretches the flight patterns, and now residents as far as 30-miles from the airport are regularly enduring long time periods with low/loud repetitive arrival noise (and, of course, the impacts go far beyond just noise: more and more people are suffering from air pollutants, increased asthma, sleep loss, stress, and more).

As is standard practice at federally-funded infrastructure ‘ceremonies’, elected officials appear; they crow about the project, emphasizing dollars and jobs while carefully NOT speaking about the adverse impacts. Here’s a short video clip posted by the Port:

In the video above, from time 0:52 to time 1:19, Senator Maria Cantwell made this comment: “As someone who just flew in this morning, and sat on the tarmac for an extra 15-minutes because we couldn’t get to a gate, I can tell you that everybody in Puget Sound has experienced the need to have more capacity at SeaTac Airport.”

One resident near SeaTac offered this reaction: “Apparently Senator Cantwell needs to make our kids sick, destroy our home value, wake us up at night, compromise safety, destroy a few cities so she doesn’t have to wait 15 minutes for a gate … I thought she represented me….”

Elected officials, including Cantwell, lose credibility when they appear at events trumpeting aviation expansion. They do it for the photo-ops and to muster up campaign funds from the aviation industry. But, as happened here, they often show they are blinded in their pursuit of that money: Cantwell was completely blind to the simple fact that the rather trivial problem she described is nearly always caused by too many flights being scheduled in too small a time window. If she and other Senators demanded that FAA manage airport capacity and impose appropriate flow-rate restrictions, nearly all of these inefficiencies would disappear. Smart people – many of whom are impacted residents – know this, but too many elected officials cannot see this because they are blinded by money.

One example is Jean Hilde, who has lived for decades in a neighborhood nearly 25-miles north of SeaTac. With the NextGen implementations and the Delta hub expansion at SeaTac, her family now must endure low/repetitive arrival noise, even at that long distance. Jean  responded to the ‘North Satellite’ expansion ceremony video clip, and summarized the larger problem nationwide, with this brilliant analysis:

(highlights added by aiREFORM)

Will we ever move beyond this cycle of serving money interests at the expense of quality of life and health? Not with this Congress, or this Administration; not so long as all that matters to those in power is serving money and being served with money.

It’s becoming an Orwellian dystopia. Check out the bizarre phrasing in this excerpt from the Port’s 2/3/2017 News Release (click here):

NYU Journalism projects, with video

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:

Please Standby While this Airplane Passes Over

Humanity has achieved good and bad. Our buildings often suggest our best progress, though we have been known to destroy them in wars.

NightVision, by Luke Shepard

Watch this short video and notice how you are allowed to focus, even disappear, into the time-lapse images and the music. The video is not interrupted by needless noise and distraction. It’s technologically impressive, honoring humanity.

Now, here’s a question: would the glorious achievements presented herein be diminished, if we had to pause our tour of these achievements, while planes passed over, one after another after another?
Can aviation be brought back to balance, to serve people first and money last?

[KJFK]: PlaneSense 4 LI’s Latest Letter sent to Carmine Gallo, Seeking Relief

Elaine Miller’s letter lays out the facts about the ongoing and expanded Noise Hell, brought by FAA & NextGen (and sustained by the failure of elected officials to demand reform at FAA). This is a growinng problem, not just at Malverne (which is hit by KJFK ‘Arc of Doom’ arrivals to runways 22 and KJFK Runway 4 departures using the DEEZZ4 RNAV DEP and the JFK3 DEP, as well as Localizer arrivals to KLGA Runway 31), but across the nation.

Categorical Exclusions were a bad idea. They enabled FAA to approve more operations, at lower altitudes, closer in to the runways, and with excruciating repetition. Frankly, these past few years, FAA’s failed performance is serving only airline profits … and at great cost to the People. A change is long overdue.

Here’s a copy of the latest letter sent to Carmine Gallo, Regional Administrator for FAA’s Eastern Region:

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

Exposing a NextGen Fraud: the so-called ‘Conventional’ ZigZag Routes

It is quite clear that, with the election results and the imminent White House occupancy change, coordinated efforts are ramping up to try and push through the latest pet projects: ATC privatization, and accelerated NextGen funding. These efforts are sourced in some backroom ‘collaboration’ between top-level FAA officials, key aviation leaders in Congress, and the industry (the airlines, the manufacturers, and the lobbyists).

