FAA Offers $10 Million Giveaway to Buy Support for NextGen

The NextGen program that is destroying communities while supplementing airline profits has been needing more money to advance further. But, the program is seeing increasing resistance, especially from impacted homeowners. So, in order to garner more support and create the appearance of public acceptance needed to convince Congress to invest more public money into NextGen, FAA has announced an investment of $10,000,000 to subsidize ADS-B Out installations on small aircraft.

(click on image to view source article at AOPA.org)

(click on image to view source article at AOPA.org)

The new program will rebate up to $500 per aircraft to as many as 20,000 owners, which FAA believes to be roughly one-eighth of eligible aircraft. Bear in mind, rebate eligibility is restricted to single-piston-engine, fixed-wing aircraft that have not yet added this equipment, which FAA is requiring no later than January 2020, for all pilots who want to access ‘busier’ airspace. In other words, while NextGen is a program aimed at serving the airlines, FAA is directing its supposedly scarce resources to the lowest performing, personal-use aircraft … the vast majority of which will never have an urgent need to fly near any of our thirty busiest airline airports.

As some of the smarter online commenters have noted, what usually happens when a federal subsidy is announced is the industry jacks up the price of the product/service being subsidized. And also commonly, the subsidy is just a ‘gift’ for a huge number of recipients who had already planned to purchase the product/service anyway. So, in total, it is effectively FAA giving $10 Million to the aviation electronics industry. As if on queue, the aviation media reports that alphabet-group lobbyists are ‘applauding’.

20160607scp.. portion of article re $500 ADS-B subsidy, alphabet groups (GANews)

(click on image to view source article at GANews)

Congress never put this $10 Million scheme through an appropriation process. Congress never authorized this substantial expenditure. This $10 Million is just FAA, acting arbitrarily and on its own, as a lobbyist seeking to tip to the balance toward more NextGen funding by Congress. Which begs the question: if FAA has $10 Million or more to arbitrarily spend, how else might they spend OUR money to serve the Public?

How Might FAA Better Invest $10 Million?

Here’s two simple ideas (readers are encouraged to share their ideas, too!):

  1. for the NextGen-impacted people of Phoenix, offer a small subsidy to the airlines to fly the old departure routes out of KPHX. Try this for just 2-months, pay Southwest and American a couple million tops to cover their added cost, and see what it does to noise complaints and residential quality of life.
  2. for the NextGen-impacted people in the NYC area, take advantage of the current major project to upgrade the LaGuardia terminal (at KLGA). This is a great opportunity for a ‘test’. For a period of at least 6-months, get the airlines to voluntarily reduce their daily schedule by say 25%, and hourly flow rates to say a maximum of 25 takeoffs per hour. With these lower and more manageable KLGA traffic levels, revert to the old (and since-abandoned) noise abatement departures such as Whitestone Climb. Get the airlines to voluntarily make this happen, then see what a scaled-down LaGuardia does to improve efficiencies and reduce impacts for both JFK and Newark. The results may be surprising.

Wrong Place for an Unneeded Runway, Yet FAA Pushes On

KJMR.20160521.. crop of 'swans lifting off, crosswind RWY proposal area'

Two swans lifting off from a pond (and disturbing a loon) in Mora, MN. FAA is supplying public funds aimed at filling this pond to ADD a runway… at an airport with zero value as part of the National Airspace System (NAS), and averaging fewer than 5 takeoffs per day!

Mora, Minnesota is a small town and the seat of Kanabec County, at a crossroads in the center of a triangle connecting Minneapolis, Duluth, and St. Cloud. This is an area of quiet farms on glacial soils: tilled lands and pastures and small native woodlots, alternating with very many ponds and wetlands.

KJMR.20160604cpy.. satview with runways-ponds marked

The airport is along the northeast edge of town, surrounded by farmland and ponds.

Waterfowl thrive here; thus, any airport development is only increasing the likelihood of a potentially fatal collision with waterfowl. Clearly, it makes no sense to build airports or add runways unless there is a compelling need, and there is no such need at Mora.

KJMR.20150915cpy.. waterfowl at N-S runway pic2

The current north-south runway at Mora sees more gull landings in a single day than it sees plane landings per year. This photo taken September 2015.

