[KSEA]: One Way FAA can Use NextGen to Optimize Noise Mitigation

Here’s a tip for how to very effectively expose FAA’s NextGen failure: study how ATC handles arriving flights during low-traffic time periods. For example, at the SeaTac Airport [KSEA], where Delta’s decision to start up a new hub in 2012 is causing substantial growth in annual airport operations, the arrivals stay busy through most of the day, but there are a few hours each night when you can find only one arrival being worked. So, the question is, what is the shortest arrival routing ATC will issue when working a single, all-alone arrival, and how does that arrival route change with the addition of more arrivals?

When you study the empirical flight data, you quickly find the answers, and they consistently show: FAA’s largest impediment to system efficiency is simply TOO MANY FLIGHTS. In other words, if FAA really cared to optimize safety and efficiency, they would focus on managing capacity, keeping operations per hour below thresholds that precipitate delays and congestion.

Consider a Recent Arrival: United 505 from Denver

One example of this was United 505, which arrived after 2AM on Tuesday, December 20th. First, notice the overall flight on the satellite view below: as has been the case for many decades, they flew a straight line from Denver, with no zig-zags. Notice, too, that the only significant distances were added at Denver and at Seattle, as needed to accomplish transition to and from the enroute portion of the flight.
ksea-20161220at0229scp-ual505-arr-f-kden-crossover-s-of-ksea-for-elliott-bay-to-s-flow

How Can FAA Better Use the NextGen Technologies?

ksea-20161220scp-optimized-route-and-profile-over-elliott-bay-to-s-flow-vfrsectional-marked-up

(VFR sectional with a red curve added, depicting an optimized noise mitigation approach over Puget Sound and Elliott Bay. Crossing altitudes at 8000ft and 3000ft are added, red text on green background.)

The residents of Seattle are lucky to have a large water body that aligns well with their main commercial airport. But, the basic design elements needed to optimize noise mitigation were not fully considered when FAA was selling NextGen. Key design elements should have included:

  1. keep the arrivals high as long as possible. (way back in the 1970s, FAA actually had a noise mitigation program called ‘Keep em High’!)
  2. for the final ten miles, set up each arrival for a continuous rate of descent, optimally at around 300-ft per mile flown. (thus, arrivals should be designed to cross a fix at roughly ten-miles from the runway end, and 3,000ft above airport elevation)
  3. for the distance from 20-miles to 10-miles from the runway end, design a higher rate of descent, perhaps 500-ft per mile flown. (thus, arrivals would descend from 8,000ft above airport elevation to 3,000ft above airport elevation, during this 10-mile portion of the arrival; with this design, commonly used flight automation systems would enable pilots to easily comply with the designed optimized descent profile and route)
  4. plan to have ATC accomplish sequencing, spacing and speed management to the point where the final 20-miles of the approach begins. (in this case, roughly mid-channel over the Vashon ferry route, at an altitude nominally 8,000 feet MSL)

Interestingly, this proposal is quite similar to one of the approaches that FAA designed and implemented, the RNAV (RNP) Z Runway 16R Approach:ksea-20161204cpy-rnav-rnp-z-rwy16r-ifr-plate
For years, in an extended and heavily-coordinated pitch to sell the NextGen program in Seattle, FAA and others pushed the idea that all arrivals from the west side (from California, Oregon, Hawaii, coastal BC & Alaska) would be routed inbound over Elliott Bay during the predominant south flow landings at SeaTac. This was a good idea, but FAA did not go far enough. I.e., when FAA designed this approach procedure, they focused solely on the portion from the middle of Elliott Bay to the runway; they should have also focused on how each flight would get to that point in Elliott Bay (look for ‘SEGAW’ in the plate above). A truly optimized approach would define fixes and precise altitudes, starting between the fix VASHN (on the approach plate above) and the Fauntleroy ferry dock; such an optimized approach would route each arrival over-water and eventually over the vicinity of the stadiums, and would include speed and altitude profiles easily achieved by today’s air carrier fleet. Note that the profile view for the current deficient approach procedure (above) starts at fix WOTIK, which is at a 6-mile final and well south of Spokane Street.

‘NextGen Fixes’ Tend to be Slow, and Tend to Serve to Advance the Propaganda

Thankfully, some progress has been seen for the [NextGen impact case] at [KSFO], but the repetitive noise impact problems persist nationwide, and in fact, appear to be worsening. In almost all cases, the rare ‘NextGen-fixes’ have three key elements:

  1. the NextGen-fixes further crystallize FAA’s ongoing delay tactics; i.e., just getting to the time when an announcement can be made with a new NextGen-fix eats up months and even years. Moreover, the declared ‘solution’ consistently contains absurdly long timelines for each subsequent goal or step.
  2. the NextGen-fixes tend to help the Public nowhere near as much as they serve FAA and the elected officials. The announcements make elected officials look like they are serving their constituents, thus bolstering their incumbency chances … even though these same officials could and should be far MORE aggressive in demanding performance and immediate corrective actions by FAA. And,
  3. the NextGen-fixes continue to sell NextGen as a solution, when in fact it is the problem. I.e., the news releases and other documents are constantly laced with keywords and quoted lines from FAA’s fraudulent NextGen salespitch.

