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?

Food for Thought: How Drones and Time-Lapse Photography can Reduce Aviation Impacts

Here are a few short videos that show the power of time-lapse photography. Combine this with the close-up agility of drone photography and, well, there’d hardly be a need for manned aerial photography or air tourism. On top of all that, the safety record would improve dramatically; people would not be put at risk paying for rides with profit-driven aviation companies, with a long track record of cutting corners.

Imagine that: experiencing the Grand Canyon or lower Manhattan and NOT hearing a helicopter? Wow!!

PANO | LA – 10K from SCIENTIFANTASTIC on Vimeo.

Photography Drones: A Force for Transparency, Accountability & Democracy

Find me just one person in this nation who is not sick of this election and we will agree: this is a deceased person – who’s name is probably connected to at least one fraudulent ballot.

Downward we have dropped.

Not all is bad. Indeed, we have technologies now that can ensure transparency and accountability in our future, both so critically needed if we are to function democratically and have a just and thriving nation. Here is an example — recent footage by a citizen using a drone, flying over the construction site at the Dakota Access Pipeline, and showing that, despite newsworthy decrees by our President, the pipe lays on and further threatens  water supplies. Yes, ‘the corporation’ does as it wants, while insulating bankers and others from legal process and accountability:


These really are amazing little machines. Nobody gets hurt, because they are so small… they are literally evolved from kids’ toys. They are not intrusive; they do not burn leaded aviation fuel, nor do they create stressful noise levels as would previously happen shooting this imagery from a small plane or helicopter. And, they are incredibly maneuverable, thus can capture amazing views at low levels and in tightly confined spaces, something never possible using piloted aircraft.

20161107meme-properly-attentive-to-traditions-dapl-horse-v-militarization

Will history show we are ‘properly attentive’ to the WRONG traditions, serving money alone?

So, there is much good to be found with small photography drones, yet where are we going with these little devices, and how are drones being steered politically? Well, FAA has muddled the rules for drone use so badly that, if their illogic is taken one small step further, we will have to send in shock troops and arrest kids who launch paper airplanes or send up kites. The courts and the quasi-courts (i.e., the administrative trial venues that pretend to offer judicial services for bureaucracies) have attacked dozens of citizens who created videos or shot gorgeous real estate pictures … all with absolutely nobody getting hurt or even frightened. In the meantime, dozens more have died in manned aircraft accidents doing the same sort of work: low level aerial photography and surveillance.

FAA could encourage drones and thus eliminate lots of intrusive tourist flying (e.g., urban air tours around Chicago or New York City, over Grand Canyon, etc.), and eliminate the use of noisy low airplanes to give traffic reports. A lot of good could happen, if FAA let drones serve what people need and want, but instead FAA appears to be serving a bipartisan trend in our government, toward aiding corporations to use new technologies, while ensuring no simple citizen can do the same.

** FILE ** Beef cattle roam the Harris Ranch farms Friday, Jan. 25, 2008 in Coalinga, Calif. Higher food inflation would further challenge shoppers who are already limiting themselves to sale items and store brands as they contend with the worst food inflation since 1990. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, file)

Cattle in a feedlot near Coalinga, California, at the gates of the ‘Disassembly Line’. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian, file)

And, in some states, laws have been passed making it illegal to shoot photographs of feedlots and other agricultural facilities; i.e., the ‘reporter’ gets arrested for trying to document what needs to be reported.

So, in just a couple more days, the damage will have been done. We will have chosen the path to bedlam that will enable a further widening of our wealth gap, and further erosion of aviation restrictions and other environmental/health laws. Our participation in this national game, rigged as it appears to be, will further expand the egos and deplorable legacies of an elite few political animals – evident subhumans (or superhumans?) who have already demonstrated, their ethics are so thin, their values and leadership are absent, and their daily routine is so entirely self-serving, … well, we get what they let us vote for!


See also:
  • Article at EcoWatch (source for video, posted by Steve Horn at DeSmogBlog)

Aviation Should Serve People, Not Profits

Aside

Grand Canyon National Park:

“There are few places in this great land so

suited for contemplative recreation.”

The destructive noise impacts of aviation are many and varied: from FAA’s newly imposed concentrated NextGen routes, to circling skydive climbs, to helicopter flight schools, and more. Add to that list air tourism, even in places as sacred and beautiful as Grand Canyon. This 4-minute video is well worth watching.

(click on image to view video)

(click on image to view video)

Residents Near East Hampton Airport Have Had Enough

Long Island map, airport labelsThe airport at East Hampton [KHTO], near the east end of Long Island, NY, is a relatively quiet airport most of the year, but it becomes a noisy beehive around weekends. In the summer months, the airport is intensively used by helicopters, bizjets and floatplanes to shuttle weekend visitors from New York City. The charter fees collected are obscene, and only add to the outrage by residents whose homes are being ruined.

Generally speaking, the elected officials have not been effective. They act concerned and make comments toward FAA, but the problems persist and the solutions are perpetually on hold. And, perhaps because Schumer et al are careful to not push ‘too hard’, FAA regularly helps to solidify their chances at reelection by awarding airport grants in their districts.
[KHTO] satellite view showing 5-mile radius (from QSC)Local officials and activists recognized decades ago that the only way to regain local control of their airport was to stop accepting grant monies from the FAA. They have dutifully followed that policy and now are set to impose needed noise mitigation policies. If FAA and commercial operators object too strongly, city officials will likely take it one step further: fully close down the airport.

A new aviation impact activist group has formed: Say NO to KHTO. The group is active at these links at both Twitter and Facebook). They want the airport closed, and the organizer made this comment in a recent news release:

“The airport is being operated at a huge cost to the community in lost jobs and lost dollars. We are actually subsidizing the destruction of our own environment and quality of life – simply to benefit the handful of commercial operators and their customers. This land could be used for wind and solar power generation, for affordable housing, for parks and recreation, and for low-impact businesses, among other uses. Communities across the country are struggling against unwanted and unnecessary aircraft intrusion. East Hampton should once again be in the forefront of such socially sensible and environmentally responsible efforts.”

– Barry Raebeck, PhD; ‘Say NO to KHTO’ organizer.

Click here to read the full news release. See also the recent editorial and article (PDF copies archived below).

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

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

Strawberry Waffles, With a Side of Helicopter Spray

Sunny Sunday mornings in Springtime. 20160403.. Strawberries-Waffles-Cream (source - strawberrysue.com)For me, growing up in the 1960s in a comfortable middle class family, the most memorable Spring Sundays included dressing up in our best, sitting through a church service, and coming out to a sunny morning hearing birds chirping, then heading home to have waffles for breakfast. These were special occasions. Sometimes we would even have strawberries on our waffles, but usually only in the last weeks of Spring. They were always local strawberries – Hood and Totem and Shuksan varieties – because fifty years ago we were not into megafarms producing megacrops and shipping them around the world in airplanes. Nor had we engineered less flavorful (more shippable) varieties that produce year-round.

20160403.. helo spraying grapes

(a typical ag spray operation, this one over grapes)

Many of the local crops were organic, raised by small farm families. This kept costs down, too. In stark contrast, today’s model for strawberry farming has become extremely fossil fuel intensive. Part of what makes today’s model for strawberry farming ‘work’ is the use of helicopters to do the spray applications, to protect huge monocropped areas from becoming total losses. Spray residues do typically persist on the strawberries we eat.

Another fossil fuel intensive aspect of today’s model for strawberry farming is ‘globalized’ crop marketing – including loading crops onto cargo planes or into the belly of passenger planes. Fresh produce from Chile thus graces the tables of Minnesota, even in the dead of winter. This is a luxury, in that past generations thrived (and were physically healthier!) without it. And, globalized food is a luxury with substantial environmental costs, that we are all encouraged to ignore.

And then there is the safety aspect of using helicopters to apply spray. Every year in the U.S., there are dozens of crashes involving ag operators, and some are fatal. Most fatal ag accidents are fixed wing, but many are helicopters. Blame gravity. Helicopters fall like a rock if there is an unexpected power loss; if they impact hard, the fuel tanks rupture, spray and ignite (…and the problem persists because FAA has for decades resisted/delayed mandating stronger/safer fuel tank systems, to minimize costs for manufacturers and operators). For safety, a falling helicopter needs to either hit the ground with lots of forward velocity to ‘skid to a stop’, or it needs to be high enough to allow the pilot to dampen the vertical impact speed by performing an autorotation. Thus, for each helicopter design, there is a height-velocity diagram that specifies which combinations of height-above-ground and speed are considered safe. A typical height-velocity diagram, such as this one for the Bell 206, dictates the serious risks of using helicopters in ag operations such as air-drying cherries, slinging Christmas trees, spraying grapes, etc.

Today’s farming relies heavily on helicopter spraying, and FAA continues to make no safety regulations to protect a growing list of fatalities. In fact, in the June-August window of 2015, there were six fatal ag operator crashes, including a Bell 47 helicopter crash while spraying in the Salinas, CA area on 6/20/2015. [NOTE: fatal ag helicopter crashes also occurred on 1/2/2013, 2/18/2013, 12/6/2013, 7/23/2014, 8/10/2014, and 8/12/2014]

(click on image to view 4-minute video about a California farmer who went organic)

(click on image to view 4-minute video about a California farmer who went organic)

At a time when climate change is pressing toward an ice-free Arctic and oceans are rising due to polar ice melt, it makes no sense to continue with ‘globalized’ crop marketing strategies. But, we continue nonetheless, likely because the widespread environmental ‘costs’ of this model are not balanced against the narrow ‘benefits’ that accrue to corporations.

