Aviation Impacts are Non-Partisan

Here is a screen-cap of a thoughtful Facebook post. Susan is a ‘victim’ of TNNIS and other NextGen routes east of LaGuardia Airport [KLGA], who has worked tirelessly trying to get FAA to responsibly fulfill their role as a regulator that can mitigate environmental impacts.

(click on image to view source at Facebook)

(click on image to view source at Facebook)

It is important to understand that NextGen is really just about spending lots of money. The money comes primarily from airline passenger taxes and Congress, and the recipients are a small group of avionics manufacturers, as well as lobbyists (many of whom are retired FAA ‘regulators’).

In order to obtain needed funds, the Av-Gov Complex had to sell the NextGen concept to Congress. This meant building an appearance of cohesive support, including especially the airlines and labor. This they accomplished by ‘collaborating’ to produce the following strategy:

  • dupe the public (including Congress) by claiming NextGen offers something new and incredibly efficient … such as their coordinated sales pitch with graphics showing zig-zag routes that have not been commonly flown for more than five decades!
  • ignore the many examples of how no substantial efficiency gains are achieved; for example, the routine use of enroute delay vectors (which commonly more than compensate for the short time savings of low/early departure turns);
  • entice the airlines by promising the elimination of noise mitigation routes at major hub airports … allowing turns lower and closer to the runways, for both departures and arrivals;

The airlines and the controllers’ union (NATCA) could say lots about how bogus the whole NextGen sales pitch is, but their silence has been bought. Just a few years ago, NATCA was strongly critical of NextGen; today, controllers who question why the NATCA leaders are advocating ATC privatization (which is hand-in-glove with NextGen implementation) are pressured into silence. And, as for the airlines, Delta stands alone as the only major airline willing to critique the Av-Gov sales pitch.

In simplest terms, FAA is committing a fraud while diminishing quality of life at the homes of hundreds of thousands of residents. This is a ‘taking’, without just compensation. It is being done by FAA, against the People, to narrowly benefit the Av-Gov Complex.

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.

Global Action Week Against Aviation Growth & Airport Expansion Projects

From an email sent out by GAAM…

Global Anti-Aerotropolis Movement (GAAM) is helping to mobilize for a ‘Global Action Week: Stay Grounded. Aviation Growth Cancelled Due to Climate Change’. The initiative is spearheaded by Vienna-based ‘System Change, Not Climate Change!’. The event is taking place end of September/beginning of October to coincide with the annual assembly of the UN aviation organization (ICAO) in Montreal. Groups and individuals from all continents are invited to join in to say NO! to more aviation growth and airport expansion projects.

As of this writing, major actions are planned in Vienna, London, Mexico City, Notre-Dame-des-Landes (near Nantes, France), and Istanbul. Mexican activists fighting a destructive aerotropolis project near Mexico City have already come up with a very impressive program (see archived copy ‘GAW-Mexico’ in Spanish, English and French).

Any input – big or small – will help to make a difference. Activities may vary from:

  • public awareness raising campaigns (e.g. by producing articles, statements, petitions; photos/videos; writing letters to concerned authorities/companies, etc.);
  • meetings to discuss the issues;
  • photo exhibitions;
  • artistic performances (street theatre, concerts);
  • family-friendly peaceful walks;
  • tree-planting events; and,
  • flash mobs to protest rallies.

Concerned groups and citizens are encouraged to sign on and share the global petition, called ‘No aviation growth! No false climate solutions!’.

Undoubtedly, aviation is a massively polluting industry and one of the fastest growing sources of carbon emissions. Yet, climate change is still conspicuously absent from any discussion around aviation growth. Aviation was excluded from the Paris Agreement signed by the world’s nations at the UN conference (COP21) last December. Therefore, we believe it is high time to step up public pressure at the global level:

  1. to stop unnecessary and destructive airport expansion schemes;
  2. to ensure that aviation is included in all climate change agreements, targets and regulations; and
  3. to achieve actual reductions in aviation emissions instead of false solutions (such as the fake remedies of ‘offsetting’ projects and biofuels).

Well aware of the criticisms, the aviation industry is going all-out to make sure that discussions at the forthcoming ICAO assembly will focus on how aviation supports ‘sustainable development’. The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), for example, has published a glossy, image-cultivating report, entitled ‘Aviation: Benefits beyond borders’ (July 2016) that provides good insight into the industry’s green-washing attempts and among other things makes preposterous claims on how aviation will help to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals (see attachment: aviation-SDGs). An archived copy of the full ATAG report can be viewed/downloaded here.

The Global Action Week will be a good opportunity for concerned people to preempt the industry’s nonsensical arguments. Solid evidence will be presented, showing the real and substantial harm done by aviation expansion:

  • …harm to local communities around the world,
  • …harm to the environment,
  • …and harm to our climate.

Please let GAAM know your ideas and plans for the Global Action Week! And, please regularly check here for updates on the campaign.

The text above was derived from an announcement by Anita Pleumarom, GAAM co-ordinating team.

[KSMO] Update: Officials Vote to Close the Airport, So Some Pilots Want a Federal Takeover

Flying always has been an activity where you depend on yourself first, where you MUST perform responsibly as an individual decision-maker, or you can end up dead in a smoldering debris field. Intertwined with this is the fact pilots traditionally are strong advocates for individual rights and local authority. It’s a philosophy, a set of values, arguably the best part of conservatism.

So, who would have thought that pilots would be hoping Federal bureaucrats would take over airports like the one in Santa Monica? Yet, this is what some pilots are now hoping for. Here’s a PDF of a recent GA News article, with reader comments, about the latest events in Santa Monica:

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

I grew up with aviation. My main role model as a kid was my father, a brilliant and gifted man with a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from MIT. He grew up in the golden age of aviation – he was born not long after Lindbergh’s first flight across the Atlantic – and he shared his enthusiasm for engineering and aviation with all of us kids. For years, he worked for Boeing in Seattle; many summer weekends were spent at small airports, helping out and catching rides in my dad’s 2-seat glider. Eventually, though somewhat accidentally, I ended up spending the best years of my work life as an FAA air traffic controller. (of course, I was also a Whistleblower, and forced to retire early; story here)

That’s all background. The point to be made is this: I know from five+ decades of experience how conservative and individualistic aviators tend to be. These characteristics serve them well. And so, it is just crazy, that today we have pilots calling for the federal bureaucrats to take over the airport at Santa Monica. Just crazy.


See also:

Two Reports Look at Impacts by the Air Freight Industry

Here are copies of two reports done by Rose Bridger and published by AirportWatch. The reports look at the Air Freight industry and its impacts in the UK. Those impacted include not just residents and communities, but also the environment: destruction of wildlife habitat and degradation of our atmosphere. I.e, just as it is in the U.S. and around the world, the fossil fuel consumption for air freight is significant, and is contributing to record CO2 levels and accelerated climate change.

Click on either document below for a scrollable view; PDF copies of the Impact Report or Report Supplement may also be downloaded.

A significant portion of air freight is carried in the cargo holds of passenger airliners. Thus, airports such as London’s Heathrow see additional pressure to max out their schedules. Enmity between airport authorities and impacted residents is only intensified, when public monies are used to promote airport expansion.

(click on image to view related articles at AirportWatch)

A pro-airport billboard, altered by activists. (click on image to view related articles at AirportWatch)

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.

Airports and Cities: Can They Coexist?

As often happens, a good lead was tweeted regarding an interesting article. This time, @NoFlyDay tweeted with a link to an article by Ed Ayres, Airports and Cities:  Can They Coexist?, archived at WorldWatch.org. The article was first published in the July/August 2001 issue of  World Watch Magazine, for which Mr. Ayres served as editor.