KJMR.20160314cpy.. pic of butternut leaf, juglans_cinerea_001

(click on image to view further information about Juglans cinerea)

That does not stop FAA from pushing for further airport development at KJMR. In this case, a full twenty years ago, an airport neighbor with a plant nursery was told some of his family’s land would be taken, for the construction of a new crosswind runway. Natural terrain would be destroyed – including the destruction of habitat and numerous seedlings for an endangered Minnesota tree: the butternut.

To try and justify the waste, airport and FAA officials were both complicit in using one of their oldest tricks: documenting a lie. Public money gets spent, paying aviation contractors to create official-looking reports with claims that routinely exceed realities, both in terms of actual past airport usage, and likely future airport usage. Below are two letters, from 2011 and 2003, contradicting the exaggerated airport usage data:

KJMR.undated.. LTE questioning accuracy of reported airport usage (B.Burk, 1p)

A statement by a concerned citizen with an office adjacent to the runway, about airport usage estimates he believes are grossly exaggerated. (April 2011)

KJMR.2003est~.. LTE disputing need for airport expansion (D. Johnson, former mayor, pilot, 1p)

Another letter disputing the exaggerated airport usage estimates. This one was written in 2003 by a former town mayor who also happens to be a pilot.

All of this mess was created by (and continues to be perpetuated by) two different federal funds. A first federal grant was used to entice local officials to close the original crosswind runway, allowing that land along the edge of town to become available for light industrial use. The second federal grant was FAA money, derived primarily from taxes on airline passengers, to be used to buy land, fill a wetland, and construct a replacement runway. Of course, officials have completely ignored that the industrial park never really caught on. But that is beside the point, since the real original objective was to make a small injection of federal money into the local community, and in the process help a few elected officials look good, to bolster their odds at reelection.

City leaders would like to abandon the plans, but they accepted and used FAA grants years ago, and now are in the position of either continuing the project or paying that money back to FAA. The project was not needed when the grant was accepted, and it is needed even less today.

The critically important fact – that the crosswind runway was never needed and continues to not be needed – has been carefully ignored by FAA and elected officials. Additionally, the runway will be entirely unusable much of the year as the plan is to spend millions creating a turf without lighting. And so, it is up to local residents, especially the farm family facing land condemnation and destruction of the quality of their home, to speak up and try to stop yet another wasteful aviation project.

Notably, too, this entire situation would immediately resolve, if FAA would simply accept the reality, that needs change, and release the city from obligations on past wasted grants. This is a classic example of the bad that happens when an agency has too much extra money to spend (in this case, collected from airline passengers) and gets carried away using that money to expand power and serve politicians. There is an extraordinary opportunity here for valuable constituent services: will at least one of the Minnesota federal representatives step up to the plate and save this habitat from FAA’s wasteful project?
KJMR.. pond, 2 swans, 1 loon


See also:
  • aiREFORM – a webpage with further information, including copies of other documents about KJMR.
  • MinnesotaSeasons.com – Nice website with nature info for the whole state; see the videos, too. See this link for further info on the butternut.

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]

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.

Is Santa Monica Failing to Warn People about Lead Impacts?

The fight continues in Santa Monica, with city officials pressing FAA to let them take back local control of their airport. Mayor McKeown and the City Councilmembers have held many good sessions, allowing citizens to voice their concerns. The availability of documents and videos online has also been impressive, almost a model for other communities to follow. But, the performance of others within the city government has fallen short in some areas. One of these failures has to do with alerting the general public about the health hazards of lead pollution caused by the combustion of leaded aviation fuel.

KSMO.20151116cpy.. Promo for use of Airport Observation Decks

(Screen-capture of a city webpage promoting use of two observation decks. Although a settlement agreement in late 2014 included posting signs on the airport “…at conspicuous locations likely to be seen by the general public…,” NO SIGNS ARE POSTED at this observation deck.)

Lead is a serious neurotoxin, particularly damaging to growing children. The federal government began phasing lead out of paint and automobile fuels in the early 1970s, and by the end of 1995 lead was no longer sold in automobile gas. The same was supposed to happen in aviation. Instead, twenty years later, in 2015 small planes in the U.S. continue to run primarily on 100LL AvGas, the low-lead fuel FAA has failed to clean up.

