An Example of a Serious Weather Delay … but Delays Can Also Happen by Scheduling ‘Too Many Arrivals’

A recent day with foggy weather in the Puget Sound area produced a few examples of weather-related delays. ksea-20161110at1009-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-data-wxdlasIn the example presented below, Jazz Air 8089, a Dash-8, departed Vancouver [CYVR] on a short 30-minute flight to SeaTac [KSEA]. The flight departed at 8:55am, just as the KSEA visibility was reducing to a half mile. The crew was turned toward the Olympic Peninsula and issued turns to delay their arrival.

Here is a screen-cap of the METAR weather sequence, reading from bottom to top; thin red boxes have been added, marking the departure time at CYVR and the arrival time at KSEA. The column in the middle is most critical, showing visibility deteriorating from 10-miles to a half-mile; the magenta text to the right, reading BKN001 and VV001 is also significant, indicating low clouds and fog obscuring the sky at 100′ above the surface.ksea-20161110-metar-0825am-to-1120am-low-wx-markedupThe flight altitudes and times at points on the JZA8089 route have been added to this enlarged map view of the delay portion of the flight, over the Olympic National Park:ksea-20161110at1009-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-analysis-of-dlas-over-olypennIn normal weather conditions, the flight is routine, even boring to both pilots and ATC. ksea-20161109at0929-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-dataksea-20161111at0950-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-dataksea-20161112at0915-jza8089-arr-f-cyvr-map-dataTo the left are screen-caps for the same flight on days before and after… on 11/9, 11/11, and 11/12. In all cases, KSEA is in a South Flow, so the minor variations in these three flights are almost entirely due to other arrival traffic.

In an extreme case, if traffic volume is sufficiently large, ATC may need to issue a holding loop, or multiple turns to achieve even 20+ minutes of delay. Note on these screen-caps, the busiest day of the week for air travel (Friday) shows the most extreme excess turns to final; the slowest day of the travel week (Saturday) shows essentially no added delays.

One way that FAA fails to prevent excessive delays is by refusing to manage capacity. Especially at hub airports, arrival rates are set too high, so as not to restrict the airlines. In their NextGen studies, FAA has repeatedly referred to maximizing ‘runway throughput’. The problem, though, is that when arrival rates are set too high, it takes just one minor weather glitch to create a cascade of delays, one airplane after another, often for hours. In the worst cases, typical at LaGuardia Airport, cascaded delays can cause arrivals to finish well after midnight, even more than two hours beyond their schedule times. And these delays nearly ALWAYS result in continuous arrival streams, with repetitive noise patterns impacting residential neighborhoods, a problem being exacerbated under NextGen.

(All graphics & flight data from FlightAware)

When Viewed Through Cash-Colored Glasses, ‘Clouds Cause Delays’

Everyday, FAA creates a traffic report, then uses social media to report expected air traffic delays.

(click on image to view source tweet)

(click on image to view source tweet)

Cute little graphics are intuitive: the cloud image means delays related to cloud layers (here listing the DC area to NYC area), and the lightning image means delays related to thunderstorms (here listing all major hubs from Charlotte to Houston).

Mindlessly, we absorb this report and feel a bit more ‘aware’ of the system managed by FAA. But, if we are a bit more mindful, and actually THINK about what FAA tweets, we have to ask: are clouds really a valid reason for delays?

The answer is obviously NO. These delays are happening routinely, triggered only by clouds. Not severe weather … just puffy, calm, benign layers and pockets of water vapor. These delays continue to happen – and at the same few hub airports everyday – but it is not due to ‘clouds’; they happen because of unmanaged capacity. I.e., FAA continues to allow too many planes in time slots that are too short.

Take a look at the weather maps for this day. In the first image, clouds are white and precipitation is green. Note the existence of both clouds and precipitation in many other parts of the nation… yet, no delays are reported/expected at most locations. Again, the delays are all happening at a select few hub airports, where FAA refuses to impose needed capacity management. All FAA has to do is impose sufficiently reduced hourly flow rates, but FAA refuses. And the consequences are significant: flights are delayed, passengers lose billions of dollars worth of their time, and communities are inundated with excessive aviation noise and air pollution, all to accommodate more flights than are needed to serve each specific community.

