Essential Air Service: some links and articles (lots of data to ponder)

I have been wanting to do an in-depth analysis of EAS for a long time, but have been quite busy building airport-data pages and trying to get FAA to release records. I was reminded of this yesterday, when I ran into a pair of EAS articles by Steve Wilson at Both articles focus on the skyrocketing subsidies for airports in Mississippi for which ‘essential air service’ is, well, ‘non-essential’. In fact, many see EAS as just an example of crony capitalism and a pork-rich sandwich handed out to a few selected corporate entities. (Steve also has an article with some interesting examples of how bad Crony Capitalism is in Mississippi)

Some Food for Thought

My in-depth EAS analysis will happen, one of these days. In the meantime, here are a few links for readers who want to know more about EAS:

EAS (at Wikipedia)
20140617cpy.. Map showing counties with EAS subsidies (from wiki)Wiki is always a good place to start your research. Here is their ‘Essential Air Service’ page. It includes this map, as well as extensive tables showing EAS subsidy airports, dollar values, and histories.
Target 11 investigates essential air service
Empty seats, EAS out of KCLE (Target11 pic)An 11/6/2012 news story by Target11, looking at empty seats connecting Pennsylvania airports with the United/Continental hub at Cleveland [KCLE].
Federally subsidized air service strains meaning of ‘essential’
Steve Wilson’s 6/9/2014 article, includes a table showing EAS subsidy levels. Also, quotes General MacArthur and Robert Poole.
Airlines vie for federally subsidized routes in Mississippi
SeaPort ramp picSteve Wilson’s 6/6/2014 article, includes an assessment of the bids being made for EAS contracts serving these airports: Hattiesburg-Laurel [KPIB], Meridian [KMEI], Greenville [KGLH], Tupelo [KTUP], and Muscle Shoals [KMSL].
This is a blog by Nate V. (aka ‘haleonate’ on Twitter). It contains excellent Posts, and draws from his years of hard work eventually managing a small airline. He shows the nitty-gritty of politics and logistics behind EAS awards and air service at mostly smaller airports. Be sure to read the ‘About Me’ page, too; an interesting guy, with lots to blog about, doing a great job sharing what he has learned about EAS.
Here is a quote from Nate’s very informative  ‘What is EAS?’ page.

“…What began as a band-aid to help smaller communities is now subsidizing air service to many markets that once were highly successful.  The Essential Air Service program is one that is highly useful in maintaining business & a way of life for many communities, however the program has been used & abused by the airlines, the communities, and the politicians.

I’m providing this site to help educate the public… unfortunately many airports and airlines don’t get to tell their end of the story, and the public doesn’t really find it “sexy” enough to warrant follow-up stories from their local media.   I think this program is a good one, however there are abuses that need to be fixed and airlines need to be motivated to try to make markets work, rather than allow EAS to become an airline-welfare program….”


ANALYSIS: Controller Error & NMAC at Newark, on 4/24/2014

20140424.. KEWR VFR sectionalThe departure was ASQ4100 (ExpressJet, callsign ‘Acey’); arrival was UAL1243 (callsign ‘United’). NTSB’s preliminary report, released on 5/15/2014, says the two flights passed at approximately 160 feet lateral and 400 feet vertical separation.

Here’s the scenario: with strong northwest winds and one of the parallel runways closed at Newark, FAA’s tower set up departures northbound off Runway 4R and arrivals westbound onto Runway 29. TRACON was using the Bridge Visual Approach to sequence arrivals inbound from southeast of the airport. That routing has the flights crossing the Bayonne Bridge at a fix named LAWNE, and the chart instructs all flights to proceed “…to the west end of the Bayonne Golf Course (then) turn left and proceed to cross CHUMR (the NJ Turnpike Bridge) at 500 feet.”

KEWR.. portion of Bridge Visual RY29 after Bayonne BridgeAt the time, winds were exceptionally strong, at 20-25 knots. This tends to mess up timing for the controller trying to launch Runway 4R departures through holes in the Runway 29 arrival sequence. On top of that, arriving pilots tend to bend the rules on the Bridge Visual Approach; they turn left early and thus compress onto the previous arrival. With enough arrival compression, the hole is no longer wide enough to time a departure … but the tower controller may not accurately judge this problem, especially in strong wind conditions.