Not insignificantly, there are even thousands of new small aircraft that have all been manufactured after automotive fuel lead disappeared in 1995. Instead of removing lead from fuel, in the early 1990s, FAA worked hard to foster development of an entire new industry sector: the ‘homebuilt’ or ‘kit’ airplane, such as the Van’s RV models. Most of the new kit planes run on new engines burning the same dangerous fuel: 100LL AvGas. Consequently, aviation today has become the largest source of lead air pollution in the United States.

In 2011, CEH.org took legal action against the leaded AvGas problem at California airports. After three years of legal wrangling, a settlement was struck: a court-enforced Consent Decree in which FBO’s (fixed base operators) selling AvGas at 24 California airports agreed to pay a fine, and the airports also agreed to perform public notifications. They were required to mail printed notices to all residences within one kilometer of the airport, and also required to post 24″ by 24″ signs warning about the lead hazard. The language of both the mailing and the warning signs conforms with California’s Prop 65.

(the text for lead hazard warning signs, as required by the consent decree in the CEH.org legal action.)

(the text for lead hazard warning signs, as required by the Consent Decree in the CEH.org legal action.)

The signage requirements were clearly laid out within the Consent Decree:

KSMO.20151116cpy.. Prop65 Lead warning sign, size & placement

(the sign placement requirements within the Consent Decree, with an emphasis on ensuring they would be seen by the general public.)

Logically, a lead hazard sign would have been placed at the observation deck, as in the picture above, where a dad has taken his two young children. This is a location close to the aircraft operational area, and a location where visitors can learn and make informed decisions.

(the best SDanta Monica could do was to place the sign above an ash tray, at an FBO's designated smoking area.)

(the best location Santa Monica officials would allow was to place the sign above an ash tray, at an FBO’s designated smoking area.)

So, what happened at Santa Monica? It appears that airport officials would not fully cooperate with the parties (CEH.org and the settling fuel dispensers). This meant that, in accordance with paragraph 2.1.1(c) of the Consent Decree, the FBOs were to place the signs on their own leased properties, at the location “…most likely to be seen by the general public.” In this picture, at one of the Santa Monica FBOs, the Prop 65 lead warning is on a fence, deep within the secure portion of the airport — above the ash tray, in the smoking area for the FBO!

Really? Yes. And so, with the city’s website, the city encourages parents to bring their children to the airport, and some city officials (such as the airport director) are careful to protect them from the knowledge of lead exposure. They ensure that the lead impact warning sign is across the field, where visitors will never see it: just above the cigarette butts nobody wants to be near, in an FBO smoking area.

Considering the great fight city officials are waging, trying to deal with an intransigent FAA, trying to regain local control of the airport and serve the local citizens, it really seems like a no-brainer. Mayor McKeown and the other Councilmembers need to issue an order to the airport officials: place lead warning signs at the most impactful location, the observation decks.


See also… (blue dates link to online content)

10/25/2015
Why No CA Prop 65 warning at SMO Observation Deck?
WEBPAGE – A detailed assessment by CRAAP, with many links to background materials about lead impacts

Is AOPA ‘Muck-Raking’ on Santa Monica Airport?

(click on image to view article at AOPA.org)

(click on image to view article at AOPA.org)

For more than three decades now, neighbors near KSMO have struggled to regain control of their local airport, but FAA has thrown an endless series of delay tactics back at them. Last Fall, the local voters overwhelmingly passed Measure LC – and defeated Measure D, a competing ‘no-changes-to-the-airport’ measure heavily funded from a distance by AOPA, NBAA and other aviation interest groups. Many locals are eager to move forward, and a few aviation interests want nothing to change; meanwhile, FAA still delays … and delays … and delays.

A few weeks ago, the Santa Monica City Council followed a ‘best-practice’ commonly used by many healthy communities: they invited dozens of their most active citizens to attend a retreat and go through a process to refine goals. Three hours later the list was done, and the top three items included both the airport and affordable housing. Good for them. Then, a few weeks later, AOPA’s PR people posted a spin attempt with the contextually absurd headline: “Santa Monica puts airport ahead of homelessness”

The article includes a quote by the AOPA president, saying: “It’s almost laughable that the city’s ongoing attempts to close the airport would take precedence over trying to address issues like homelessness, infrastructure, and education, but that’s essentially what the city council has decided.”

Huh??