(click on image to view current image at ClimateReanalyzer; select the 'Precipitation & Clouds' view)

(click on image to view current image at ClimateReanalyzer; select the ‘Precipitation & Clouds’ view)

(click on image to view current CONUS infrared image at NOAA.gov)

(click on image to view current CONUS infrared image at NOAA.gov)

Although it conflicts with Congress’ original intent, the fact is that FAA serves the airlines, not the people. FAA, beholden to industry profit-interests (of the final-four major U.S. airlines, and of manufacturers, too), refuses to manage airport capacity by imposing reasonable flow-rate restrictions. Instead, FAA collaborates with their industry partners (aka, ‘stakeholders’) and creates manipulative spin/propaganda, trying to sell us on NextGen spending that creates greater impacts while producing little benefits.

FAA works to feed more money to the same industry partners who hire FAA officials when they retire. Just like the rigged U.S. political campaigns, where the system is manipulated by the duopoly parties. We suffer increasing impacts from failures that will never go away until we demand overdue reforms.

Even the Queen is Distressed with Excessive Aviation Noise

Image

(click on image to view archived copy of the source article)

(click on image to view archived copy of the source article)

The proposed addition of a third parallel runway at Heathrow has been debated for decades. The proposal accommodates airlines, who have created artificial excess need for airline operations because they are using London as a hub in the profitable trans-Atlantic air transport business. The imbalance is obvious: corporations over people, profits over quality of life. Exactly as is happening in so many NextGen impact areas in the U.S.

Sadly, more and more people under the Heathrow flightpaths are being impacted. Indeed, this article notes that Her Majesty the Queen has acquired a sharp ear capable of discerning different aircraft types. She is known to comment ‘747’ or ‘Airbus’, as each overflight interrupts royal conversations at Windsor Castle.

A Rebuttal of JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes’ Recent Call for Faux-Modernization

(click on image to view original tweet)

(click on image to view original tweet)

Boston Business Journal has printed an opinion piece by the CEO of JetBlue, Robin Hayes. Very similar pieces have appeared in the past few months, offered by other airline CEOs and the lobbyist Airlines for America, all spreading the same unsubstantiated claims that ATC privatization and NextGen implementation are needed. It strongly appears that, this week, the rotation went to JetBlue, hence the piece. And, given the mainstream media’s consistent subservience to commerce, it comes as no surprise that Mr. Hayes’ opinion piece was eagerly accepted and passed on for public consumption.

Here is a PDF copy, with highlighted footnotes added by aiREFORM.com:

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

‘They Paved Paradise & Put Up a NextGen Route’

A pivotal song in the early environmental movement is Big Yellow Taxi, by Joni Mitchell.

Fresh in 1970, and still just as brilliant 46-yrs later. Turns out, the tune lends itself well to lyrics that point to the many failures of NextGen.
20150528.. Big NextGen Noise (lyrics)

Thank you, Joni Mitchell, for your great work and your Heart of Gold!

44-Years and Counting: FAA’s Gross Failure of the ‘Noise Control Act of 1972’

Check out the recent thought-provoking Posts by attorney Stephen Taber, blogged at Aviation and Airport Development News. Mr. Taber is a former FAA attorney who has been blogging since at least 2007. A closer look at his blog suggests he is a rare combination: an aviation lawyer who actually cares! Is it possible, that he cares about things that really matter these days …

  1. …the protection of the environment, and…
  2. …the empowerment of people so they are meaningfully engaged in making airport decisions?

I hope so. And, thanks for your web work, Mr. Taber!

(click on image to view latest Posts at 'Aviation & Airport Development News')

(click on image to view latest Posts at ‘Aviation & Airport Development News’)

Taber Law Group has been added as an aiREFORM link, in the category ‘Links – Environment/Aviation’. See the link list on the left margin of aiREFORM webpages.

La Guardia Airport: Better to Close It?

Wall Street Journal printed an article slanted toward generating public support for a multi-billion dollar redevelopment of the La Guardia Airport [KLGA] terminal by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. A scrollable PDF copy is posted below, but first here are the musings of a retired airline pilot, very familiar with this airport, and also familiar with the huge airport noise impacts that are not even mentioned in Scott McCartney’s WSJ article:

“Probably the truest statement in the entire article is the one where it states that things are going to get worse before better. What the PA and the city should do is find another airport location, let people endure LGA the way it is during that process and then close LGA down, completely. Of course the problem with doing that is finding another location. The first that comes into my mind is Floyd Bennett field, but that is very close to JFK. Or, I don’t know how large Riker’s Island is, but there has been talk of closing that down (maybe this is the infamous “trial balloon being floated?).