As has always been the pattern, the Av-Gov Complex will knowingly lie to sell their schemes. One of the most graphic lies of the present cycle is variations of this graphic:


This misleading graphic is liberally posted in news articles, FAA reports, etc. It implies that today’s air navigation systems are primitive, needing to upgrade via a progression from zigzag routes (left image) through RNAV routes and eventually RNP routes. An important fact being hidden, though, is that RNAV and RNP routes already exist, as they have for years. (SOURCE: pg.7 of FAA’s SatNav News, Summer 2011 edition)

Time and again, this image is pushed to help brainwash the Public (and especially Congress) to believe the current ATC system is incredibly archaic and shockingly inefficient, with flights zigging and zagging all across the continent. They pitch NextGen as ‘transformative’, while ignoring and concealing the facts that:

  1. commercial passenger flights have been flying mostly direct flights for decades, and thus these graphically presented zigzags are a complete lie;
  2. RNP & RNAV procedures have been available and usable by these flights for roughly two decades, and thus the whiz-bang NextGen changes are not really changes (we can accomplish the expensive NextGen goals by smartly using what we already have); and,
  3. an entirely new class of delays has been recently invented – enroute delays, at altitude; typically 100-200-miles from the destination airport, these are used to smooth out arrival surges because FAA refuses to restrict appropriate arrival rates to accommodate known airport capacity limits.

FAA et al need to be called out on this misinformation. It turns out, you will find two versions of this deceptive diagram in Chapter One of nearly every recently completed ‘Environmental Assessment’ for various airspace changes around the nation. Here are some examples, from recent OAPMs (Optimization of Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex); look at the identical content in any of these cookie-cutter documents, at these pages:

  1. June 2013: Draft EA for DC OAPM (216p; see pages 6 and 14 in chapter one, marked pages ‘1-6’ and ‘1-14’)
  2. March 2014: EA for Atlanta OAPM (122p; see pages 1-6 and 1-14)
  3. July 2014: Final EA for NorCal OAPM (134p; see pages 1-5 and 1-11)
  4. December 2014: Draft EA for Charlotte OAPM (118p; see pages 1-5 and 1-11)
  5. August 2016: Final EA for SoCal OAPM (144p; see pages 1-6 and 1-12)

‘Sitt on itt’, Joe!

Crain’s New York Business recently published an Op-Ed by Joe Sitt, Chairman of the Global Gateway Alliance (GGA). The Op-Ed offers the predictable slanted view coming from a lobbyist for airport expansion and non-regulation: essentially, GGA’s position is that all three major NYC airports (KLGA, KJFK, KEWR) should be expanded further to remove capacity restrictions that diminish profits, especially in the hotel/tourism industry. Ironically, while the streets and neighborhoods of NYC are perhaps the most congested in the nation, Sitt and GGA complain about airport congestion and want to increase passenger counts … which clearly will further congest the streets and neighborhoods of New York City. It seems that money rules (and people suffer) in too many parts of this nation.

A PDF copy of the Crain’s Op-Ed is provided below, complete with an aiREFORM footnoted rebuttal of Mr. Sitt’s statements. Further down in this Post, the footnotes are expanded, to include relevant links and graphics.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

  1. Candidates are known to say all sorts of crazy stuff when campaigning. they are also known to always speak positively about creating jobs. During the 2016 campaign season, infrastructure was pushed as a palatable way to create jobs and keep money within our borders. More often than not, though, whenever large sums were proposed for infrastructure (such as this $1 trillion figure) there was little if any reference to airports and aviation. Why not?
    KJMR.20110419scp.. 'Notice to the Citizens of Kanabec County' (full page ad, posted at Scribd by FreedomFoundationMN)

    (click on image to see the in-depth Post about Mora’s new crosswind runway… including maps, pictures, studies, articles, etc.)

    Because aviation is the one area of infrastructure that actually has a very rich revenue base, in the tens of billions in taxes/fees collected (with the majority paid on each leg flown by each airline passenger); indeed, this slush fund is so deep, DoT and FAA are pushing construction of unneeded runways at the most remote locations (see for example the Post about the new crosswind runway at Mora, MN, built in a wetland used by migratory waterfowl!). And, it gets worse: FAA funds and eminent domain were used to acquire lands for this runway.