20140424.. UAL1243 KEWR.apdgAnd so, the near midair happened when ATC launched a departure (green arrow) in front of an arrival (red arrow). ATC audio recordings indicate the conflict was identified at the last second, causing the departure to tip the nose down and stay under the arrival, which was proceeding to abort their cleared landing. Thanks to online aviation websites, the details of this near midair collision are accessible to passengers and the general public.

Fundamentally, the problem that leads to near-collisions like this is the over-scheduling at super-Hub airports like KEWR. FAA proves yet again they lack the will to apply their supreme authority to run a safe system. They let airlines like UAL-COA schedule way beyond the practical safe limits, then just shove it upon the controllers to deal with it and keep it flowing, when runway projects force a normal parallel runway operation to become a dicey crossing-runway operation. All it takes is for the controller to fail to see one arrival while timing the departure, as happened here. This is a systemic problem within an agency that horribly misapplies its abundant resources. FAA places too much effort into shutting down low altitude UAV’s, beating up its few remaining Whistleblowers, PR’ing the facts to hide their many failures and coddling congressional animals (to enable their perpetual reelections). More often than not, FAA’s efforts toward safety are just for show.

For further data and analysis, see page two of this Post…

FAA’s OPSNET data .. graph, 1990-2013

Here is a graph constructed using FAA’s OPSNET data. It shows the total number of operations (takeoffs and landings) per year, from 1990 through 2013. The trend is clearly and strongly downward.

Combined FAA & Contract Tower Ops, 1990-2013

The Military component has been steady (see the red line, at bottom).

The Operations Network (OPSNET) is the official source of NAS air traffic operations and delay data. The data collected through OPSNET is used to analyze the performance of the FAA’s air traffic control facilities.

The data sent daily to OPSNET can be viewed on the FAA Operations & Performance Data Web site.

The Commercial component has been in decline (see the three blue lines). Note that there was a surge in smaller commuter planes (Air Taxi) peaking around 2004-05, with the explosion of feeders doing contract flying for the airlines. Since those peak years, though, the smaller planes are in decline, and commercial flights are being taken over by larger planes (Air Carriers).

The General Aviation component has seen a sharp and steady decline. Likely, an in depth analysis would reveal that high-end business/corporate flying and helicopter activity are increasing, while all other GA activities are simply dying. The reasons for the decline in recreational GA? Likely, due to high fuel costs and lower per capita discretionary income, and due to reduced interest (pilots are finding other, non-aviation activities to pursue). Also, it may be due to lack of aggressive promotion by FAA and others; i.e., whereas FAA and NASA did a lot to artificially promote GA in the 1990’s, we are now at the bottom of that promotional cycle.

American Airlines Seeks New Pilots

…ran into this posted at… 😉

Looking for an airline to fly 60 EMB-175 aircraft (desperate) (DFW-ORD-JFK-MIA)

 © craigslist –

Hello there, here at the world’s largest airline we are aggressively seeking an airline to staff and fly our state of the art, Embraer 175 turbo jet aircraft. These aircraft are on the way from Brazil and just waiting for your airline and all of the excess pilots that you have trained and on property (that also possess ATP minimums) to fly them. We are willing to pay precisely the bottom dollar that Delta pays for their feed, so please keep that in mind when bidding for this flying. Did we mention how shiny these jets are? They are extremely shiny and they have that new plane smell that pilots love. Pilots would probably fly these jets for free, they are THAT nice.

I am looking forward to hearing from you about your ability to fly these planes that are arriving. It is very cost prohibitive to have these jets sitting without pilots, so let’s make a deal! Contact me anytime. Seriously. Anytime. I’m desperate here. My ascendency up the mAAnagerial ladder depends on this. I may already be screwed. Ugh. Please call. Please? Hello?
PS: Shiny!!!
Pedro Fabregas
  • do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers
  • Compensation: See Pinnacle Airlines.

Link to this satirical Craigslist ad, posted at Flightaware.

The ATC Sequester Threat of Spring 2013

A new fiscal year is upon us, but otherwise nothing seems to have changed.