The article points toward the enormous land-grab to create the Denver International Airport (DIA) or [KDEN]. That massive project, undertaken from 1989 into 1995, was intended to accommodate major hubs that pre-existed in Denver, for both United and Continental. But, Continental decided to abandon their Denver hub (and decades later was merged with United), causing annual operations to decline substantially. This huge new airport has never come even slightly close to operating at the capacity it was built for.

The article also notes how, in shifting the burden to airline passengers to drive long distances away from their homes, total air pollution was substantially increased … and all at public cost. All this was done ostensibly to better serve the general public, but in truth served only to improve airline profits. *until ten years ago, the strategy at Southwest was to completely avoid the major hubs for the legacy airlines, such as ATL, BOS, DEN, MSP and SFO … and even when their strategy was changed, they were careful to not really ‘compete’ with the dominant carrier at each hub.And, as is the case throughout the U.S. commercial aviation system, Denver has virtually zero competition on routes, and serves as a hub dominated by one airline: United (with a lesser hub by Southwest, who only began serving KDEN in 2006*).

Two other interesting aspects to contemplate while reading this article (and the related documents accessible via the links below):

  1. first, all of these documents were researched and created years PRIOR to the inception of NextGen by FAA and industry stakeholders; and,
  2. second, the article came out just prior to the 9-11 attacks, which arguably were used to justify enormous ‘Shock Doctrine’ changes in all aspects of U.S. commercial aviation, most significantly modifying security, ATC procedures, and environmental impact mitigations.

Here are links to a PDF copy as well as some related documents archived at aiREFORM.com:

Enroute Delays are Routine as Part of NextGen, Even for Slower Hubs like SEA

The previous aiREFORM Post presented a sequence of eight arrivals from California to SeaTac [KSEA], during a half-hour window from 10:22 to 10:52 on Thursday May 12th. The sequence showed some very substantial enroute delays, mostly over Oregon. Well, it turns out the exact same series of arrivals had very similar (and again substantial) enroute delays on the very next day, during the time window 10:13 to 10:49 on Friday May 13th. Here is a JPEG compilation:

KSEA.20160513.. compiled ARRs, similar enroute delays as with 5-12-2016

Here are the important points to be made, looking at these KSEA arrivals for both days:

  1. For all flights, with the exception of the enroute delays, the routes are incredibly direct … proving that the current system is fully capable of maximizing efficiency by minimizing distance flown. That is, we do NOT need any new technologies to accomplish direct flights.
  2. In the big picture, SeaTac is a relatively simple ATC example, in that it is remote (far northwest corner of the nation), far removed from saturated delay-prone hubs (mostly in the northeast), has no major complications related to other airports, and has a very simple triple-parallel runway configuration.
  3. Despite this simplicity, empirical evidence viewed online indicates ATC begins imposing enroute delays to KSEA arrivals, even in perfect clear weather, whenever the arrival rate gets to around 30-40 aircraft per hour or more.
  4. SeaTac’s problems relate entirely to its current use as a hub by Alaska, Delta, and Southwest. Delta is the new player, aggressively initiating a hub expansion in 2014. At KSEA, Delta’s growth is creating many periods each day, with arrival flurries that necessitate enroute delays and long, inefficient landing patterns (e.g., extended downwinds to 20-mile+ finals).
  5. That the problem is caused by too many arrivals is proven by looking at the arrival data, and comparing days of the week that are slowest against days of the week that are busiest. Routinely, Thursdays and Fridays are two of the busiest days, while Saturdays are nearly always the slowest day of the week. As presented in this pair of aiREFORM Posts, the eight flights are all delayed on both Thursday and Friday. Odds are, if you study the routes for any of these same eight scheduled flights as conducted on a Saturday, you will find that no enroute delays were issued … simply because ATC is working 10-20% fewer arrivals.
  6. To accommodate an industry preference for large hubs (which maximize airline profits), FAA’s approach in the past decade has become to serve only the airlines and at the expense of taxpayers/citizens. Coincident with the evolution of the NextGen program, FAA’s efforts have included a wholesale abandonment of procedures that mitigate environmental impacts, while also doing the following:
    1. maximizing flow rates in/out of the airport (the term used in the industry is ‘runway throughput’);
    2. removing all airport-specific noise mitigation procedures (some of these date back to the 1970s, and billions have been spent installing noise insulation reference these procedures);
    3. creating RNAV departure routes that minimize distances flown, by allowing the earliest possible turns, in some extreme cases immediately after taking off;
    4. creating RNAV arrival routes that minimize actions by both ATC and pilots, proceduralizing the arrival into a steady repetitive stream along a narrowly defined route with a steady descent rate; a key part of this strategy is to get pilots to let the autopilot fly the arrival;
  7. Logically, FAA could manage/avoid hub-related delays by simply regulating hub traffic levels, to ensure arrivals never exceed a sustainable arrival rate upper limit. But, FAA refuses to regulate this, apparently due to their desire to accommodate the industry.
  8. The Av-Gov complex (and, yes, that includes shills like Bill Shuster) is pitching NextGen, but the technology essentially already exists, and has been in use for decades. Nonetheless, and despite rational opposition, they continue to pitch this in order to spend billions padding the financial positions of Av-Gov players (which includes many FAA employees who retire early and collect pensions but supplement their retirements working in industry!), while also using ‘NextGen implementation’ as an excuse to implement noise-impactful new RNAV routes.
  9. These two aiREFORM Posts look at the impacts related to KSEA, but the exact same situation is ongoing (and even worse) at many other major airports, including KSFO, KPHX, KCLT, KBOS, KLGA, KORD, KDCA, and KJFK.
  10. We can have all the whiz-bang technology we can buy, but if we allow the major airlines to schedule even brief arrival flurries that exceed airport capacity (which is ultimately a function of runway configurations), we will see delays. And, these delays not only magnify the environmental impacts of aviation, but they also wipe out all efficiency improvements that are potentially realized with more direct RNAV routes.
  11. The agency is failing, and our elected officials are also failing us. They are too busy fundraising, abandoning their duty to serve constituents. Like FAA, Congress has become too beholden to money.

 

‘Just Say No’ to a Third Runway at Heathrow

The impacts are already too large at two runways, and the air travel industry is evolving to reduce the need for Heathrow as a major international hub. So, let’s be done with this ridiculous idea of adding a third parallel runway.

Consider how technologies have changed. There was a time in the U.S. when all transcontinental flights had to stop at ‘hubs’ in the mid-continent, making for very busy airports in places like Wichita, Kansas. These former hubs are now all but ‘ghost-airports’, because we developed more powerful engines and larger fuel capacities, enabling much longer flights.

London’s Heathrow Airport should follow that same path, and the role of this airport as a major international hub should decline substantially. Geography made London a logical (and necessary) refueling hub location for Transatlantic flights, but that necessity has ended in recent decades. We now have direct flights from the U.S. West Coast to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Munich, Istanbul, Dubai, etc. So, we really do not need to stop anymore, in London or Dublin or even Iceland.

It makes far more sense for flights between North America and Europe to carry passengers directly from actual origin cities to actual destination cities. The carbon impact is minimized, the air traveler’s time-cost is minimized, and noise impacts upon airport neighbors are also minimized. And one more benefit: an evolved system with more thin routes takes pressure off of major U.S. hubs like KJFK, KBOS, KCLT, KORD, KPHX, and KSFO … and this has potential to greatly reduce the local impacts being magnified by the ongoing NextGen implementation debacles.

We can have better air service for people. We can minimize impacts on neighborhoods and the planet. The key to moving forward on this is to get national regulators and politicians to quit perpetuating inefficiencies, to quit subsidizing the airlines with excessive airport expansion. And in the UK, this means:

NO THIRD RUNWAY at HEATHROW!!

The ‘machine’ that keeps pressing for a third Heathrow runway is motivated by greed. Here is a copy of a recent news article about their campaign efforts, with analytical footnotes added by aiREFORM.

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