  2. Much has been written about the waste and cronyism behind public-private partnerships. Likewise, it is worth noting that ‘private investments from tax incentives’ are essentially a cost-shift, putting the cost burden onto others (while the corporations get their projects and the elected officials get campaign funds and future consulting gigs). In other words, the ‘tax incentive’ aspect of these deals all too commonly reduces down to elected officials saying; “…well, Mr. CEO, your corporation will not have to pay these taxes – that’s our incentive to YOU – and, instead, we’ll just collect these taxes from everyone else … the regular Joe’s who are not part of this deal. Cheers!!”
  3. The delays at these three airports (KEWR, KJFK, and KLGA) will not be resolved by so-called ‘modernizing ATC’. Sitt and others need to demand that FAA actually ‘manage’ the capacity at the most congested airports. Key solutions would include:
    • impose strict (and much lower) limits on operations per hour. Set these rates low enough and, even in the crappiest weather, you will NEVER see JFK or LaGuardia or Newark backing up. You would also eliminate the enormous loops commonly flown, such as the infamous JFK ‘Arc of Doom’. And, the unseen enroute delays at cruise altitude (typically 30-60 flight minutes prior to landing) would also be substantially reduced.
    • disincentivize indirect two-leg (and even longer, less direct) flights, by setting fees appropriately. For example, set passenger fees directly proportional to direct distance flown from origin to hub stopover (to other hub stopovers) to destination. If a direct flight is 1,000 miles but Airline X sells an itinerary that is 2,000 miles, let the passenger and/or airline pay twice the fees for a direct flight.
    • while the Arctic melts (IN MID-NOVEMBER!) it sure would be appropriate to disincentivize fossil fuel consumption. Simplest solution: impose a steep carbon tax, focused initially on the aviation sector.
    • Some have offered yet another brilliant disincentivizing proposal: let air passengers fly their first flight in a calendar year with a small fee (or even zero fees), but step up fees for subsequent trips. For example, a 10% fee on the first trip could become 20% on the second and third trips, and 30% on all additional trips.
  4. Sitt (and GGA) want the NYC airports to build more runways, like they now plan to do at London’s Heathrow. The problem at Heathrow is that the airport is the top hub for through-passengers between North America and Europe. This third runway does not serve the local residents as much as it serves the airlines seeking to ratchet up profits at Heathrow, with the massive through-passenger processing done under the hub concept. A third Heathrow runway will ratchet the local economy minimally upward, but will maximally diminish health quality of life (in terms of noise, congestion, and reduced air quality) for hundreds of thousands of residents. The exact same scenario is happening in the NYC area: FAA is aiding profit-seeking airlines to abandon all environmental regulation (i.e., decades-old noise abatement procedures) to increase ‘hub throughput’ and thus slightly increase corporate profits.
  5. No, what REALLY intensifies the problem of delays cascading out of the NYC airports is that FAA and the airlines are simply scheduling too many flights into too little time each day. The current scheduled traffic levels, all aimed at aiding airline profits via hubbing (accommodating through-passengers who never even leave the airport!) guarantees delays every day. This is a no-brainer. If you or I were trying to manage a congested road area, we would figure out how to REDUCE vehicles, not INCREASE vehicles. But, in this case, as demonstrated by Sitt, the pursuit of profits makes us blind to pragmatism.
  6. The Partnership for New York City study is not only an extremely biased joke, it also contains substantially false data. A table within (here’s a link to an archived copy; see Figure 1 at page 10 of the 37-page PDF file) cites FAA as the source for figures showing annual growth in airport operations at the three main NYC airports. The data is false; the real data, available online at FAA’s ATADS-OPSNET database, proves the P4NYC report grossly exaggerated annual operations. According to the P4NYC report, which was done in February 2009, annual totals peaked in 2007 at 1.45 million operations; but, ATADS shows the true figure was 1.30 million. Furthermore, FAA’s ATADS shows this count declining, with the latest figure (1.23 million, in 2015) down 5% from the peak in 2007.
  7. This line gets the ‘BullSitt Award’. Here, Sitt is citing the same-old false argument, that today’s controllers are burdened with equipment from the 1940’s. This is incredible disinformation. The fact is, the radar system has advanced through a series of improvements, in basic technology (vacuum tubes to transistors to integrated circuits to microprocessors and massive data storage/manipulation capacities), in regulations imposed by FAA (requiring transponders, defining airspace boundaries, requiring sophisticated avionics systems for collision avoidance and navigation, etc.), and in FAA’s development of GPS routes (WAY BACK IN THE MID-1990’s!). At the same time, though, the use of this blatantly false argument strongly suggests how P4NYC is collaborating with FAA, Airlines for America, and other players to sell the fraud that is NextGen.