For an unbiased report, just click on page two to read a copy of an article by Nick Cervantes, of the Santa Monica Lookout. He discusses the 40-participants who spent 3-hours at the Sunday retreat to arrive at their newest priorities.

Dodging Accountability: those ‘Un-Readable’ registration markings on GA aircraft

While there are two ‘A’s’ in ‘FAA’, we can all rest assured that neither ‘A’ stands for ‘ACCOUNTABILITY’. This we know from the news which, on a nearly daily basis, shows a corrupt and scandal-riddled work culture, where officials are ever careful to not let their personal name be attached to their professional actions and inactions. The recent coverage of the ATC recruitment scandal is one example; FAA’s decades-old habit of excessively redacting names of all FAA officials in FOIA responses is another example; and a third example is illuminated in the excellent series of articles from last summer, by Mario Diaz at PIX11.

FAA’s culture of unaccountability goes further. It not only protects those employed by the agency, but it also insulates rogue pilots and others whom the agency is supposed to be regulating, to protect them from accountability, too. Thus, incidents like the 2012 helicopter harassment against an advocate for regulation of skydiving noise in Longmont, CO are effectively enabled by a dysfunctional FAA. Essentially, a rogue pilot can do whatever he wants, and he’ll get away with it so long as he can rely of FAA to not enforce.

Required Aircraft Registration Markings

One clear area of FAA failure has to do with the requirements to mark all aircraft with legible registration numbers. The two principal ways that accountability is dodged with these GA aircraft markings are:

  1. FAA’s rules allow for incredibly tiny letters; and
  2. Even when an aircraft is identified, FAA is habitually lax about enforcement against aviators (click here for the FreeRangeLongmont version of the 2012 harassment incident… and be sure to click through to see the supporting documentation!)

We are all quite familiar with the license plates placed on the rear (and in many states on the front, too) of all registered trucks and automobiles. The purpose is to ensure drivers are accountable for their driving behavior. Identifying marks, legible from a reasonable distance, were intended to enable citizens and/or law enforcement officials to establish the registered owner (and hopefully the actually driver) after an accident or after any illegal driving actions.20150804cpy.. CA license plate sample, 65mm font, 'OutaTime'

The standard in the U.S., adopted in 1956, calls for plates that are 6″ by 12″. Typically, these have letters that are 2.5-inches (65mm) tall. A 1960 engineering study by the University of Illinois recommended adoption of a numbering system and plate design “…composed of combinations of characters which can be perceived quickly and accurately, are legible at a distance of approximately 125 feet (38 m) under daylight conditions, and are readily adapted to filing and administrative procedures.” The study also concluded that plates need to be readable from at least 125-feet away, and that a 14″ plate width (not just 12″ wide)would improve legibility, by ensuring letters are not excessively thin or mashed together.

The same logic is also supposed to apply to aircraft. However, states, local jurisdictions and Courts all defer to FAA as the final authority in charge of aviation safety. As such, it fell upon FAA to establish regulations for the proper marking of aircraft, to ensure they are identifiable, and to ensure the operators are accountable.

So, what did FAA do? They crafted a set of rules that virtually guarantee that any unsafe pilot or excessively noisy aircraft will be unidentifiable. And, even when they are identified, FAA tends not to enforce the rules, anyway.

The bulk of ‘General Aviation’ includes personal aircraft, many of which are kit-built by the owner/pilot. The vast majority of all small GA aircraft require 2″ tall registration letters; only a small number of GA require larger letters, either 3″ or 12″ tall. Think about that. Given that highway engineers opted for 2.5″ tall letters to be properly legible at 125-feet on our roadways, logically the minimum height to read the registration number of an aircraft at least 1,000-feet above the ground should be eight-times 2.5″, thus 20″ tall. Yet, the only small aircraft required to be marked with the full 12″ letters are those factory-built fixed-wing types after 1982 (and rotorcraft after 1983), and those kit-built models that cruise at speeds in excess of 180 knots. According to FAA’s rules, somebody flying an early 1970’s Learjet or Citationjet is legal, so long as they show 2″ tall letters on the sides of their engines. So, is it any wonder that drug-runners have become partial to using older small airplanes to move their product around?

An Example of Non-Enforcement

Here’s an example: a 1984 Cessna Turbo Stationair said to be based in Ohio, for which a custom paint-job was done. Nice looking plane, and plenty of power to get to remote lakes when outfitted in floats. But, take a look at the registration numbers. A licensed professional aircraft painter did this job, then advertised their good craftsmanship online, and the FAA officials simply looked the other way. The same FAA that jumps on hobbyists who use 6-pound quadcopters flown maybe 100- or 200-feet above the ground to shoot real estate aerial photos nowhere near any airports, and with zero risk of impacting regular aviation … that same FAA pays no mind to the fact that FAA-licensed pilots and the FAA-certified professionals who service their FAA-registered aircraft are routinely ignoring numerous FAA’s regulations, such as the need to have legible letters with a contrasting background.20150803scp.. C206 with camouflaged aircraft numbersN235HM earlier pic from web, marked SEP-2006

And to the right is an earlier photo, prior to the custom paint-job. Both paint jobs do a wonderful job of camouflaging the aircraft callsign. And had this aircraft been built just two years earlier, in 1982, that camouflage would surround letters only 2-inches tall!

For the record, FAA’s regulations on marking aircraft are contained at Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at Chapter I, Subchapter C, Part 45, Subpart C. The specific language in 14 CFR at Section 45.21(c) includes: “…Aircraft nationality and registration marks must … have no ornamentation, … contrast in color with the background, … and be legible.” So, if this floatplane were to buzz a group of people on the water – even if by accident – chances are that, despite FAA’s regulations, the impacted people would not be able to identify the aircraft or pilot. In the best-case scenario, a decent pilot would never learn of his carelessness, would fail to sharpen his skills, and would continue a bad and unsafe habit. In the worst-case scenario, a rogue pilot would ‘get away with it’ – and feel further empowered – all the more likely to repeat use of his aircraft to endanger and harass people.

It’s Even Worse for Helicopters

Read this quote carefully, as this is FAA’s binding regulation for rotorcraft markings, copied from 14 CFR 45.29(b)(3): “(the markings) …must be at least 12 inches high, except that rotorcraft displaying before April 18, 1983, marks required by § 45.29(b)(3) in effect on April 17, 1983, and rotorcraft manufactured on or after April 18, 1983, but before December 31, 1983, may display those marks until the aircraft is repainted or the marks are repainted, restored, or changed.” The underline is added to emphasize, in essence, for all helicopters built prior to 1984, the owner must increase the numbers from 2″ tall to 12″ tall ONLY IF the owner chooses to ‘repaint, restore or change’ the numbers. It is as if regulators (and Congress?) wanted to carefully avoid upsetting operators in the pipeline, soon to take delivery of their new helicopter (why should they be burdened with a rule that makes their helicopter potentially identifiable?). Absurd, and yet so typical of the ambiguous mish-mash built into so many FAA regulations.

 

NTSB’s Preliminary Report on the Monck’s Corner Midair Fails to Present Critical Airspeed Data

It took NTSB ten days to release a report on a midair collision that killed two men, when their Cessna was broadsided by a USAF F16 ‘training flight’ north of Charleston, SC [KCHS]. A PDF copy of the report text has been created, and includes footnotes pointing at areas needing further detail and investigation.

As noted earlier on this website, both FAA and NTSB need to become more immediately transparent on serious incidents, especially low-altitude fatal midair collisions. At a minimum, we should be able to see radar presentations (showing positions at key times, as well as datablocks that reveal altitudes and groundspeeds at those times), just as we should be able to listen to a copy of the audio between the F16 pilot and the KCHS approach controller.

What new information was produced? Here are a few key points:

  1. Very significantly, the impact occurred at just 1,500 feet altitude, an incredibly low altitude for an F16 to be passing at high speed near a small general aviation airport (Berkeley County, SW of Moncks Corner, [KMKS]).

    20150720scp.. VFRmap re Moncks Corner midair (showing Shaw AFB E to KMYR S to KCHS)

    VFR sectional showing: F16 departure from KSSC (orange triangle), F16 practice approaches at KMYR (orange square), final destination for F16 at KCHS (orange circle), and approx. route of Cessna from KMKS toward KCRE (red line).

  2. The report notes a 10:20 departure by the F16, a flight to KMYR to conduct two instrument approaches, then a flight to KCHS for another practice approach. Thus, it took just 40-minutes for this F16 to fly 79 direct nautical miles to KMKS, fly two approaches, then fly 63 direct nautical miles to the collision near KMKS. The time used up to fly two practice approaches at KMYR is substantial, thus suggests: this F16 was likely screaming through the sky, and at only 1,500 feet altitude (though interestingly, at the initial press conference on July 7th, the USAF commander said they believe the collision was at 2,500 to 3,000 feet altitude).
  3. Although NTSB provided many valuable details, they made absolutely no mention of a hugely important factor: the F16’s airspeed leading up to the collision. Historically (and this goes WAY back to the almost weekly fatal midairs that happened in the 1960’s, when jets were first introduced commercially), airspeed differentials are a major contributing factor to midair collisions. Certainly a Cessna at just 1,500 feet altitude would have very little opportunity to avoid a fast-moving jet pointed straight at the Cessna. This pattern, with NTSB failing to mention a very pertinent detail in their Preliminary Report, is a repeat of what happened a year ago when a student from Germany was killed in a crash near St. Cloud, MN, for which there was strong evidence an arriving Allegiant flight was too low and too close, creating a wake turbulence upset.
  4. The controller’s handling suggests a systemic ATC aversion against ‘controlling’ military training flights. ATC should never have allowed the F16 pilot to scream along at just 1,500-feet, particularly since the collision was at roughly 18-miles northeast of the runway in Charleston. Typically, a normal stabilized approach descends roughly 300-feet per mile, so a ‘controlled’ civilian flight would expect to be descending through 5,000+ at 18-miles out. Had the F16 flight been properly controlled, ATC would have held the flight higher, to at least 3,000 or 4,000 feet, and with a moderate (even minimal?) airspeed consistent with safe operation of the F16 while mixing safely with low-altitude civilian flights. In the image below, note the TACAN approach is normally flown via a 24-mile arc (much further out) and has a crossing at LADRE at or above 3,000 feet. It appears ATC dove the F16 early to enable the pilot to get under the scattered layer, to conduct a quicker ‘visual approach’ to land KCHS Runway 15.

    Red circle marks the approximate midair location.

    Red circle marks the approximate midair location.

  5. The simple fact is, if this controller had asserted earlier and aggressive control of the F16 flight, or if the controller had NOT told the F16 pilot to turn south (which turn was delayed by the F16 pilot), there would have been no midair collision. I.e., timing and timidity conspired to translate ATC instructions into two fatalities and two destroyed aircraft.

As a former air traffic controller (forced into early retirement due to whistleblowing), I find this incident and the post-incident handling very troubling. Two men lost their lives unnecessarily, but the F16 pilot and the FAA controller were also victim. They have to live with what they saw unfold, and they will forever wonder, what could they have done differently to have prevented this accident?

An FAA that routinely looks the other way while F16 pilots scream at low altitudes is only enabling risky flying that will eventually produce tragic consequences. Frankly, it would not be at all surprising to see this controller retire on a stress-related disability, primarily because FAA is so eager to accommodate aviators, they too often fail to assert real and needed safety controls.


UPDATED 7/20/2015

A Sample Letter to Congress, Seeking Help to Manage Excessive Skydiving Noise

“The current FAA rules actually provide loopholes that serve to protect offenders and prevent the application and enforcement of reasonable noise standards for aviation operators. Many of these aviation businesses that create excessive community noise impacts are based at airports subsidized using federal air passenger taxes, and these taxes are paid by people flying through the large commercial airports. Thus, FAA is using our money to enable skydiving, air tour, and other recreational operators to generate large personal profits, while at the same time diminishing the quality of life for our neighborhoods.”
– a key point made in the attached ‘Sample Letter’

A common practice among skydiving operators is that they will fly at least a few miles away from their base airport, so that the long drone of their noisy climbs will not disturb people at and near the airport. The effect is an offset of the noise impact, typically onto quiet rural areas and/or distant residential neighborhoods. Suddenly, for entire weekends, areas that previously had no substantial aviation noise are hearing the irritating grind of skydiving climbs ALL DAY LONG!

