More Examples of ‘Enroute Delays’ for KSEA Arrivals

Three months ago, five arrivals to Seattle were analyzed in A Set of KSEA Arrivals Helps to Expose FAA’s NextGen Fraud. In the time since, on repeat occasions, readers have submitted other examples of more arrivals for which ATC issued substantial en route delays, sometimes with multiple loops. For example, check out the extensive work by ATC to sequence the December 7, 2015 arrival of ASA124 from Fairbanks, as shown in this FlightAware satview:

ATC issued multiple delays, including a huge loop east of Dungeness Spit, then a turn to Alki Point only to be turned downwind and extended on the downwind all the way back to Whidbey Island.

KSEA is the tiny orange text in the bottom-right corner. ATC issued multiple delays to ASA124, including a huge loop east of Dungeness Spit, then a turn to Alki Point only to be turned downwind and extended on the downwind all the way back to Whidbey Island. The same flight on Saturday 1/16/2016 was issued no delays, during a more moderate arrival flow. Click on the link to study all recent ASA124 arrivals.

Even with a new year, the pattern of en route delays to the airport at SeaTac [KSEA] continues. A particularly galling aspect of this is that both FAA and the management at this airport have expended a huge effort promoting these so-called ‘NextGen improvements’, even going so far as to over-use a ‘Greener Skies’ eco-moniker. To help reveal this propaganda, an analysis was recently done, looking closely at 25 arrivals during a half-hour-long push on the late evening of Thursday, January 14, 2016. Here is a table listing the flights, with departure airport, times, color-coded delay amounts, and time gained/lost en route:KSEA.20160114.. Data on delays related to 2120-2131 Arrival pushA more in-depth analysis was prepared for the first ten in this series of arrivals (those landing between 9:20pm and 9:31pm). A distinct pattern is apparent, revealing the following facts for how ATC is routinely issuing en route delays (which consistently cancel all NextGen time-savings, thus negating all ‘potential benefits’ being oversold to the Public and to Congress):

  1. The bulk of each route of flight is extremely direct, for both transcontinental and regional flights.
  2. During the last hour of each flight, ATC consistently delays the flight, typically with vectors or one or more ‘loops’. Delay durations of 10- or 20-minutes are common. The most common location for these delays is in the sectors at the Center/TRACON boundary.
  3. Even with these en route delays, the arriving flights are routinely subjected to additional delays, such as extended downwind legs stuck in low level flight.
  4. For each flight, any time-savings gained by early turns after takeoff is more than lost if and when ATC issues delay instructions

For the record, airlines have flown these optimized direct routes for decades, using technologies deployed more than three decades prior to FAA’s first use of the term ‘NextGen’. In other words, the ‘benefits’ FAA and others are claiming when they seek Congressional funding are a bald-faced lie, just selling again benefits that already exist.

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FAA’s NextGen Fraud

The SeaTac airport has a triple-parallel runway configuration, oriented north-south. Thus, arrivals to KSEA will land in a NORTH FLOW or a SOUTH FLOW, depending on winds.

Like most major U.S. airports, the Seattle area has winds that are reliably consistent and, most of the time, changes are accurately predictable. This is important, as wind reliability means airspace can be designed to flow arrivals to strategically located ‘gates’ that efficiently feed arrivals into a manageable final flow.

If FAA chose to use NextGen technologies optimally, the airspace would be designed to minimize distance flown while also ensuring minimal noise and air pollution impacts, particularly on noise-sensitive areas in the airport vicinity. Airspace would also be designed so as to keep arriving flights as high as possible, and as late as possible… to minimize noise and air pollution impacts. Unfortunately, FAA is not using NextGen to accomplish these improvements: instead, FAA is using NextGen as a ‘shortcut’ to eliminate pre-existing noise-abatement procedures.

In short, NextGen is a fraud being foisted on both the People and the Congress. The alleged ‘benefits’ have been grossly oversold, and the very real impacts are routinely ignored by an agency captured in service to the industry.