“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:
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;
An interesting short video, likely shot by a passenger while waiting at the airport terminal in Hong Kong. The vehicle proceeds slowly, appearing to be doing normal airport activities, but in the final seconds the driver makes a hard right turn to collide with the #1 engine of a taxiing Airbus A330. One gets the impression this was either an attempted suicide or an attempted terrorist attack. A large number of emergency response crewmembers arrives, indicating that at least perceived this was not an act of terrorism (no fear of an explosives-laden vehicle).
A couple questions arise:
why would someone do this? Will the investigative report convincingly establish… was it a digruntled aviation employee, a zealot whose terrorist attack failed, or what?
and, on the larger picture, how secure are our airports when incidents such as this can happen? This was in Hong Kong; could it happen in LA or Chicago or elsewhere? With our present commercial aviation system focused on serving airline profits with enormous superHubs, have we created a system vulnerable to sabotage and disruption?
– a typical reader comment in an AviationWeek article, featuring a fluff interview of the American Airlines CEO
When interviewed, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker coughed out the obligatory plug for ATC privatization with this comment:
It’s of the utmost importance to continue the strides we’ve made to make the United States the safest country for aviation, and we need to find new ways to fund innovation and better efficiencies, including Air Traffic Control reform. Our industry is at a crossroads right now in Washington as we’re seeking a transformational change to the way the U.S. ATC system is financed and governed.
The strides made by American/USAir include using Categorical Exclusions to impose NextGen procedures that are destroying quality of life near the largest airport hubs dominated by American. In fact, the list of NextGen-impacted airports includes nearly every major hub with a schedule dominated by American: Charlotte, Chicago-O’Hare, Phoenix (approximately 51% of flights), and Washington-National (approximately 50% of flights), as well as LaGuardia (approximately 30% of flights), and Boston (approximately 24% of flights).
If Doug Parker and American Airlines REALLYwanted to make customers happy, they would recognize they serve not only passengers but also communities. They would then insist that FAA manage and downsize hub scheduling, even disincentivizing airline hubbing, to ensure the residents of each community are well served yet not inundated with excessive repetitive noise impacts and aviation air pollution.
Click here to read the original blog post, or here to read an archived PDF copy with aiREFORM annotations.
Jim Hightower does a great job shining a bright light on absurdities in our modern life. He is a Texan, a progressive, a creative thinker, with a knack for pulling laughs out of even the driest people.
In his latest article, he takes aim at the greed and hypocrisy that compels our four remaining ‘major’ passenger airlines to nickel and dime on all sorts of fees. Here’s a scrollable PDF copy:
Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded.
Now, this is extremely hypocritical, because the lobbyist for the U.S. airlines, Airlines for America, is chronically pressing Congress to end fees and taxes that are used to fund ATC, build infrastructure, and maintain safety. Their main argument is that the fees depress public demand. Huh; might bag fees, change fees, obsolete fuel surcharges, and other ‘airline’ profit-generating schemes actually be discouraging people away from flying?
In Washington, DC, a congressional committee is using the need to ‘re-authorize’ FAA spending as an excuse to try to ramrod a packaged sellout to the airlines. The package, generously called the ‘Aviation Innovation, Reform & Reauthorization Act’ (AIRR), contains 273-pages of ‘transformational’ legislation that seeks to insulate the airlines and ATC from Congressional oversight.
At the same time, across the nation, the repetitive noise of FAA’s NextGen operations continues to destroy once pleasant neighborhoods. One of those neighborhoods is in the Chicago area, the Village of Bensenville to the west of O’Hare Airport.
The new runway (10C) opened in 2013, and is marked with a thick red line. Hillside Drive is the east-west road under the south edge of the final approach course, and is marked with a thin red box in the left half of the image. (click on image to view satellite map)
Residents along Hillside Drive began enduring horrific repetitive flight noise when a new runway was opened in the Fall of 2013. Although FAA swears they complied with NEPA regulations and found the noise impacts would not be significant, some residents have hardly slept since.
Judge for yourself. Look and listen to the residents in this recently published video:
Frankly, the root of the problem at O’Hare is the use of this location as a major airline hub. It can be bad even if only one of the ‘final four’ major U.S. airlines operates a ‘superhub’, but at O’Hare, this is done by two: both United/Continental and American/USAir.
We all understand the concept of ‘economy of scale’, but in reality, there is an enormous ‘diseconomy of scale’ that sets in when airports grow too large. Multiple airlines and the airport authority can run a very successful operation at a smaller and more easily manageable airport, such as with a single pair of parallel runways, generating lots of profits while also serving the air transportation needs of the local community members. Economy of scale continues to this level of airport development. But, once the third parallel runway goes in, or if ATC is using multiple sets of parallel runways, diseconomy sets in. The added airport capacity, when utilized, creates a mess in many ways: not just the repetitive noise impact on neighborhoods, but also the magnified air pollution, the near-airport traffic congestion, the passenger chaos within the airport terminal, and the near-collisions and ‘SNAFU’ aspect that controllers must contend with. All so that the airline can tweak out a bit more profit.
In the worst cases (U.S. airports KORD, KATL, KPHX and KCLT come to mind), the hub airlines schedule heavy ‘banks’ of non-stop arrivals and departures. The noise impact can stretch for hours, and yet much of the noise has nothing to do with serving the local community. People fly into the airport, walk to another gate, and fly out – never even visiting the community. The high traffic levels (and impacts) are thus related only to serving the airline’s ‘passenger sort facility’ (aka ‘hub’) business model. Of course, this business model is aimed solely at generating profits …and corporate representatives have a palpable disdain for homeowners and residents who complain about noise and other impacts. A disdain that FAA happily enables.
So, here we are in February 2016. After months of intensive preparatory work coordinated by the airline lobbyist, Airlines for America, Bill Shuster has capitulated to that same lobbyist by proposing his ‘transformational’ REFORMpackage. REFORMis in the name and yet the package has nothing to do with correcting problems like the Noise Ghettos being created in places like Bensenville (…and FQ Story, and Palo Alto, and Seattle, and Milton, and Flushing, and Mount Holly, and Georgetown…). And, on top of that, Mr. Shuster has admitted to having a personal relationship with a high-level official at Airlines for America, the sort of conflict of interest that past Congresses would never tolerate.
Here’s a suggestion for Mr. Shuster (& Ms. Rubino), Mr. LoBiondo, Mr. Calio, Mr.Huerta and Mr. Rinaldi: sit down with your family and watch this Hillside video (and, while you are at it, check out the video of flight-attendant Serena). Then, REFORM. Let these people sleep and enjoy their yards, for crying out loud!
Quit teasing the public and playing games to enrich your crony friends. Re-authorize FAA immediately, but insert REAL TRANSFORMATIONALchange, such as congestion pricing and a steep aviation fuel tax. You are lying when you claim the ATC system is operating on antique technologies, and you are also lying when you claim NextGen benefits that are already being realized without additional NextGen development. You are claiming ‘ATC corporatization’ is necessary, when you know this is just a bogus sales pitch. And most importantly, you know: the cascading delays and most other ‘claimed problems’ would be solved, almost immediately, if you would simply do two things:
change the aviation taxes and fees to disincentivize the overuse of superhubs like O’Hare, and
There’s a new website of great value to Nextgen victims and others suffering from aviation noise impacts: Citizen’s Noise Monitoring. It appears to be based in the San Francisco Bay Area, created by a tech-savvy impacted citizen trying to find relief from noise impacts such as the SERFR arrivals to KSFO over the Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, and Portola Valley areas. (NOTE: for a graphic image showing the absurdly low SERFR arrivals, click this link; this is not just a noise issue, but also a SAFETY ISSUE!)
Here is a screen-capture showing the homepage, packed with information. Be sure to click through and spend some time studying what has been posted in just the past two months. Some truly amazing work!
(click on image to view original at Skyote.com)
The gist of this website appears to be to facilitate a workaround to a serious aviation noise problem. Specifically, FAA, Airports and the Airlines are effectively conspiring to shut out citizen-involvement in aviation impact decisions, such as the implementation of new NextGen routes that are consistently lower over our communities.
It can be said that truth comes from data, and he who controls the data thus defines the truth. Well, we simply can no longer allow the intensifying spin of this evolving troika, aka the Av-Gov Complex (an unfortunate consequence of FAA’s regulatory capture, wherein the regulator caters to the regulated industry), to define and frame aviation noise issues. Thus, we go beyond their spin and create our own REALdata.
More information about Citizen’s Noise Monitoring will be added soon…
In late 2014, George Jehn, a retired Eastern Airlines (and later US Airways) pilot and ALPA union official, published his book, ‘Final Destination: Disaster. What Really Happened to Eastern Airlines’. This book represents an insider’s view of the political and corporate corruption that eventually killed the second largest airline in the free world, in early 1991. George’s thesis is that high U.S. officials wanted/needed to keep the public in the dark about the Eastern Airline history of clandestine service to the CIA; that, after the crash of an Eastern Boeing 727 on 1/1/1985 in Bolivia, U.S. officials needed to ensure the accident would not be properly investigated, as it would expose too much … and so high officials chose instead to simply dissolve the airline. The thesis is amply supported by his facts. The book looks, too, at the role of the CIA and airlines in drug running (remember Oliver North and Iran-Contra, and the explosion of cocaine use in the U.S. three decades ago?). And, it analyzes the failure by NTSB to investigate the crash of EAL flight 980 in the Andes in 1985.
Although events in the 1980’s and early 1990’s triggered the research that went into this book, publication was delayed. George found a literary agent who initially was very keen on publishing, then was scared off. Thankfully, George kept his work and pushed it through to publication two decades later, when the political leaders were no longer as powerful. This goes to show: Whistleblowers often have to settle in for the long haul.
Here’s George’s letter for today, Labor Day 2015:
Labor Day, 2015
To my Friends,
Well, another Labor Day is upon us, and once again American workers from every walk of life and in every occupation, continue to take it on the chin. It makes no difference whether a Democrat or Republican is in charge because no matter which, working men and women are still viewed as the bad guys. Just take a quick look around to confirm this. Obama swore up and down that he is for the “middle class,” yet along with his newly-minted Republican “friends” in both Houses of Congress (at least for this item) passes the trans-Pacific free trade agreement, which is anything but “free.” American workers will pay many times over for this with their additional sweat for less, hard-earned money and jobs. This is no more than the continued “race to the bottom” for the American labor force, whose employers will now claim that they “can’t compete” with workers in the lower paid Pacific Rim countries. In turn, this will translate into cuts in pay and benefits for the American workers or their employers will outsource their jobs. “Job guarantees?” “Retraining assurances?” Pure baloney!
Recall if you will the 1978 United States airline deregulation act, under which all of this started. It contained similar false “promises” and “guarantees,” yet not one single airline pilot was ever protected or went to another airline after their carrier went out of business, with their pay and/or seniority intact, as the language of this legislation stated would happen. And right now, the current New York State governor, Andrew Cuomo, another alleged Democrat, sets his sights on attacking public school teachers throughout the state and their union for their alleged “teaching deficiencies,” in some NY public schools—items although beyond their control, they are nonetheless being blamed for.
Today’s definition of Labor Day amounts to no more than a sordid joke on American workers, except it is anything but a joke. It has turned into just another national holiday where the politicians pander to the workers who put them into office, as large retailers offer goods at alleged sale prices and further line their pockets, while their employees are paid minimum wages and Mom and Pop stores are simultaneously put out of business.
Fairly paid and the skilled American work force is what created the American middle class and once made this country great. Without them..? Well, I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the blanks for the rest of that sentence, but I think we can all see what transpires around us on a daily basis.
On a much more personal note, since 1978 not one Labor Day ever went by without calling and speaking with my former elected pilot union colleague, close friend and staunch pilot/labor advocate, former Eastern Captain, Skip Copeland. That won’t happen this year because unfortunately Skip passed away late last year after tirelessly fighting for the Eastern pilots for many years. He is sorely missed. May he rest in peace. He earned it.
Perhaps, just maybe, our once-great Republic can one day rekindle all that it once stood for—but don’t hold your breath. On this Labor Day, 2015, the ones I truly feel sorry for are our children and grandchildren who will most likely never know the opportunities the real America once held for all working men and women.
George’s book was published by Changing Lives Press. I bought a copy and read it this summer, and it was a fascinating read. Parts were eerily reminiscent of my own story, blowing the whistle on FAA/ATC safety failures, though George’s story goes all the way to the White House (while my story only rose to high officials at FAA and NATCA). And, it really illuminates the greed-driven politics that have not only undermined aviation, but also are altering the economy we leave for our children.
UPDATE, 4/8/2016: — Robert DeFranco’s Dragon River has optioned the rights to George Jehn’s memoir, ‘Final Destination: Disaster — What Really Happened to Eastern Airlines.’
Tens of thousands of U.S. airport neighbors are severely impacted by FAA’s imposed NextGen routes. They complain, and elected officials complain, yet nothing gets done. FAA officials just do not care.
Tens of thousands of airline support employees have seen their jobs outsourced, and the airlines then pay them indirectly, through contracts. Lower pay, less stability. The wrong kind of trickle-down; wages slide downward to barely enough to survive, let alone raise a family. Meanwhile, airline CEOs making millions focus on new ways to suck more money out of people. If it is not about money, they seem not to care.
This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.
Is ‘compassion’ just a spoken word? Something you refer to in front of a camera, just to look good? What prevents an airline CEO like Doug Parker from DEMANDINGthat the employees who support his profitable business earn wages sufficient to support their families?
Do the FAA officials and the Airline CEOs even care?
The general public lacks awareness of major trends in U.S. aviation, not just in the past hundred years, but even in the past decade. Indeed, the current set of popular communications technologies (internet, twitter, etc.) bombard us with so much rapid information that Public memory has arguably been all but destroyed . Many of us fail to process events from mere weeks ago. So, it is not surprising that people have no idea how contentious U.S. aviation history has been, getting to where we are today, with just four remaining major U.S. airlines: American, Delta, Southwest, and United.
It does not help that all of our aviation professionals do nothing to nurture a citizenry that is vastly informed and technically savvy, empowered by knowledge. Instead, FAA, NATCA, A4A and other members of the Av-Gov Complex seem to want to keep us ignorant. So, they always tend to hand us off to technical experts, and shout off infinite acronyms as effective weapons of mass confusion. They religiously avoid talking about safety deficiencies, wasteful spending, controller errors, etc. And all this they do while speaking cheerfully, as if from a Koolaid Bowl, to promote air travel (and thus their personal paychecks and pensions).
In total, we have been collectively dumbed down; nearly all of us now suffer a substantial culturally-based Attention Deficit Disorder. This ensures that meaningful decisions by governmental agencies, such as FAA’s NextGen implementations, will continue to happen in a vacuum. It also means that most impacted people will be too flustered (or too distracted onto other life matters or by trivialities – hey, did you see the great catch by what’s his name?) to focus through repairing FAA’s damages.
US Airways: An Airline Dysfunction Case Study?
While researching a recent aiREFORM Post about FAA’s NextGen Hydra at Charlotte, NC, it became clear that a closer look at Charlotte, and the airline at the heart of the airport’s history, might help educate us all. There is much that needs to be learned….
…So, take a look at the Wikipedia page on US Airways. Especially, be sure to read their history, with bankruptcies in both 2002 AND2004. This was one of the first major U.S. airlines to liquidate the pensions of its pilots, as they did in 2003. This is also an airline that built up a huge hub at Pittsburgh [KPIT], got the airport authority to spend billions in new facilities, then abruptly up and left when the airport authority refused their ultimatum to lower airline operating fees.
By the way, Pittsburgh is one a growing number of U.S. airports that have seen enormous federal investment, only to be abandoned by their main airline (see also Delta at Cincinnati [KCVG], American at St. Louis [KSTL], Northwest (now Delta) at Detroit [KDTW], and Continental (now United) at Cleveland [KCLE].
And on the subject of airline dysfunction, it seems notable that the newest merger – American-US Airways – is deeply at the heart of nearly all of the biggest NextGen rollout debacles: at Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, New York’s JFK, and Phoenix. This one airline, if they shook their head and said ‘NO’ to FAA’s NextGen routes, could make a hugely positive quality of life difference for hundreds of thousands of airport neighbors.
We need to know history…
…and we need to apply what we know. Otherwise, we will keep doing the same stupid things, over and over again. Money will be wasted. Neighborhoods will be ruined. And a slim few will get rich.
Scott Hamilton, at Leeham News and Comment, has been a top news investigator in the commercial aircraft manufacturing industry for nearly three decades. His articles go deep, and they commonly go a bit further, even covering the airlines. His blog, LeehamNews.com, always informs.
Scott just posted ‘Pontifications: Qatar Air adds US service, US airlines ramp up whining’. He offers a relatively detailed summary of the 1978 deregulation of U.S. airlines, and the slow evolution away from competition and toward narrow consolidation, over the decades since. He also looks at US3 versus ME3, referring to today’s top three U.S. airlines (American, Delta and United), versus the new and fast-growing Middle East airlines (Emirates, Etihad and Qatar).
The Post is an interesting read. And, as always, LeehamNews’ quality base of readers offer some excellent comments. Here is one comment, looking at the hypocrisy of the US3 complaining about new competition from foreign airlines:
These same morons running the Airlines are perfectly fine with deregulation and free trade as long as it means _they_ can outsource labor and manufacturing to Myanmar at $0.50 and hour, but god forbid any “damn furriners” use it to compete against them.
The US3 airlines (and their regional sweatshop affiliates) need to be taken down by unrestricted competition.The “foreign ownership” restrictions are BS protectionism.
Government subsidies to fly into unprofitable markets need to be eliminated (if you want to talk about subsidies, US3, what about these pork barrel constructs?)
The so called “free market capitalists” running America/ American businesses are only interested in their own freedom to profit, while constructing a system that guarantees their cartel’s market control in perpetuity.