Happening this Week: the Aviation Noise & Emissions Symposium

This week, aiREFORM is attending a series of presentations about aviation impacts, at the 2021 Aviation Noise & Emissions Symposium. In recent years, the annual symposium sponsored by UC Davis has been held in southern California and Florida, in late winter. This year, due to the pandemic, it was transitioned into an online symposium, using the Pheedloop virtual event platform. Organizers did a great thing: they opened registration to activists everywhere, to participate at a reasonable $25 price. As a consequence, many of the U.S. aviation impact activists are participating.

In the first two days we’ve heard four presentations. While some presenters have seemed to lack an ability to see outside the culture that delivers their industry-sourced paycheck, a few have offered great comments. Steve Alterman and Nick Miller (retired principal from HMMH) come to mind.

Those activists who did not register can still benefit. Check out the ANES-UCD website and, under the ‘About’ menu bar, open up the webpages for the 2019 and 2020 Symposia; you can then view or even download numerous PDFs with material used in the earlier events. And, the same should be posted soon after this year’s event is finished.

Some Context on ‘Noise & Emissions’

It is not clear from a cursory online investigation precisely when and how UC Davis began this series of events (we hope to add those details in the near future). But, research does show that ‘Noise & Emissions’ are at the thematic heart of what FAA was working with, as NextGen evolved nearly twenty years ago.

It starts in December 2003. That’s when Congress passed Public Law 108-176, the Vision 100–Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act. At Section 321, FAA was directed to work with NASA and others to “…conduct a study of ways to reduce aircraft noise and emissions and to increase aircraft fuel efficiency.” Noise and Emissions.

The Reauthorization included language ordering a report back to Congress, for delivery within a year. That report, authored by Ian Waitz et al at MIT, was delivered in December 2004, and at three points (p.7, p.31, and p.42) it identifies the name for the new program: Next Generation Air Transportation System, aka NGATS. It was early 2006 when FAA Administrator Marion Blakey started using the ‘NextGen’ brandname, in FAA’s 2005 Annual Performance Report.

Hard to believe, nearly 18-years later, that FAA was supposed to do good, environmentally, with the NextGen implementation. Instead, we have a program serving only industry, destroying decades-old noise abatement procedures, and imposing hugely impactful concentrated computer-flown tracks over new noise-ghettos below. Bad for community, bad for health, but good for industry, so FAA ensures it flies.

In a nutshell, NextGen is not about ‘noise and emissions’ as Congress ordered, nor is it about ‘safety or efficiency’; it is about automation, replacing human controls (pilots and controllers) with computer controls, all to accommodate heavier hub scheduling (and slightly tweaked profit margins) by the few remaining U.S. airlines. Airlines that typically operate near-monopolies at most of the U.S. commercial service airports.

For a deeper dive into how NextGen evolved and why it is failing these environmental goals, download this 2017 aiREFORM presentation (42 slide PDF, 4Mb), delivered at a Quiet Skies Puget Sound forum.