Here’s a short (just over 1-minute) home-video showing and explaining the impacts FAA’s NextGen SERFR arrivals are having on residents between Santa Cruz and San Francisco.

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(click on image to view source video at Facebook)

The Impacts of Repetitive Airport Noise: One Man’s Story from Near UK’s Heathrow

Here’s a copy of a Post blogged today by HACAN Clearskies, related to impacts near the London Heathrow Airport. This story is one man’s anonymous experiences. He first believed he would never be bothered by airplane noise, but the persistence eventually led him to anxiety attacks. He is thankful for his dog and having the limited resources to escape, to drive away to a park. But, obviously, people should not have their homes destroyed in the name of air commerce, with assistance from faux-regulators like UK’s CAA and our FAA.

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

United Airlines at Dulles: Yet Another Example of Corporate Welfare?

The airlines offer an extraordinary example of how the playing field has become increasingly tipped, to favor money, corporations, and the politically connected. In this example, the Washington, DC area is served by three commercial airports: Baltimore-Washington [KBWI], Dulles [KIAD], and Reagan National [KDCA]. As is common at all major U.S. airports, there is little actual price competition at each airport, with each location dominated by one or two major carriers. So, travelers to the DC Metropolitan area via Southwest use KBWI, those flying United use KIAD, and those flying American use KDCA. The data for December 2013 shows Southwest flies 81% of KBWI flights, United flies 91% of KIAD flights, and American flies 56% of KDCA flights.

This airport dominance is problematic for local communities. It puts the non-resident airline corporate officials in a strong bargaining position to compel elected officials to create huge subsidies. The taxation system underlying U.S. commercial airlines and airports is such that, if an airline abandons a hub, the local economic impact can be severe. See for example the dramatic declines in airport operations when major airlines ‘moved on’ from former major hubs: USAir in Pittsburgh [KPIT], by Delta in Northern Kentucky [KCVG], by American in St. Louis [KSTL], and by United in Cleveland [KCLE].

In this case, elected officials are saying they believe United might leave Dulles, so they must give United lots of money. Well, think about that for a moment: if United left Dulles, where would they go? They certainly would not base at KBWI, and compete against Southwest. And trying to relocate to KDCA would be all but impossible, due to capacity limits. So, would United want to leave the entire DC metropolitan market? Would one of the four major U.S. commercial carriers be able to run a real airline without serving the lucrative market that feeds elected officials, lobbyists and aggrieved citizens to the nation’s capitol? Of course not. In other words, United was not going anywhere, and the huge subsidy being trumpeted by McAuliffe, Kaine, and others is nothing but another example of massive corporate welfare.

(click on image to read source article and reader comments, at Washington Post)

(click on image to read source article and reader comments, at Washington Post)

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

How Can FAA Be Oblivious to the Impact of This Noise?

Here’s a video by a homeowner, north of the JFK airport, on Long Island. A weather pattern recently set in that resulted in ATC issuing north flow departures, off runways 4. The RNAV departure procedures, implemented as part of the over-promoted NextGen program, have flights turning lower and closer to the airport than before … one after another after another. The result has been nearly incessant noise, with the sounds in this recording repeating like a Chinese water torture. It is driving local residents crazy, having to hear this noise, which was never as much of a problem prior to NextGen.

Have a listen to this very clear recording. More recordings like this need to be made, and called in to FAA and airport authority ‘complaint lines’, so those with authority can understand why regular people are so upset and losing sleep…

(click on image to view source video at Facebook)

(click on image to view source video at Facebook)

If there is something ‘positive’ to be gained from this situation it is that it may just help FAA to finally come around and learn: the DNL noise metric fails to protect people from aviation noise impacts. Simply, you cannot ‘average out’ a series of disruptive departing aircraft noise intrusions and call it ‘OK’ because the average is less than 65 DNL, or even 55 DNL. Doing so may clear the way for more frequent airline departures – and enhanced airline profits – but it does so at a serious cost to quality of life and health for the impacted residents.