Aviation Impacts are Non-Partisan

Here is a screen-cap of a thoughtful Facebook post. Susan is a ‘victim’ of TNNIS and other NextGen routes east of LaGuardia Airport [KLGA], who has worked tirelessly trying to get FAA to responsibly fulfill their role as a regulator that can mitigate environmental impacts.

(click on image to view source at Facebook)

(click on image to view source at Facebook)

It is important to understand that NextGen is really just about spending lots of money. The money comes primarily from airline passenger taxes and Congress, and the recipients are a small group of avionics manufacturers, as well as lobbyists (many of whom are retired FAA ‘regulators’).

In order to obtain needed funds, the Av-Gov Complex had to sell the NextGen concept to Congress. This meant building an appearance of cohesive support, including especially the airlines and labor. This they accomplished by ‘collaborating’ to produce the following strategy:

  • dupe the public (including Congress) by claiming NextGen offers something new and incredibly efficient … such as their coordinated sales pitch with graphics showing zig-zag routes that have not been commonly flown for more than five decades!
  • ignore the many examples of how no substantial efficiency gains are achieved; for example, the routine use of enroute delay vectors (which commonly more than compensate for the short time savings of low/early departure turns);
  • entice the airlines by promising the elimination of noise mitigation routes at major hub airports … allowing turns lower and closer to the runways, for both departures and arrivals;

The airlines and the controllers’ union (NATCA) could say lots about how bogus the whole NextGen sales pitch is, but their silence has been bought. Just a few years ago, NATCA was strongly critical of NextGen; today, controllers who question why the NATCA leaders are advocating ATC privatization (which is hand-in-glove with NextGen implementation) are pressured into silence. And, as for the airlines, Delta stands alone as the only major airline willing to critique the Av-Gov sales pitch.

In simplest terms, FAA is committing a fraud while diminishing quality of life at the homes of hundreds of thousands of residents. This is a ‘taking’, without just compensation. It is being done by FAA, against the People, to narrowly benefit the Av-Gov Complex.

A Request to Carmine Gallo

“Dear Carmine Gallo,

…please consult with your managers and correct the misinformation they evidently gave to you. You passing the misinformation on in your nice reply letters to NextGen-impacted citizens only exacerbates the KJFK noise impacts.”

This plea to FAA’s Regional Administrator is after viewing recent correspondence about noise impacts for residents of the East Hills area, when the Arc of Doom is being used to land runways 22 at KJFK. Here is the timeline…

On September 15th, a concerned resident sent an email to FAA, expressing concerns about repetitive arrival noise impacts. A month later, in an October 13 reply letter, Regional Administrator Carmine Gallo offered what on the surface appears to be a reasonable and responsibly reply. Here is a JPEG copy of a portion, showing two key paragraphs:


(portion of Carmine Gallo’s reply letter; red-line emphasis added by aiReform. Click on image to view full letter and source post at Facebook)

It is commendable that Mr. Gallo does send these reply letters to impacted citizens; that is the right thing to do, and often not done by other FAA Regional Administrators. The problem is, Mr. Gallo makes points in his reply that are indisputably false. Those false points include:

  1. Mr. Gallo inaccurately states, “…the data illustrates that aircraft landing at this airport pass at no lower than 3,000 feet.” Not only does the radar data consistently show these arrivals level at 1,800 to 2,000 feet altitude in this area (see the numerous arrival examples, compiled at this link), but also, the primary approach procedures (ILS approaches for runways 22R and 22L, copies at this link) both have 3-degree glideslopes … which, at the East Hills location would mean arrivals should intercept the glideslope at roughly 3,000 feet altitude … or at 1,800 feet closer in at a 6-mile final.
  2. Mr. Gallo inaccurately states, “…NextGen procedures are not a contributing factor for aircraft overflying Nassau County.” Well, actually, the REAL purpose of NextGen is to increase runway throughput (ops per hour), which clearly WILL increase the frequency of arrivals, thus the intensity of repetitive noise impact by these arrivals. Thus, as perceived by many in East Hills and elsewhere, NextGen IS A REAL CONTRIBUTING FACTOR to the noise impact problem.

The superficiality of Mr. Gallo’s response to citizen concerns related to NextGen was preceded two years ago by another FAA Regional Administrator. That time it was Phoenix, when Glen Martin paused while speaking, in evident disbelief at what he had been given to read. See it here: link.