This is an ongoing problem in communities across the nation. So, when the homeowners near Longmont, Colorado pressed their skydiving noise concerns all the way to their local U.S. District Court, they did us all a great favor. Unfortunately, the Judge deferred strongly to FAA to justify not ruling against the skydiving noise operator. And so, Mile Hi Skydiving Center is continuing to destroy quality of life in the residential neighborhoods they climb over … some near the Longmont Airport, but many quite a few miles away. Check out this outstanding video created to document the impact for a typical day of Longmont skydiving noise:

In the big picture, if FAA was doing a ‘balanced’ job, regulating aviation commerce while also serving the larger public, we would not have such severe noise impacts, and we would not need civil actions like Citizens for Quiet Skies et al v. Mile-Hi Skydiving Center. But the fact is, FAA is failing, especially as regards the substantial environmental impacts of aviation. So, our best bet to demand real performance by FAA is to go to Congress, and get our elected officials to demand FAA clean up its act.

Page two of this Post presents a sample letter to elected officials. You can use it to model your own letter, wherever your home is being impacted by out-of-control skydiving noise. This particular letter was submitted anonymously by a person familiar with the Longmont skydive noise issue and the recent District Court trial. The author presents some very good points, as well as suggestions for how Congress can correct some of FAA’s failures.

So, please read this letter carefully and, if you are inspired to write your own, please consider sharing it with this website, where we will gladly post it as you wish, with (or without) your name.

7/14/2015: Documents Related to Tonight’s Santa Monica City Council Meeting

An important Santa Monica City Council Meeting happens tonight, July 14, 2015. Item 8-C of the agenda calls for a discussion and vote on the direction the City of Santa Monica will take regarding aviation leases. Concerned Residents Against Airport Pollution and others advocating for quality of life (as well as air quality) will be offering citizen comments, asking for the shortest possible leases, even month-to-month. The aim is to maximize flexibility as the city transitions to a new era of local airport control and local noise regulation, with the elimination of jets at KSMO, and the eventual possible closure of the airport to better serve local community needs.

Just one week earlier, on July 8th, Mayor Kevin McKeown and Councilmember Susan Himmelrich spoke at a meeting in Washington, DC, as set up by Representative Ted Lieu. FAA was present, but had declared that they would not discuss anything, that their attendance was in a ‘listening-only mode’. Here are a few selected excerpts from Mayor McKeown’s statement in Washington, DC:

“The FAA has taken the position that Santa Monica must continue to endure the danger, pollution, and noise that have been clearly documented from numerous sources. The FAA has used all of its power as a federal agency to deny relief to residents, inside Santa Monica and outside our borders. You have deflected lawsuits toward us, toward our City, because we own and operate the airport.”
“Yes, we do own and operate the airport. And I’m here to let you know that Santa Monica, freed of the 1984 Agreement, is prepared to act on the rights we have as owners of the land and operator of the airport. Fifteen years ago, a Final Agency Decision from you, the FAA, recognized that after the expiration of the 1984 Agreement, the future of Santa Monica Airport becomes a local land use matter.”
“Santa Monica can no longer accept your silence on matters of life and safety. We are no longer willing to let you hide behind the cloak of so-called Part 16 proceedings, which you have used to claim you cannot respond to our concerns today.”
“We know and you know that it is the FAA that has the authority and power to alleviate our residents’ suffering and distress. Despite the City’s entreaties over many years, you have refused to help us. Instead, when we have tried to protect our own residents, you have sued us. You have sided with aviation interests. You have drawn us into Part 16 hearings as way to further delay just adjudication.”
“We will fight to protect our residents. The FAA, so far, fights to protect corporate aviation interests. We have no choice but to continue fighting for our land and our residents. We will not be denied. We will not stop. And we truly believe that ultimately, we will prevail. We have come to you here in Washington to make our case, but we will leave to make a new future, for our land and our community.”

And here are links to PDF copies of related documents… (blue dates link to online content)

7/8/2015
Transcript of remarks from Mayor McKeown and Councilmember Himmelrich to FAA
Delivered at the meeting in Washington, DC
7/9/2015
A ‘Thank You’ letter, from Mayor McKeown to Representative Ted Lieu
An online version was also published by the Santa Monica Mirror.
7/14/2015
Staff Report
10-pages, including some analysis for the different lease proposals, and staff recommendations
7/14/2015
Supplemental Staff Report
2-pages of supplemental information regarding the unblended rates listed for the proposed airport leases (on the Council Agenda for July 14, 2015, at Item 8-C)
7/14/2015
Additional Supplemental Staff Report
3-pages of notes prepared by City Attorney Marsha Jones Moutrie