Another problem that isn’t even mentioned is that LGA is rapidly sinking, probably because it was originally built on a garbage dump. I vividly recall when I flew out of there walking (when you could do that) from the airline hangar (the Delta, American Shuttle terminal now), to the main terminal and noticing how much lower the curbs and tarmac were alongside the hangars. It was obvious back then that the entire airport was slowly sinking. And, none of that is even mentioned in anything I have read about “fixing” the airport. What is going to happen to this “upgrade” to resolve that potentially-huge problem? Then, of course, there is no mention of bringing mass transit in the form of a subway line to LGA. Every major airport that I have been to in Europe has a subway line that takes you directly to and from the airport with ease. This is probably due to the taxicab industry lobbying against it in NYC.

A lot of this story seems to me to be “pie in the sky,” wishful thinking on the part of the PA and their buddies that are going to be doing the work there. Where were the PA when needed repairs were never made? Why were they never made? Those pertinent questions have all been conveniently overlooked, with no truthful answers forthcoming. All they do is keep their grubby hands in residents’ pockets with their ridiculously high tolls on bridges and tunnels.

Where does all their money go? These are questions that the governors of NY and NJ should be asking, but aren’t. Why not?”

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

There is also the issue of La Guardia’s horrible access. This airport is surrounded by dense urban residential development, and real estate is expensive and limited. Unbelievably, most people from places like Manhattan have to further congest the crowded streets with a cab-ride to/from the airport. An obvious fix would be to add a rail link, a proposal that has been pushed for decades, but with no real forward progress. And, too, the transit line it would connect to, the No. 7 line, is already maxed out.

NYC is a great city and should be proudly shared with the world as a beacon of the American exceptionalism so many politicians often cite during their campaigns. The many failures at La Guardia – by the FAA that refuses to manage capacity, and the local officials and labor unions that impede problem-solving – are instead a grand American embarrassment. This area is sclerotic with too much overdevelopment driven by pols who trade building permits for kickbacks (aka campaign and PAC donations). The status quo is broken.

There is a clear need to look into all the possibilities for KLGA before this renovation gets underway. One of the most ‘exceptional’ possibilities is to actually downscale the airport, even close it entirely. We all know that, once the project starts, the argument will become that they don’t want to waste the money that has already been spent. For everyone’s benefit, we need a long-term, viable solution – especially to provide relief for noise-impacted residents – and that solution will likely include:

  • use of technologies to carefully minimize noise and other adverse impacts
  • for both noise reduction and to ensure KLGA does not create delays that cascade through  the NAS, impose a substantial reduction of hourly operations, to a strict limit of perhaps 20-30 departures per hour.
  • impose schedule management methodologies that ensure this critically located airport is used solely to serve passengers into and out of New York City, and ensures the airlines are NOT using KLGA as a hub for the profitable sorting of through-passengers.
  • manage airline use of the NYC-area airports using a larger ‘system-view’ that disperses impacts, ensuring that no single communities are excessively impacted with noise and other aviation pollutants.

See also:
  • 3/31/2016Press Release: Meng Urges Key Congressional Committee to Do Everything in Its Power to Combat Airplane Noise over Queens
  • 5/24/2015‘A Matter of Trust’
  • 5/8/2015‘Don’t Rehab La Guardia Airport. Close It.’
  • 8/16/2014 ‘Florida Airports are Particularly Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise’ … and given the low elevation at KLGA, money invested will soon be wasted due to global warming and polar ice melting. This airport did flood during Hurricane Sandy.
  • September 2012‘An Aerial View of Flushing While on the Whitestone Climb’
  • 4/29/2004La Guardia Slot Allocation – A Clock-Proxy Auction Approach
  • April 2001‘La Guardia Airport: Can the Airport and the Community Coexist?’

[QUOTE]: A Fluff Interview of American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker

QUOTE

“…The entire interview is one huge lie….”

– 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 REALLY wanted 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.

Debunking the A4A Op/Ed Letter at TimesLedger

Airlines for America is the largest lobbyist for U.S. airlines – and the main force behind years of coordinated spin seeking to dupe Congress and the Public. With added intensity these past few years, Airlines for America has been pressing to both privatize ATC and waste billions to ‘transform ATC’ by supposedly adding satellite-based NextGen technologies (while ignoring the fact these technologies are already widely used). Airlines for America is also known as ‘A4A’, and formerly known as the trade group, ‘Air Transport Association (ATA)’.

Doubtless, with possible rare exceptions, the people who work at Airlines for America are all good people:  hard-working, protective of their families, civic-minded and loyal to our nation, and careful to optimize quality-of-life in their home communities. And, when they don their most expensive outfits, they are Washington DC lobbyists.

Here is a picture of three of A4A’s lobbyists: Rubino, Calio, and Pinkerton:

(click on image to view bios for all A4A executives, at airlines.org)

(click on image to view bios for all A4A executives, at airlines.org)

The online bio for CEO Nick Calio notes his professional background. He co-founded a DC law firm, worked for Citigroup, and also worked within the presidential administrations of both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. All that before he became A4A’s CEO, in early 2011. The Wikipedia entry for A4A notes that “…Calio was hired after the Republicans made big gains in the 2010 midterm elections….”

One of the A4A VP’s has been reported to be dating House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, of Pennsylvania. That would be Shelley Rubino, and her official title is ‘VP, Global Government Affairs‘ (perhaps this is more acceptable than ‘VP of government relations‘?). For what it is worth, Mr. Shuster has offered assurances that his relationship with this A4A VP does not have any bearing on his tenacious advocacy of privatizing ATC and accelerating NextGen.

Another A4A executive is Sharon Pinkerton, Senior Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Policy. It appears that Sharon’s in-basket receives occasional directives to produce public relations material. One recent result was a letter with Sharon’s name, published in the TimesLedger, an old newspaper serving the borough of Queens, New York. Queens is highly significant here, because this is a densely populated area impacted by not just one but TWO major U.S. airports – both Kennedy and LaGuardia. As heavily covered in the news, Queens is one of those places where FAA’s NextGen implementation is destroying quality-of-life, and creating noise-ghettoes out of historic neighborhoods. Oh, and just like those executives at A4A, the residents of these impacted Queens neighborhoods consist largely of good people: hard-working, protective of their families, civic-minded and loyal to our nation, and careful to optimize quality-of-life in their home communities. And, all the more to their credit, very few of the Queens residents are lobbyists.

So, for your reading pleasure, here is a copy of the A4A letter, as published in the March 3rd edition of TimesLedger. Highlights and footnotes have been added, to rebut the misinformation being pushed by A4A. Following the letter is a compilation of graphics from the online flight-tracking website, FlightAware. This compilation shows all factual data (routes, times, speeds, etc.) needed to ascertain the efficiency of all 29 commercial airline flights, from LaGuardia to Reagan National, as flown on March 3rd, the day of the TimesLedger Op/Ed by A4A.

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

A key line within the A4A letter says: “…twenty years ago, a flight from LaGuardia to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport took less than an hour. Today the same flight takes 90 minutes, as airlines have to account for ATC delays.” This is not a casual slip, though, as the letter reinforces the delay concept by referring to ‘our Nation’s antiquated air traffic control system’ and citing ‘WWII-era radar technology’.

The facts prove the A4A line is totally false. Instead, the real data shows:

  1. On Thursday, March 3, 2016, there were 29 airline departures from LaGuardia to Reagan National.
  2. This route segment (KLGA-KDCA) is a duopoly, between two airlines pretending to compete, each offering hourly flights on the top of the hour, from 6AM until 8PM. American offers 15 daily flights, and Delta offers 14 daily flights.
  3. American schedules their flights at 84-minutes long, but the flights averaged 50-minutes; this means that, while airborne and under ATC control (using the present blend of radar and satellite technologies), each American flight ‘made up’ an average 34-minutes against their advertised schedule.
  4. Delta schedules their flights at 86-minutes long, but the flights averaged 49-minutes; this means that, while airborne and under ATC control (using the present blend of radar and satellite technologies), each Delta flight ‘made up’ an average 37-minutes against their advertised schedule. Also, Delta does not actually fly these flights; instead, they use a contract regional feeder, Shuttle America, a very common practice (used by United and Delta as well, and at nearly every major U.S. airline hub).
  5. In the A4A letter, it was claimed that “…twenty years ago, a flight from LaGuardia to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport took less than an hour….” Well, the same is true today: 50-minutes is comfortably under an hour.
  6. Looking closely at the screen-captured routes, it is clear they are VERY direct. In fact, the only significant route adjustments are all related to fitting the flight into the arrival sequence at Reagan National, and thus has NOTHING to do with LaGuardia. [NOTE: the primary route adjustments are a slight delay vector frequently applied near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, and the extension of the downwind leg (those sometimes-long U-shapes prior to landing), to accomplish spacing in the landing sequence]
  7. Both airlines are using small commuter-sized aircraft on essentially all flights: 69-seats for Delta (using the E175), and 100-seats for American (using the E190). Only American’s first flight of the day has higher capacity: a 128-seat Airbus 319 … which makes sense, since lots of people fly to DC to see their dealer elected representative.
  8. The small aircraft size points to an interesting possibility: if FAA and the airlines wanted to reduce delays and noise impacts, they could agree to fewer LGA-DCA trips per day, using larger aircraft (130-seat to 160-seats or more) that have essentially identical flight profiles (thus no greater noise impact per flight).
  9. Chances are high this same reduction strategy would apply on other route segments to major hubs (O’Hare, Atlanta, Charlotte, DFW and Boston, for example). That is to say, if use of many small planes was disincentivized but use of fewer large planes was incentivized, between LaGuardia and other hubs, we could easily reduce the number of flights using LaGuardia; huge improvements could be realized – and virtually overnight – in both local noise impacts and national airspace system delays.

About this data compilation:

The PDF below is a compilation of screen captures, showing all 29 airline flights from LaGuardia to Reagan National, on March 3, 2016. For each screen capture, the map on the left side clearly shows New Jersey and adjoining states, depicting shores, highways, etc. Notice how the flights consistently pass over the same locations, one flight after another.

On the right side of each screen capture is a datablock about each flight. It shows flight number, scheduled times, actual times, airspeed, filed altitude, aircraft type, and route of flight. Be sure to pop-out the graphic, so you can read the finer details. Pay attention to the actual departure times, actual arrival times, and compare them with the ‘official’ times scheduled by the airlines.

One important thought to keep in mind while studying these flights: controllers are like regular people, in that they try to do as little as possible. They try to keep things simple and easy. So, if other air traffic was not an issue, every one of these 29 flights would have been cleared to fly a beeline from off the departure runway to land on the arrival runway. Every variation from a direct route is solely to adjust the flight, to keep it out of conflict and to finesse it into a safe arrival flow. A tiny tweak, turning the flight to the left or right, while passing north of Baltimore, is generally all that is needed to add a minute of delay to the overall flight, enabling a smooth arrival flow. Alternatively, a speed adjustment ordered by ATC can accomplish the same end result. Look closely at the thin green line and you can see these route adjustments.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded. You can also click on the pop-out feature (dwell over the upper right corner and it will appear) and the magnifier to view the finer details of the maps and data/times for the 29 flights.

The flight data, as well as the maps, shows all 29 commercial flights from LaGuardia to Reagan National on March 3rd. These facts, when juxtaposed with the A4A letter, present a compelling case: A4A is in the business of making money by lobbying, and as with all examples of lobbying today, their methods sadly include the manipulation of facts and perceptions. In wartime, their methods would be called propaganda. In peacetime, too, A4A’s methods are destructive. Not just to local quality of life, but also to the larger issue: functional and effective democratic process, with empowered citizens, knowledgeable and responsibly engaged.

So, A4A, if you are sincerely committed to hearing concerns and finding solutions, please cease your attack on our ears, our homes, and our democracy. Start serving the nation, not just your ‘lobby base’.