Some people are concerned about this, but they are routinely finding the elected officials who could pass laws to re-balance the field (such as to favor local food production) are nearly all bought up and in-service to the corporate interests.

And so, in 2016, a sunny Sunday morning may include a marketed fast-food McWaffle with frankenberries brought to us by the likes of Monsanto. If we mindfully give no thought to this, we can still smile while we eat, ignoring the obvious: we are killing our one planet, and just the same, we are slowly killing ourselves.Marble on Green

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….

Please Sign This Petition!!

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

(click on image to read the petition at Change.org)

A small group of noise-impacted citizens have worked together to create a petition that is generally aimed at:

  1. restoring local control on airport environmental impacts;
  2. maximizing aviation transparency (so impacted neighbors can use real data to efficiently resolve aviation noise problems); and
  3. stripping FAA of the environmental regulation authorities they have increasingly abused (…in apparent ‘service’ to the airlines and other aviation operators).

This past year has been extraordinary for the extent of news coverage on aviation noise impacts. The highest profile news stories have involved FAA’s botched NextGen implementations at major commercial airports near Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, LaGuardia, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St.Paul, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle. But the loss of quality of life caused by excessive aircraft noise also happens near smaller airports, particularly those with operations using repetitive flight patterns and noisier aircraft types, such as:

  • AIR TOURISM: In places like the Grand Canyon and Hawaii, the vistas are astounding, but the quality of the experience is destroyed by the loud ‘thump-thump-thump’ of commercial air tour helicopters. The huge profits made by the operators come at a great ‘cost’ to other park visitors. The National Park Service has worked for decades to create meaningful aviation noise regulation, but their efforts are always stymied by FAA and the very operators FAA fails to regulate.
    — When are we going to take FAA out of the business of impeding the regulation of aviation noise in parks?
  • BANNER-TOWS: there have been seven newsworthy banner tow accidents thus far in 2015, with multiple injuries and one fatality.
    — Do we really need noisy airplanes to sell us insurance and beer?
  • CLOSED-PATTERN FLIGHT-INSTRUCTION: The busiest airport in Oregon is not Portland, but Hillsboro, where FAA recently spent tens of millions to add another runway to accommodate flight instruction. A single company makes a huge amount by importing student pilots from around the world, especially China, to train in the local airport traffic patterns. The problem: the training aircraft burn mostly leaded aviation fuel, and they fly low over neighborhoods and schools.
    — If we are importing students from China, shouldn’t FAA ensure they train away from our homes, perhaps at large remote airports?
  • HELICOPTER AIR CHARTERS: Tens of thousands of residents on Long Island endure invasive noise when financially elite passengers take expensive helicopter rides out to the Hamptons. The town of East Hampton has for decades refused to accept FAA money, so they can regain local control. FAA is fighting them every way they can.
    — Shouldn’t FAA allow local officials to serve local taxpaying citizens, by imposing reasonable regulations on local airport activities?
  • JET AIR CHARTERS: Just like at East Hampton, on the West Coast the people in Santa Monica have fought for decades to reclaim control of their local airport. Their public health concerns include air pollution, noise pollution and the lack of needed safety zones to handle more than 14,000 jet operations per year. Homes are literally across a chain-link fence from the airplanes; so close that lawn furniture is blown over when charter jets and bizjets turn to take the runway. Jet fumes (and leaded fumes from the flight-training planes) continue to choke neighbors. The airport simply cannot contain dangerous runway excursions by jets, but still, FAA’s lawyers continue to take administrative and legal actions against the local authorities, blocking their efforts to assert local control.
    — The impacts at Santa Monica are so egregious and so thoroughly documented, it just makes no sense that these good citizens have to keep fighting for clean air and peace. Will Congress finally step in and force FAA to allow reasonable regulations by local officials?
  • NEWS-COPTERS & OTHER LOW-FLYING HELICOPTERS: FAA’s rules effectively mean that there are no reasonable minimum altitudes and helicopters can be flown at any altitude. The result is a growing problem of very noisy and invasive news helicopters, as well as privately owned copters used to commute between the office and residential helipads.
    — Given the high noise levels of helicopters, isn’t it time that FAA set rules that force them to fly higher, further from our homes and schools?
  • SKYDIVING: These airplanes are modified to climb faster (and get as many trips in each hour), making them among the noisiest airplanes in use. These operators also have a habit of ‘offsetting’ their climbs 4- to 8-miles away from the airport, so that impacted residents have no idea that all-day-long airplane drone is related to skydiving.
    — Given the concentrated noise impacts of skydiving, isn’t it time for FAA to adopt meaningful regulations and environmental review, to protect the rights of people to maintain quality of life?

So, PLEASE sign this Petition! And, please also spend a minute and share your personal comment. Let everyone know what is happening where you live…

…which airport impacts your life, and how has FAA
failed to help you and your neighbors?

Airport Noise: Fifteen Ways to Quiet the Skies

The following list was compiled by one of the oldest groups advocating for cleaner and less impactful aviation in the United States: US-CAW (U.S.-Citizens Aviation Watch). A reference to ‘Stage IV’ suggests this was compiled long ago, even as early as the 1990s. Items #1, #2, #3, and #12 would greatly improve quality of life at Santa Monica, Longmont, East Hampton, and the growing list of NextGen-impacted airports (Phoenix, Charlotte and LaGuardia stand out on the list).

The list below is filled with great ideas, but we all just wait for the long overdue action by Congress and FAA….

  1. Increase local control of airports.
    Demand that two-thirds of airport commission members live within the high impact area where average day/night levels exceed 65 dBA (what the FAA calls moderate noise exposure). Also, increase local control with regard to expansion, number and time of takeoffs, landings, ground operations, etc.
  2. Remove FAA from oversight of environmental quality and public health.
    This would remove a significant conflict of interest for the FAA which has too often seen its role as promoting air transportation. Noise and other environmental pollutants need to be regulated by some combination of EPA and local oversight.
  3. Abandon the day/night sound pressure level of 65 dBA that the FAA uses to separate “low” noise exposure from “moderate” noise exposure.
    The 65 dBA value is too noisy and unhealthy. Use 55 dBA as an interim value until a descriptor that includes low frequency noise, and better reflects the impacts of aircraft noise such as sleep disturbance, interference with learning, and other noise impacts.
  4. Develop high-speed rail alternatives to aircraft flights of less than 500 miles.
    Redirect government investment from airport expansion to high-speed rail. Also, support efforts to quiet rail transit.
  5. Protect the public from environmental and health hazards at and near airports.
    These include the release of significant amounts of toxins, known carcinogens and de-icing fluids. Existing Clean Air and Clean Water regulations need to be enforced and new regulations addressing the public health and environmental impacts of airports and airplane travel need to be adopted.
  6. Support a Global Nighttime Curfew.
    Around the world, hundreds of airports already have curfews. Local nighttime curfews, while a positive step, shift the problem elsewhere. A nationwide and global effort is needed.
  7. Demand that airports and airlines pay the full cost of airline travel.
    Remove all FAA subsidies; increase landing fees to cover lost property value, insulation programs, health effects, and annoyance; increase fuel taxes to account for environmental and public health damage; and remove local subsidies.
  8. Expand soundproofing programs to all homes, churches, schools, hospitals, and commercial businesses experiencing a day/night average of greater than 55 dBA from airports.
    Eventually, all sensitive properties–homes, churches, schools, day care, hospitals, etc.–should be protected against indoor single event readings exceeding 45 dBA with windows open. Insulation and soundproofing alone, however, is not the solution because it neglects outdoor noise. Insulation does not provide for the full enjoyment of common and private property. However, at least it protects people inside their homes.
  9. Demand objective health studies of noise and other pollutants near airports.

  10. Support quieter and cleaner aircraft technology (called Stage IV).
    Stage IV technology may be years away, and in the future, aircraft may achieve smaller reductions in pollution, both in terms of air and noise pollution. Therefore, Stage IV technology should not be relied upon as the main solution to aircraft pollution. Nevertheless, technological improvements should be aggressively pursued.
  11. Ban flights over and within 2 miles
    of non-urban National Parks, Wilderness areas, National Monuments, National Seashores, and other sensitive and pristine public lands (except for emergency, research, construction and maintenance activities).
  12. Increase the minimum altitude for general aviation craft and helicopters
    to 2,000 feet above ground level and implement an effective policing mechanism. Impose a minimum flight altitude for 2,500 feet above ground level for all tour operations and commercial transport services (for example, air taxis).
  13. Ban commercial and corporate SST flights from United States Airports and airspace.

  14. Avoid solutions that shift noise to others.
    The FAA likes to pit one community against another because it divides opposition to its policies. A fairer distribution of noise might make sense for many airports, but moving the noise around doesn’t solve the problem and divides people who should be united against airport noise. The problem of airport noise will not be solved one airport at a time. Persons with airport noise problems must unite. Significant changes in the FAA will likely occur only when airport groups can show significant power and support to Washington.
  15. Foster connections with and support other noise pollution organizations.
    A victory for any group fighting noise is a victory for all. This is the only way to create a broad enough coalition to actually reduce noise pollution.