All FAA officials (as well as at airport authorities, and in Congress, too!) need to understand: whenever they send a reply, they need to be absolutely truthful and accurate. If instead a reply passes on misinformation, it will only make matters worse. Much of the impact of aviation noise is rooted in a sense that authorities will do nothing to fix it. And, nothing says ‘go to hell, citizen!’ more than a polished letter centered on a set of polished lies.

Latest Draft Noise Maps Made Public for JFK & LaGuardia Airports

The New York City area has many neighborhoods that are substantially impacted by airport noise, including new NextGen procedures. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that all three NYC major airports (KEWR, KJFK, KLGA) serve not only the large local population, but ALSO many people from around the world who use these airports to travel THROUGH NYC (while not actually visiting). More through passengers translates to more flights, thus more pressure to cram too many arrivals into each hour. This works well for for airline profits, but is terrible for the quality of life of local residents.

Part of the collection of tactics Av-Gov Complex uses to nullify citizen involvement in local airport noise mitigation plans is to bog down processes with long delays. Multiple overlapping committees are formed, with large memberships. The committees are seeded with pro-aviation players who reliably spin and reset the process (imagine how impossible it would be to fully bake a cake, if you kept pulling the cake out of the oven; that’s what these committee members do).

Len Schaier is a retired electrical engineer who serves on the Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) for both the JFK and LaGuardia airports. He recently shared this insightful email (scrollable PDF below), attaching the latest draft noise maps being studied by the two TACs (also below, as JPEGs).

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

kjfk-20160914cpy-preliminary-noise-impact-contours-55dnl-thru-75dnlklga-20160914cpy-preliminary-noise-impact-contours-55dnl-thru-75dnlHere’s the bottom line, as seen by aiREFORM: people are losing sleep and quality of life, and they need relief, not years from now but RIGHT NOW! The DNL metric itself is flawed, yet FAA and industry players (aka the Av-Gov Complex) continue using this metric to obscure impacts and to obstruct and delay long overdue changes needed by people. So, …

  • Should the DNL threshhold be reduced, from the current absurdly high 65 DNL to the international impact standard of 55 DNL? Absolutely.
  • Should DNL be replaced or supplemented with new noise metrics that recognize the impact of repetitive noise patterns? Absolutely.
  • Should we delay further, wasting any more time bringing relief – and enabling a decent night’s sleep – for the impacted residents? Absolutely not!

Let’s get on with it … use the 55 DNL contours on these maps to earnestly formulate solutions that give relief to the tens of thousands of people currently impacted at these two airports. Think outside the box this time. Press FAA to scale back hourly flow rates at these airports, so the community is better served with less noise and pollutant impact.

Why The Huge Increase in Departures Over Northeast Queens?

FAA needs to come clean, and tell the truth: Why The Huge Increase in Departures Over Northeast Queens?

One of the lead groups advocating for balance between airport commerce and local peace and quiet (and air quality, too!) is Queens Quiet Skies. They submitted a data request to the airport authority, and then created the analysis below. It shows that there have been very substantial changes in the pattern for departures off LaGuardia [KLGA], with much larger numbers of flights impacting especially the residents of northeast Queens, Jackson Heights, and Woodside.

These impactful changes are coincident with FAA’s adoption of the TNNIS departure off Runway 13. The changes are also coincident with FAA’s NextGen strategy of using categorical exclusions to ignore noise impacts caused by turning departures at lower altitudes and closer to the runway ends. Essentially, FAA has chosen to help the airlines to potentially save a minute or so per departure, but the cost is shifted onto local homeowners, schoolchildren, and others in the communities below.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.

This analysis was shared online by, and noted as a document from an August 30th press conference at the Bayside office of Senator Tony Avella.

The most damaging impacts are being caused by the TNNIS departure, introduced to slightly shorten the older Whitestone departure. For both departures, flights make a long left climbing turn after taking off from runway 13. The key difference is that TNNIS throws out the noise abatement that was included in Whitestone. Whitestone included a turn to the south; pilots abated noise by making their initial climb over a strip of parklands, and departures were thus higher when they commenced the long left turn over densely populated Flushing. So, when FAA implemented TNNIS, they essentially discarded noise abatement procedures that had been created with community input and had helped for decades.

FAA is not only failing to manage aviation impacts (noise and air pollution off LaGuardia) but is also failing by lying and hiding the facts. For years, FAA has claimed this change is triggered by winds and weather, yet there is no tangible evidence to support this false claim.

See also: