Hillsboro Airport Hearing in U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

The following was received from Oregon Aviation Watch….

A date has been set for the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing on the Hillsboro Airport third runway challenge. The legal proceedings are open to the public; however the deadline for submitting written and oral testimony has passed.

Date and Time: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 at 9:00 am
Location: Pioneer Courthouse, 2nd Floor Courtroom
Address: 700 SW 6th Ave., Portland, Oregon 97204

In 2014, when the Port of Portland (Port) moved forward with its plan to build a third runway at Hillsboro Airport (HIO), Oregon Aviation Watch raised legal challenges before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals urging the Court to require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the effect of the airport and its expansion on the surrounding community. In keeping with their characteristically cavalier attitude of using public money to subsidize private U.S. and foreign business interests at HIO, the Port proceeded to construct the runway in 2015. In so doing the Port and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opted to ignore, dismiss and minimize the numerous environmental, noise and livability concerns raised by area residents.

The purpose of the runway is primarily to accommodate the for-profit flight training industry largely on behalf of out-of-state investors. One of the major beneficiaries of this arrangement is Hillsboro Aero Academy (formerly Hillsboro Aviation) – a company that recruits students from around the globe then proceeds to train them over area homes and neighborhoods. Per the company website, student pilots enrolled in this program annually log over 70,000 flight hours.[1]

In the 86 years during which HIO has grown from a grassy airstrip into the largest general aviation airport in the state, the Port of Portland has never taken a hard look or engaged in a thorough and comprehensive investigation of the environmental impacts of this facility by completing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). As a result the full impact of HIO, which accommodates the largest flight training school in the Pacific Northwest, has never been evaluated. A review of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Port and FAA documentation reveals that HIO is now one of the biggest facility sources in the region of a host of air toxins and unwelcome noise intrusions.

[1] Hillsboro Aero Academy website. Available on-line at http://www.flyhaa.com/about/

…to read more ‘Background Information’ provided by OAW.org, please see page two of this Post…

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Update: The Fight for Local Control (and eventual closure?) of the Santa Monica Airport [KSMO]

The level of organization in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport in Santa Monica continues to be impressive. This is not surprising, though, as the fight for local control over their local airport has been going on for more than THREE DECADES! The latest progress includes a push for the City Council to “…close the Santa Monica Airport to aviation use, as soon as that is legally permitted with a goal of June 30, 2018 and earlier if possible….” In support, a local Facebook group, SMOfuture, has created an 18-page factual summary of airport data that supports the closure proposal (a scrollable PDF copy is viewable at the bottom of this Post).

Take a look at the graphs in the report. There has been a lot of change in three decades. Some of the original impacts have all but disappeared. The main remaining airport impacts are the most severe, and are caused primarily by air charter jets and flight training pattern work. The flights that create the worst pollution – including added pollution at LAX due to delays – are the IFR departures. These are commonly charter jets and business jets, frequently carrying only one or two passengers. Each of these flights creates an enormous carbon impact per passenger mile, all for the ‘convenience’ of that small passenger load.

None of this is necessary, and KSMO offers no tangible benefits to the larger ‘National Airspace System’ (NAS). If an airport closure happened, flights using Santa Monica Airport would easily be absorbed at LAX, Burbank, Van Nuys and Hawthorne. The capacity at these other airports is far beyond the current usage. Indeed, as shown in the scrollable PDF below, everything has declined substantially at all Southern California airports, with the vast majority of airports seeing declines between 40% and 60%! The declining parameters include number of based aircraft, number of pilots, and number of operations per day. The only ‘growth’ at KSMO is in commercial flights, for air charter.

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


That these health impacts and other problems persist is testimony to how entrenched FAA is, in a position that consistently protects elite airport interests, delaying any and all meaningful action. At this and other airports across then nation, locals are disgusted at this ongoing FAA failure. Adding insult to injury, the bulk of this poor performance by FAA is done using the Peoples’ money, primarily from airline passenger taxes.

See also:
  • SMO Future – a Facebook group, advocating to reduce airport pollution, noise, dangers, and costs, and seeking a better future use of the airport land.

Santa Monica Airport: One Step Closer to Local Control

KSMO.20160516.. Press Release re 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to remand (1p)It is said that justice delayed is justice denied. And, it is common (even more so, these days?) for the status quo to delay EVERYTHING for the simple reason that it perpetuates their advantaged position. So, in a situation such as the decades-old fight for local control of their airport, the people of Santa Monica just have to keep on keepin’ on.

Nearly three years ago, the City of Santa Monica filed a lawsuit seeking to establish the right to control the local airport. FAA (and the federal Department of Justice) fought back and successfully convinced a District Court Judge to kick the can down the road. Now, more than two years further along (and still no relief from jet fumes, leaded fuel, and noise), the City has prevailed in an appeal, and the Judge’s February 2014 decision has been ruled improper.

Yesterday, the people scored a small victory when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued their decision, remanding a case back to the District Court. Here is a link to an aiREFORM page with a transcript of the March 11th arguments, and below is a copy of the 7-page ‘Memorandum’ outlining the decision:

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


See also:

Santa Monica: Special Meeting on 2/24

Image

KSMO.20160224.. Special Meeting Announcement, re N.Hernandez at St. Andrews ChurchNotice the northeast tip of the airport, in the bottom left corner of the satellite image. This neighborhood is perhaps the most pollution-impacted area near the Santa Monica Airport and continues to experience high levels of both lead and jet-engine soot. Concerns have been raised for decades (see four items linked below), and all FAA has done is delayed, delayed, delayed.


See also:
  • 12/18/2013 – Congressman Henry Waxman letter to SCAQMD, re ultrafine particle pollution (2-pages)
  • 12/13/2013 – ‘Big disparities in air pollution detected in L.A. neighborhoods’, LA Times article by Tony Barboza (2-pages)
  • 11/30/2011 – Transcript of hearing held by Senator Ted Lieu, ‘Air Pollution Basics and Santa Monica Airport’ (60-pages)
  • 11/19/2009 – ‘Santa Monica Airport a major pollution source’, LA Times article by Dan Weikel (1-page)
  • [KSMO]

[QUOTE]: City Cites NBAA’s ‘Corporate Greed’ Behind Delayed Progress at Santa Monica Airport

QUOTE

“…the Airport belongs to the people of Santa Monica not to corporate interests. Our interest is the public interest. Our interest is to promote the well-being of tens of thousands of residents and control land purchased by the taxpayers of Santa Monica. What NBAA wants is to use our property, public property, for a select group of people that can afford private jets solely for their convenience. Although their arguments are wrapped in beautiful legal prose, when you peel away the curtain what you find is corporate interest who ordinarily believe in property rights except when it is an inconvenience for them….”

– Nelson Hernandez, senior advisor to the City Manager

Mr. Hernandez makes a very good point: the position being advocated by conservative aviation interests, who are consistently opposed to distant federal control and overreach, is a position that sustains and entrenches FAA’s bureaucratic interference so as to obstruct local authority. How ironic (and hypocritical) is that?

Click here to read the original article at Santa Monica Daily Press.

Click here to see a new aiREFORM.com webpage with recent KSMO documents, including articles, legal filings, and some background material.

Hillsboro, Toxic Lead Pollution, and the Next HARE Meeting

During much of the first month of this new year, we have heard news about lead poisoning in the Flint, Michigan water supply. Most recently, we all learned how government workers were provided bottled water to not have to rely on the water soon to be announced as toxic. All of this to save a few bucks, with evident indifference for the health and welfare of the larger community: the residents of Flint.

At the Hillsboro Airport [KHIO] in Oregon, lead has been an ongoing issue. In fact, the Hillsboro Airport officially emits 1,400 pounds of lead into the air, at an airport with numerous nearby residential neighborhoods and even schools. The vast majority of these lead emissions are created by the one airport business that imports students from across the world, and makes a large profit teaching them to fly at KHIO, with tens of thousands of flights circling low over Hillsboro neighborhoods. And, just like happened in Flint, the Port of Portland and the FAA are resisting and delaying changes needed to reduce this dangerous pollutant, all with evident indifference for the health and welfare of the larger community: the residents of Hillsboro.

The February 3rd HARE Meeting

When they have an impact problem such as aviation noise or lead pollution, a common strategy for airport authorities is to create a citizen group.

20130821.. 'Great Quote by Upton SInclair' (screencap of aiREFORM Post)

(click on image to learn more about Upton Sinclair and FAA’s inability to ‘understand’ a controller error at Camarillo)

Such groups typically consist almost entirely of pro-business interests, as well as many who are actual pilots or otherwise economically connected to the airport. And, as noted 80-years ago by Upton Sinclair, such groups have an astonishing inability to fix problems, surpassed by an astonishing ability to serve the status quo.