This example focuses on Long Island, but the NextGen noise impacts are out of control all across the nation. A lawn sign in Phoenix said it very well: kphx-20160830scp-lawnsigns-portion-of-flyer-re-nextgen-enviro-failures

FOIA Failures Are Rampant, by FAA & Other Agencies

Aside

FOIA Failures Are Rampant, by FAA & Other Agencies

Recent news stories, including this one about an ATC-zero incident at Midway [KMDW] in early June, continue to point to the fact that FAA is knowingly snubbing their responsibility to be open and transparent. They are blowing off the FOIA laws. This is not a problem specific only to FAA; it appears to be rampant, at many if not all federal agencies. It is an attitude of arrogance and indifference, with the potential to eventually destroy the credibility and functioning of our entire government.

To his credit, President Obama started his administration with an absolutely glowing declaration about the importance of FOIA. To his discredit, his administration has utterly failed to live up to that declaration ever since. This again goes to attitude: the attitude set at the top enables the attitudes that set in below, at the agencies.

QUOTE

“…The Committee investigation revealed the vast chasm between President Obama’s promises of openness and accountability and the day-to-day management of DHS’s FOIA function by the Secretary’s political staff. The actions exposed in this report highlight not only the Administration’s failures to properly comply with FOIA statutes, but they disclose a concerted effort by DHS political staff to actively thwart a congressional investigation, hide abusive and embarrassing official behavior, and avoid both the shame of public scrutiny and potential criminal prosecution…..”

– Executive Summary, ‘A New Era of Openness?’

For insight into the extent of these FOIA failures, click here to read the full 153-page Staff Report, compiled two years into the Obama administration, after a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Hearing about DHS FOIA failures.

Li-ion Battery Devices Can Ignite, If Crushed in a Seat

(click on image to read the report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB))

(click on image to read the report by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB))

The concerns about Li-ion battery ignition hazards grounded the Boeing 787 fleet in 2013, and they continue to make the news. The picture above is from a new investigative report about an actual fire on a Qantas 747. A passenger misplaced an electronic device and it became crushed inside the seat mechanism, creating a hissing sound and igniting. When crewmembers arrived, they “…observed an orange glow emanating from the seat….”

The concerns are not new. The Australian report cites a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) issued by FAA in June 2009. Archived copies are linked below.


See also:
  • 9/23/2009 – archived copy of SAFO 09013 (1p)
  • 9/23/2009 – archived copy of Supplement to SAFO 09013 (2p)

FAA’s NextGen in Phoenix: Two Years, Zero Relief

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(click on image to view source Post at ‘Let’s Make Some Noise’)

It was two years ago today that FAA flipped on the switch for a new set of RNAV procedures in and out of Phoenix. Noise complaints jumped: from 469 the year before to more than 13,000 in 8-months. A group who unexpectedly became activists emerged, seeking to restore health and liveability in places like Laveen, and in the historic residential neighborhoods trending to the northwest of the airport, such as along Grand Avenue.

According to the documents used to justify the changes, the changes would help the airlines to save a few million dollars each year, because flights would make their turns lower and closer to the airport. When profitable corporations save money, it appears as increased corporate profits; CEOs get bonuses, shareholders smile too. But, who pays for this, and what are the impacts, the costs? Indisputably, more people are losing sleep, more conversations are being broken, and more schoolchildren are being distracted. If a true cost-benefit analysis had been done, the benefits to the airlines would NOT justify the costs imposed on the communities.

Here’s something to ponder: if you spend just a few minutes crunching the numbers, you can establish that if every person living in the Phoenix area paid a $1 annual head tax, that tax could be given to the two hub airlines at KPHX (Southwest and American) to PAY THEM to revert to the older routes. Flights would resume using the natural noise mitigation corridor that was used for decades, the Salt River lineation east and west of the parallel runways. Airline profits might actually INCREASE (since the head tax total likely exceeds the fuel cost for reverting the departures), and flightcrews might even get a bit more money in their paychecks (if they add a minute or two to their logged flight-time). Most importantly, substantial relief would be realized by hundreds of thousands of citizens.

Of course, even a trivial head tax such as this should not be needed. What is needed is a federal agency that works for the People, too, not just for the aviation industry; a federal agency that truly weighs the costs and the benefits, to protect as many people as possible from the real adverse impacts caused by repetitive airline flights near major hubs.

Any Progress Two Years Later?

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Glen Martin in Phoenix, 10/16/2014: body language says it all.

Essentially, no progress. Many are trying, but FAA continues to act bureaucratically incapable of doing anything.

Of course, when weather has blown through Phoenix, FAA immediately alters the flights paths … so, the agency has shown they CAN implement change quickly, as needed. But, despite the flood of complaints and the news stories and even lawsuits, FAA just bungles along, providing no help toward a remedy. One of the most memorable examples of bungling: when Regional Administrator Glen Martin paused in disbelief, while reading an official statement to impacted residents; even he could not stomach the lies.

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Yard sign in a Phoenix neighborhood

If there is a silver-lining in this mess it is the activists. From day one, people cared. They spoke up, they asked questions, they attended hearings, they worked to protect their homes and their families. An extraordinary number of the best citizens in Phoenix refused to ignore the changes, and refused to accept lame non-answers by elected officials and FAA representatives. They became educated and worked together to educate others. And, they set clear examples for others across the nation to follow, when other communities are impacted by FAA’s fraudulent NextGen debacle.

See also… (blue dates link to online content)

8/30/2016
FAA’s NextGen Failure: a Case Study in Phoenix
aiR Post with a scrollable copy of the 4-page flyer produced by the noise office at Sky Harbor Airport. The flyer identifies some of the many failures found at Phoenix and other NextGen implementation airports.
3/28/2016
Aviation Noise Psychology: How Repetitive Routes May ‘drive you crazy’
aiR Post with scrollable copy of an in-depth article about KPHX noise impacts, written by Caitlin McGlade.
10/30/2015
NextGen: A Formal Complaint by Phoenix Neighborhoods
6/24/2015
GIGO: Lessons Learned from FAA’s Bad NextGen Deployment at Phoenix
aiR Post looking at how FAA manipulated the review process to ensure implementation of impactful procedures that were never meaningfully reviewed. Includes a scrollable PDF copy of the CatEx signoff by Caroline Poyurs.
6/22/2015
The Investigation of the KPHX NextGen Departure Procedures Implementation
aiR webpage featuring a scrollable PDF copy of the 22-page investigative report by Kaplan Kirsch Rockwell LLP. This webpage includes links to the extensive collection of exhibits, too.
6/1/2015
City of Phoenix Files Lawsuit Against FAA’s NextGen Implementation
3/23/2015
Noise Study for KPHX RNAV-NextGen Route Changes
214pg report by Landrum & Brown, quantifying impacts at 37 sites.

NextGen: Brace For Noise Impact!


FAA and the airline industry have been implementing NextGen routes at major hub airports across the nation. Sadly, the routes are destroying neighborhoods, as the design process fails to properly consider how repetitive airplane noise patterns undermine peace and quiet, critical to residential quality of life. The focus instead is on tweaking airline profits upwards: maximizing ‘runway throughput’ by removing decades-old noise abatement procedures at all airports.

FAA’s role in this mess is two-fold: to provide cover for the industry’s profit goals, and to nurture a public perception that the federal government supports these changes. FAA’s more traditional role has always been said to be aviation safety (though even that is debatable, when you look closely at the FAA track record). It is due to this aviation safety role that FAA mandates all airlines conduct a sufficient briefing, the scripted event we all experience on each commercial passenger flight just prior to taking off.

Of course, as defined by past Congresses, one of FAA’s ‘other roles’ is to manage aviation environment impacts. Perhaps FAA should mandate pre-impact briefings for the millions of citizens being impacted by NextGen changes. In that spirit, here is a card produced by one of the many creative NextGen victims impacted in the Phoenix area, where two of the final four major airlines, American and Southwest, operate huge through-passenger-sort facilities, aka ‘hubs’:

(click on image to view source post at Twitter)

(click on image to view source post at Twitter)

Shouldn’t FAA brief Congress, and all of us homeowners nationwide, so we can Brace for the Noise Impact that NextGen is?

NextGen Impacts, Reported in Baltimore Sun Article

“This NextGen system … has been a huge detriment to the quality of human life to us little ants on the ground … (and has ruined) the ordinary pleasure of sitting in your backyard and listening to the birds and the trees.”

– Barbara Deckert, Homeowner near KBWI

Yet another example of FAA imposing NextGen to benefit airline profits at the expense of local community quality of life. Same patterns found across the nation, too:

  1. FAA imposes NextGen changes to increase ‘runway throughput’, enabling improved profit margins for the airlines; the airlines are thus able to pack more departures or arrivals into compressed time blocks … which means neighborhoods now have to contend with a ‘drip, drip’ of repetitive aircraft noise;
  2. to justify these changes, FAA exaggerates benefits while ignoring not only the local community impacts but also ignoring the increased fuel consumption and CO2 pollution due to delay turns commonly imposed during the enroute phase of the flights;
  3. more and more people lose sleep, and lose the calming benefit of being able to peacefully enjoy their backyard;
  4. residents deal with the noise the only way they can… organizing locally, and submitting noise complaints;
  5. in short time, residents realize their noise complaints are being ignored by the airport authority;
  6. when residents air their concerns with elected officials, those officials try to appeal to FAA to correct the problems, but FAA ignores them, and frequently lies in the response letters;
  7. when reporters get involved, no matter how hard they work to fully cover the story, FAA refuses to cooperate, and does not offer an official to answer questions.

Click here to view an archived PDF copy of the online article (9/10/2016, by Colin Campbell at The Baltimore Sun).