The dysfunction in Washington endures. The Public loses, while both elected ‘leaders’ and entrenched ‘players’ gain. FAA officials, union officials, NGO officials, etc. — all part of this grand impasse machinery — are seeing their personal financial position steadily grow while they race toward ever larger retirement pensions. Meanwhile, the citizens — yeah, us average schmoes — despair what will happen next as we slide further behind and become more accustomed to financial distress.

Much has been said in recent years of how the wealth gap is widening in the United States; how, especially with the financial turmoil related to the bank failures and mortgage crisis, the ‘banksters’ are getting filthy rich making lots of money because they have money, while our latest generation of adults cannot even find decent jobs!  Well, this clearly widening wealth gap is not just about banksters; it is also about players such as those in the Av-Gov complex, who tap enormous taxes off of airline passengers, and then use these billions each year in what amounts to a powerful, self-serving slush-fund.

As we enter the second week of unfunded federal government (Shutstorm 2013!), it is worthwhile to take a closer look at how the sequester was handled during the first round of threats, from December 2012 until May 2013. Here are links (in blue, below) to a chronology of records:

December 2012: NATCA Paper on Sequestration (12p); the final six pages include a list of ATC facilities all around the country that NATCA claims are vulnerable to sequester.
February 22, 2013: DoT-FAA letter to A4A-DoD-AOPA et al, re sequester, signed by LaHood and Huerta
[List] FAA towers under threat of closure (by state)
[List] FAA towers where Mids may end
February 27, 2013: NATCA sequestration update. NATCA abandoned their December threat list, replacing it with the official DoT/FAA  threat list.
March 7, 2013: Paul Clement memo to Ben Hirst (an analysis by Bancroft PLLC, sent to Delta Airlines; on FAA’s discretion in how they may deal with the sequestration threat)
March 7, 2013: Congressional letter to LaHood, re FAA failures
March 22, 2013: FAA News Release
[Link] FAA’s Closure list of 149 FCT’s(4p)
[Link] FAA’s List of 16 cost-share FCT’s (targeted for closure in October)
— FAA’s List of 24 cost-share FCT’s (to remain open)
April 11, 2013: Senators to FAA-DOT, concerns about tower closures
May 7, 2013: CRS Reports
[Link] ATC Furloughs and Congressional Response (13p)
— [Link] Sequester impacts on ATC (12p)

Throughout the sequestration threat in early 2013, neither NATCA nor FAA officials offered any details supporting cost savings. Nor did they note the substantial decline in air traffic activity coupled with increases in ATC staffing. The fact is, if they chose to, FAA and NATCA could advocate for real savings, much higher ATC productivity, and with no derogation of safety. FAA and NATCA would serve the Public well, if they worked toward a lean and effective organizational structure.

Perhaps this is not happening because NATCA does not want to see a reduction in dues collections? Likewise, perhaps FAA does not want to thin the excess of managers, specialists and contractors who stay busy looking busy, while cycling in place?

Airline Jobs Continue to Decline

Click on the graph to view the full report webpage at the DoT Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS).

This graph indicates that the number of employees working at U.S. passenger airlines has been steadily declining for decades (with the exception of the bubble in the late 1990’s). Within the report, data shows impacts are heaviest on regional commuter airlines, while the low-cost carriers are doing the best.

The aiREPORT: [2013Q3, week-13]

aiREPORT is a weekly collection of notes and links to news items relevant to aviation impacts and FAA reform. It is provided as a research tool…

Third Quarter, Week #13: September 22 — September 28, 2013


Top AvNews Story: a composite of two diverging realities … FAA faces an imminent and substantial budget shortfall with the new Fiscal Year, yet continues to throw money to contractors and airports, for projects of questionable merit. A father seeing this behavior in his kid would be concerned that the kid needs to break out of this bad habit of ‘buying friends’…