The airport authority at Hillsboro is the Port of Portland. Years ago they created the ‘Hillsboro Airport Issues Roundtable’, HAIR. For whatever reason (maybe the fact that their group was dominated by old white guys, who tend to have evident follicle-impairment issues?), the name was ‘upgraded’ to HARE, standing for ‘Hillsboro Airport Roundtable Exchange’. At any rate, the group of 22 people meets quarterly, to create subcommittees, to field subcommittee update reports, to hear Public Comments, and generally to project at least an appearance of ‘citizen involvement’ in the management of the activities and impacts of their local airport. Oh, and for the record, the evidence resoundingly suggests: whenever FAA and airport authorities convene a citizen committee, the group is routinely and profoundly biased against the citizenry and for the industry.

Here is a link to the Port’s HARE webpage (including a list of the members), and below is a scrollable PDF copy of the agenda for the coming meeting.

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Success in Santa Monica: Prop 65 Signs Posted for Toxic Airport Lead

The situation has persisted for decades: FAA and airport management have stalled and obstructed citizen efforts to remedy the many adverse impacts caused by users of the airport in Santa Monica [KSMO]. Not just the noise impacts, but also health concerns, including toxic lead (still added to AvGas!) and soot and other hazardous air pollutants.KSMO.20160122.. Martin Rubin pointing at Prop 65 sign at observation area

And so it is a great accomplishment to see that somebody within the city’s government has finally posted Prop 65 warnings at the public observation deck.

Thank You! And, kudos to CRAAP and others who have persisted in pressing the airport management for transparent disclosure of these SMO airport health risks. [click here for a PDF copy of the CRAAP news article]

KSMO.20160122.. Prop 65 sign at observation area

We all hope FAA will halt their obstructionism and allow city officials to resume the appropriate level of ‘local control’ needed to make SMO an airport that adds to quality of life in the community. Maybe the entire airport will be shut down, or maybe the runway will be shortened and jets disallowed. But, whatever happens, we need to get away from the current imbalance that benefits so few at the expense of so many.

All They Want is ‘LOCAL CONTROL’

The Mayor of Santa Monica lays it out very clearly, in an article published by a local paper, The Argonaut. The 1/6/2016 article presents a set of questions to community leaders, asking them to predict what citizens might expect to see during the new year on important Santa Monica issues. Here is the response by Mayor Vazquez:

What will happen next in the city’s battle
with the FAA over Santa Monica Airport?

– by Tony Vazquez

“The controversy over the Santa Monica Airport will continue into the New Year and most likely for years to come. The facts are Santa Monicans have voted to take control over our airport land. Yet the FAA continues to favor aviation interests to the detriment of the health and safety of the families that live near the airport.

After almost two years, including four extensions of time to render a decision, on Dec. 4 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally released its director’s determination that may affect the timing of Santa Monica regaining local control over our airport. The issue before the FAA was whether the city’s assurances stemming from a 1994 FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant expired in 2014 or whether the assurances expire in 2023. According to the determination, the assurances expire in 2023. The implication is that the city must continue to adhere to federal grant assurances and operate the airport accordingly until 2023. The city disagrees with the determination.

We believe the determination is factually incorrect and inconsistent with best grant management practices. Here’s why. Airports that receive FAA grants are obligated to meet and maintain certain assurances. We understand that and have fully complied. However, federal law states that after 20 years from the date of acceptance of the grant offer, the city — just like any other FAA grantee — is no longer subject to the assurances. Santa Monica accepted the grant in 1994; therefore the determination is wrong on the facts and is not sustainable.

The determination is not the final word; it is only the first. The city is entitled to two levels of appeals within FAA. The next level would be with an FAA hearing officer. Should the hearing officer agree with the director, the city may appeal to the FAA associate director of airports. And, of course, if the FAA associate director sides with previous conclusions, the city may pursue our rights in federal court.

The City Council has yet to decide as a body whether to appeal the determination. That decision will come in 2016. As mayor, I can say the city is fully committed to realizing the will of the voters, who in 2014 voted overwhelming in favor of Measure LC (Local Control).

We hope FAA senior management will rectify the agency’s initial error. Regardless, the city will keep fighting for local control over the airport land. The voters have spoken, and we will never give up!”

— Tony Vazquez is mayor of Santa Monica.

Mayor Vazquez accurately depicts the Delay-Game FAA plays, to benefit a handful of aviation interests against the health and quality-of-life interest of thousands of local residents. This is an egregious abuse of authority by FAA. The laws that Congress creates need to protect every community, to ensure they retain substantial ‘Local Control’ of their local community airport. Quite reasonably, local control should include setting the hours and intensity of use of their local airport, and protecting against pattern-noise operations such as skydiving operations or razor-thin NextGen routes. Airports need to serve communities first.

The substantial community problems around the Santa Monica Airport are caused mostly by bizjets and flight training. Frankly, these problems could easily be solved, improving both local environmental quality and safety, if only FAA would cooperate.  The solutions needed at KSMO need to go far beyond Santa Monica, as there are dozens of other U.S. communities denied local control by an FAA that behaves like an irresponsible out-of-state landlord. Notably, the jet-related impacts at Santa Monica have gone on for more than fifty years (check out this 1967 news article, showing a time when local control was asserted). Today’s FAA, using public funds to demand full-term compliance with 20-year grant assurance obligations, is sharply out of step with the need to serve the PUBLIC. Today’s FAA is using these grant obligations solely to deny local control.

Perhaps, new legislation is needed, to force FAA to restore meaningful local control. As part of that legislation, set Santa Monica free: let this community resume local control of it’s very impactful airport. Every community should have a contractual right to end obligations after 10-years, and even sooner if they refund a pro-rated portion of the grant amount.

Efforts to Limit Federal Subsidies Paid to Helicopter Schools

Aviation officials never lose a chance to spread the illusion that airports are incredible generators of money. To be sure, money does tend to be spent around airports, but most often, that money is not being created but is instead in the form of a subsidy. A massive annual subsidy, to the tune of billions per year, mostly collected from airline passengers and then carefully allocated by FAA, with a maximized strategic political effect.

One way the airports are propped up is with money for flight instruction, especially via GI Bill subsidies for veterans who want to become pilots. Unfortunately, there have been many flight schools that see these veterans as a ripe opportunity to access federal money. And, the industry is top-heavy with qualified pilots, which not only drives down pay, but also places more pressure on pilots to bend rules and cut costs. Here is a PDF of an article from last March, looking at two helicopter flights schools in the Southwest.

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

That’s the background, illustrating the need for federal officials to take action against waste, fraud and abuse. Four months after the article appeared in the LA Times, an almost completely unrelated legislative proposal was submitted to Congress. After spending more than four months waiting in the Committee on Veterans Affairs, the legislative report was moved to the floor of Congress. Needless to say, the helicopter industry is not happy with the cleanup efforts.

(click on image to view original article at AviationPros)

(click on image to view original article at AviationPros)

The main lobbyist for the helicopter industry, HAI, has issued a ‘Call for Action’. HAI’s claims were not validated in the HAI-link to the Legislative Report (e.g., there is no mention of the words ‘helicopter’ or ‘flight’ in the 27-page report). Nonetheless, HAI claims that there is a ‘Section 306’ with language calling for severe limits on how much GI Bill benefits a single student can apply each year.

In  other words, HAI claims the legislation seeks to end taxpayer subsidies for students who spend $200K to $500K in a single year of part-time helicopter training. So, like all active lobbyists, HAI is using the industry media outlets to gin up a campaign, aimed at re-enlisting the support of elected officials, so that the rich subsidies to a few aviation operators can continue.

One wonders: what fraction of a typical rich federal aviation subsidy has to be reinvested, as a campaign contribution or to buy the service of lobbyists, to keep the whole balloon from crashing?

There can be Many Winners With this Legislative Proposal

Waste can be reduced, but we also can improve local quality of life in communities near these helicopter flight schools. If Congress cuts helicopter training benefits, we will not have to endure as much low-level helicopter noise. And, helicopters are not just noisy; they guzzle a lot of gas while beating all that air, just to stay aloft. As the reality of climate change comes into focus, this form of aviation should become a ripe target for a quick extinction.


See also:
  • H.R.3106 – a Congressional webpage with summaries, actions, links to documents. Perhaps the ‘Section 306’ is a rider that has not yet been posted online?

Remarks by Petitioners Nationwide

People are impacted by aviation noise Everywhere!

Click on page two to view some great remarks from Chicago, Milton, Longmont, Santa Monica, Phoenix, Zephyrhills, and even Tetonia, Idaho! Scroll or text-search the name of your town, to see what others are seeing where you live.

Let’s get more petition signatures (and more great remarks!) to help FAA clean up this mess….