The Incredible Shrinking NAS (…that FAA & the Av-Gov Complex Don’t Talk About)

A new year is upon us and it is clear that forces in Washington, DC are carefully applying pressure. The current deadline for renewing FAA’s budget authorization is in March. So, the lobbyists, many of whom receive FAA paychecks every two weeks, are coordinating their daily efforts, with two goals in clear focus:

  1. they hope to aid the airlines in achieving even higher profits by accelerating and expanding their ongoing NextGen implementation debacle; and,
  2. they hope to further insulate FAA – and the industry – from accountability.

They are aiming to accomplish these two goals by getting elected officials to remove ATC from FAA (creating a sort-of privatized entity run largely by the so-called ‘stakeholders’), and by getting Congressional authorization to spend more on NextGen. The lies and misstatements used to justify their targets are many and frequent … and increasingly egregious. For example, out of one side of the mouth, they boast how incredibly safe the U.S. commercial aviation system is; then, out of the other side of the same mouth, the cry about how absolutely critical it is that we invest billions in Public money to ‘modernize’ the ATC system.

As another example, the NextGen-&-Privatization ‘collaborators’ are repeatedly shouting a false claim that our National Airspace System (NAS) is limited by serious ‘capacity issues’. Here are four snippets from online articles:20160109scp.. four samples of propaganda on Capacity need for NextGen

These snippets hammer home the idea we are maxing out, needing to extend capacity. But, the data shows a very different reality: that air traffic operations peaked in the late 1990s and have since declined substantially. Frankly, the ONE REAL capacity issue impacting the system of U.S. airports is that FAA refuses to impose rational capacity management controls. Instead, FAA sits back and lets the airlines routinely over-schedule at even the most capacity-sensitive airports. FAA does this because airlines want to maximize profits, and this captured agency does everything it can to not impede that airline objective. And the controllers union (NATCA) goes along with this charade, because the flight proceduralization being imposed via NextGen means they do much less real work while continuing to collect some of the highest paychecks in all of Federal civil service.

So, here is some hard data…

The PDF file below was compiled using FAA’s own data from their ATADS/OPSNET webpage. Annual totals for each year from 1990 through 2014 were compiled, for all 516 airports that submitted data into the 2014 ATADS database. The ‘Peak Year’ was identified for each airport. Data for both the Peak Year and Calendar Year 2014 was then refined into the presentation, and statistics were added to show key change parameters: changes in total annual operations, as well as itinerant air carrier (ITIN-AC) and itinerant air taxi (ITIN-AT) operations. (NOTE: this pair of parameters accurately reflects passenger flights, and also reflects how the airlines changed their mix of aircraft sizes between the larger AC fleet and the smaller AT fleet). Additional parameters include local operations (primarily flight training), and VFR operations (primarily general aviation). Some color-coding has been added, to aid in identifying trends (mostly downward) and airport types (three types stand out: primarily commercial air passenger airports, vs. primarily instructional airports, vs. primarily GA airports).

One of the most shocking realities illuminated by this 64-page spreadsheet is how far downward the aviation industry has declined, in terms of the need for ATC services. Specifically, of the 504 airports in this PDF file for which ATADS data shows a ‘change’ in annual operations (i.e., takeoffs and landings), the trend is overwhelming downward:

  • the average 2014 traffic for all 504 airports is 45% below Peak Year.
  • even the strongest performers, the current top-ten airports in terms of daily traffic counts, had declines in 2014 that measured 12% below Peak Year.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the top 30 airports (an accurate indicator of traffic demands by the commercial passenger aviation sector) is 21% below Peak Year.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the top 100 airports (the busiest 3% of airports on FAA’s list of 3,300+ NPIAS airports) is 31% below Peak Year. Please note, this list of the top 100 airports is a very accurate indicator of traffic demands by the entire aviation system, as these airports produce nearly all commercial passenger flights and enplanements.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the top half of the 504 airports is 38% below Peak Year.
  • the average 2014 traffic for the bottom half of the 504 airports is 52% below Peak Year.
This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Not only is there no pressing need for NextGen to alleviate capacity issues, but, in fact, the data shows an industry in a steep and prolonged decline. Put it this way: if the U.S. commercial aviation sector was to make a truthful presentation seeking venture capital, they would have zero success, because the charts show steady decline and no reliable growth. Given other major trends (downsizing of the U.S. middle class, growing wealth inequality, and fossil-fuel-related Climate Change impacts, for example) it appears increasingly improbable that commercial passenger aviation will change into a ‘growth’ industry.