  • 9/26/13: DoT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics released a report showing that the number of passenger airline jobs dropped 2.6% from July 2012 to July 2013. [PDF], [BTS Post]
  • …A 63-yr-old captain on a United flight from Houston to Seattle became incapacitated, and the first officer took over. The flight was diverted to a landing at Boise, and the Captain died shortly after arriving at the local hospital. [article]
  • 9/27/13: Nearly all FAA news stories focused on the panel recommendation that use of electronics on airline flights should be relaxed.
  • 9/28/13: a Minnesota Public Radio article about UAV development/testing at Grand Forks. It reports that the Grand Forks County sheriff’s department is expanding its unmanned aircraft operations to include night flights. [article]

Airports in the News:

  • Wilmington, NC [KILM]: a U.S. Senator announced FAA had awarded $5.4M for runway improvements. The grant follows a $1M grant announced a week earlier, to acquire more land. This 1,800 acre airport has an FAA tower, 118 based aircraft and averages 124 operations/day; operations have declined 39% since 2007. [article]
  • Wickenburg, AZ [E25]: FAA funding has been approved for a $2.4M project, to build a midfield apron area next to the single 6,100′ x 75′ runway. The airport is just 100 acres and sits on scrub land west of town. It is home base to 34 small aircraft, and averages 99 operations/day. [article]

Links to Articles:

9-27-2013DoT’s Plan for FAA Staffing during FY2014 Appropriations Lapse
Due to the Congressional budget impasse, and in preparation for unfunded activities in the new Fiscal Year, DoT’s Acting CFO, Sylvia Garcia, compiled a report that identifies which positions will work, and which will be furloughed. It notes that 15,514 of FAA’s 46,070 employees are subject to furlough, though 2,490 furloughs from within the Office of Aviation Safety would be ‘recalled incrementally over a two week period’. The Office of Audit & Evaluation is subject to furlough, too.
9-24-2013FAA Furloughs, Tower Closures, ATC Privatization Back On The Table
With the new Fiscal Year, FAA faces the challenge of mending a $700M budget gap. EXCERPT: “There are conversations taking place among the stakeholders [about privatizing ATC],” Gerald Dillingham, civil aviation director of the U.S. Government Accountability Office, told Bloomberg. Paul Rinaldi, president of NATCA, said he would be open to such a discussion. “I don’t have the answers, but I do know the current system is broken,” he said. Legislation now under consideration in Washington, however, could extend the current government budget levels through mid-December, delaying any new cuts until next year.
9-24-2013Press Release – FAA Awards $17 Million in Environmental Grants to Airports
DoT Secretary Foxx announced $17M in grants to eight large airports, part of the VALE program. “This program supports President’s Obama’s efforts to combat climate change and reduce aviation’s carbon footprint,” said Secretary Foxx. “These funds will help airports around the country make the necessary investments that will reduce fuel costs and help protect the environment.” The funds will mostly go towards charging systems, alternative fuels vehicles, and more efficient climate control systems. “The FAA encourages airlines and airports to find creative ways to reduce aviation’s impact on the environment,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We applaud these airports for their efforts to make their facilities environmentally friendly members of the community.” The Press Release also notes that VALE grants since 2005 have aided 33 airports with projects worth $161M.
9-22-2013FAA Consent, Money Needed for ‘Virtual Tower’
A system is under development to create unmanned control towers. This article discusses a recent test applied to an airport near a national Boy Scout Jamboree (evidently, scout leaders like to fly in?). The system is estimated to cost $3M, according to developer Quadrex Aviation in Melbourne, FL. Two key requirements to move forward are FAA approval, and FAA money.
9-22-2013Talks on Private Air-Traffic Control Turn Serious in U.S.
EXCERPT: Discussions about removing government management of the U.S. air-traffic control system are the most serious in two decades, prompted by budget cuts and uncertain funding for converting to satellite navigation.

The aiReport …a link to the full report…

How is this new $40 Million project ‘Environmentally Friendly’?

President Obama made some good comments earlier this year at his inaugural address, when he spoke in favor of the environment:

“…We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.  We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations….”

And now, six months later, Transportation Secretary Foxx is crediting President Obama as the force behind a new ‘Center of Excellence’. Here is an excerpt from a September 13, 2013 FAA Press Release announcing FAA will be spending $40 Million over ten years in collegiate research programs to find cleaner alternative aviation fuels:

“This innovative partnership supports President Obama’s national plan to address climate change,” said Secretary Foxx.  “The Center of Excellence will tap talented universities to help us take environmentally friendly, alternative jet fuel technology to the next level.  Airlines and their customers will both benefit from their work developing cleaner fuel that supports the environment and continued aviation growth.

But, wait. What Secretary Foxx said was an alternative jet fuel  “…that supports the environment and continued aviation growth…” A cleaner fuel may help the environment, but continued aviation growth will still increase CO2 emissions, and thus will NOT help the environment. (…and this really is a no-brainer!)

So, what’s the REAL plan? What is FAA REALLY doing (and planning to do) to REALLY ‘support our environment’?

For example, here are four areas where FAA could ‘support the environment’…

  1. …is FAA really doing anything to manage aviation growth, to discourage the least efficient flying (such as subsidized EAS flights and business jets) that generates the most CO2 for the least net passenger-miles traveled?
  2. …is FAA doing anything to stop duplicative airport development, where nearby airports create a combined capacity that far exceeds any reasonable future demand?
  3. …is FAA fixing the helicopter noise problems in New York and L.A. and over Grand Canyon, and at so very many impacted locations, or are they just delaying these fixes to enable continued ‘aviation growth’ and environmental impact?
  4. …is FAA getting the toxic lead out of general aviation fuel, and when they do, how many decades of net delay will have passed since FAA was supposed to have fixed this environmental impact?


U.S Airlines: Fuel Consumption in Decline

The table below presents data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA). The figures represent annual fuel consumption (for domestic flights, international flights, and TOTAL), average fuel price per gallon, and percent change in total consumption from the previous year. The data source is Bureau of Transportation Statistics F41 Schedule P12A as of 9/17/2013, representing all U.S Scheduled Air Carriers. link to Data Source

The data suggest the following:

  1. Domestic fuel consumption decreased 25%, from 13.9 Billion gallons in 2000 to 10.4 Billion gallons in 2012.
  2. International fuel consumption increased 9.5%, from 5.1 Billion gallons in 2000 to 5.6 Billion gallons in 2012.
  3. TOTAL fuel consumption decreased 15.9%, from 19.0 Billion gallons in 2000 to 16.0 Billion gallons in 2012.
  4. The average price of fuel increased 283%, from 78-cents per gallon in 2000 to $2.99 per gallon in 2012.
  5. Southwest Airlines is the one legacy airline that bucked the trend. A separate analysis of only Southwest Airlines shows fuel consumption increased 74%, from 1.0 Billion gallons in 2000 to 1.8 Billion gallons in 2012.
  6. In the same timeframe…
    …Continental Airlines’ fuel consumption decreased 33%,
    …Delta Airlines’ fuel consumption decreased 28%,
    …US Airways’ fuel consumption decreased 27%,
    …and United’s fuel consumption decreased 17%.
    …Northwest Airlines’ fuel consumption decreased 44% by 2009, when data reporting ended due to the merger into Delta Airlines.
  7. The data also reflect the major decline in aviation activity coincident with both the 9/11/2001 incident and the fiscal meltdown at the end of 2008. More importantly, though, the data are consistent with other data (e.g., declines in ATC operations) showing that the U.S. domestic airline industry has been steadily contracting for at least the past twelve years.
On the plus side, these fuel consumption decreases
partially reflect the upgrading by U.S. domestic airlines
to more fuel efficient aircraft.
Domestic (million gallons)
average price
International (million gallons)
TOTAL (million gallons)
% annual change

*…given that each gallon of jet fuel combusts to yield 22.17 pounds of atmospheric CO2, the U.S. Commercial Aviation sector belched 355 billion pounds of this greenhouse gas into our atmosphere in 2012. This equates to 1,100 pounds per year per U.S. citizen. Since gasoline produces 20 pounds of CO2 per gallon combusted, the aviation contribution is as if each citizen used 55 gallons of gasoline for driving.

CO2 molecule with one carbon atom (atomic weight 12) and two oxygen atoms (atomic weight of 16 each)

The aiREPORT: [2013Q3, week-9]

aiREPORT is a weekly collection of notes and links to news items relevant to aviation impacts and FAA reform. It is provided as a research tool…

Third Quarter, Week #9: August 25 — August 31, 2013


Top AvNews story: the DoT-IG report, connecting controller fatigue to FAA staffing practices. Also, there is still lots of posturing by FAA and elected officials, to win support from taxpayers by announcing recipients of this years rounds of billions of AIP dollars…


  • 8/26/13: NBAA, AOPA and other alphabet groups commended the Governor of South Carolina for her recent declaration of  ‘South Carolina Aviation Week’.
  • The state of Pennsylvania announced that $5.4M in mostly Federal funds will be invested in fifteen small airports across the state. Much of the money will go for obstruction removal and/or studies to studies and designs related to future obstruction removal.
  • 8/27/13: GA News reports that Cessna made their first test-flight of their newest bizjet, the Citation M2, being produced in Independence, MO
  • A GA News article reports: Arkansas Governor, and a few Arkansas mayors, declare August is ‘GA Appreciation Month’.
  • 8/28/13: Some American Pilots Make A Measly $20 Per Hour. A BusinessInsider article that lays out how much pilots are paid for the various regional/commuter lines, and the major airlines too. It breaks down pay at first year, after five years, ten years, etc.
  • 8/30/13: The President of the National Air Transportation Association, Tom Hendricks, spoke at a town hall sponsored by the Napa Air Center, at [KAPC]. An article in the Napa Valley Register covers some aviation lobby concerns.

Airports in the News:

  • Moline, IL (Quad City Airport [KMLI]): Elliott Aviation has petitioned the courts to be allowed to intervene in a lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed after the state granted a property tax exemption to the company leasing facilities at the airport. The tax exemption effectively reduces tax revenues for local schools by $150K.
  • Mobile, AL (Mobile Downtown Airport [KBFM]): Airbus is making progress on development of its first U.S. production facility, intended to do final assembly of the A320 model. The plant has a planned opening of 2015 and will hire 1,000 workers.

Links to Articles:

8-29-2013FAA takes up Hudson County complaints about low-flying tourist helicopters
Elected officials continue to pressure FAA to clean up the noise problem created by helicopters in the New York City area. In this story, the lead advocates are Senator Robert Menendez and Congressman Albio Sires.
8-29-2013Quiet Air-Traffic Towers Should Be Closed Nights: Report
A Bloomberg article by Alan Levin, summarizing the DoT-IG report issued on 8/27/13, discussing controller fatigue and the potential to close down some towers during the very slow overnight hours.
8-29-2013New FAA Rule Gives Embry-Riddle Students Advantage for Airline Jobs
Embry-Riddle announced that FAA granted their students special status, so that they may promote into airline pilot jobs at 1,000 hours, instead of the new minimum 1,500 hours. Prior to these new minimums, pilots with only 250 hours were eligible. One consequence of these new rules is that flight training will tend to become more concentrated at those 4-year aviation institutions with intensive training programs. Embry-Riddle has major campuses at Daytona Beach, FL and Prescott, AZ.
8-28-2013Op-Ed: Why We Need a National Airline Policy
A short opinion article by Sean Kennedy, a Senior VP at Airlines for America (A4A). He notes that ten major airlines reported $1.6Billion in profits during the first half of the year, and these funds are being reinvested. But, he warns, the rate of taxation in the U.S. commercial aviation system is too high, and needs to be reduced. The comments lean against Mr. Kennedy, but the article is well worth reading in that it provides all sides of the larger debate.
8-27-2013FAA Investigates After Drone Crashes In Virginia
Three spectators at the Virginia Motor Sports center are injured when a hexacopter drone used for capturing video images crashes, after losing its battery power. FAA has been aggressively shutting down university programs and drone aerial photographers, while giving oil companies approval to use drones in Alaska. Oddly, riskier activities near crowds have been ignored until accidents happen. Q: since drones operate so low to the ground, should the authority to manage their use be taken away from FAA, and given to a different agency, perhaps one more focused on public safety?
8-25-2013Remembering Paul Poberezny
A tribute piece by Kent Misegades, at GA News. Mr. Poberezny passed away on  8/22/13, at age 91. He founded the Experimental Aircraft Association in 1953 and was a legendary advocate (as well as respected father figure) for those interested in building their own airplane.

The aiReport …a link to the full report…