NextGen is the FAA’s Carte Blanche to Wreak Havoc on the Public’s Ears and Serenity

Here’s an archived copy of an excellent article, written by Barbara Castleton, one of many NextGen victims in the Seattle area. She does an excellent job portraying how FAA and industry do not care at all about the health impacts (and diminished quality of life) caused by NextGen. A few aiREFORM footnotes have been added to this archived copy, to expand on some technical aspects.

Click here to view the source article at Medium.com.

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

Did This Letter Motivate Huerta’s Response to Governor Hogan?

Activists in Maryland shared a copy of this letter, another excellent effort by their Governor, Larry Hogan.

(click on image to view archived copy of full letter)

Essentially, the Governor sent a letter on May 11, pressing FAA to take actions to reduce impacts on constituents under flight paths for both Reagan National [KDCA] and Baltimore-Washington [KBWI]. Nearly three months after sending his letter to Michael Huerta, and having gotten no reply, Governor Hogan followed up with a letter to the Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao. Here’s an excerpt:FAA’s reply letter, dated 8/3/2017, is here. That is, if you can even call it a reply.

FAA has a shameful record of not just blowing off everyone – even Governors! – but also engaging in obfuscation to frustrate activists. This pattern of failure needs to end.

President Trump: You Need to Fire Michael Huerta

Whatever happened to draining the swamp? Is there any agency more dysfunctional, more corrupt and more locked into serving industry cronies than the FAA, the faux-regulator headed by Administrator Huerta?

Here’s the latest example of how out of control this agency has become, and how badly Mr. Huerta fails at leading long overdue change. Back in early May, the Governor of Maryland wrote an excellent letter (view a copy here), pressing FAA to bring relief to thousands losing sleep and health under NextGen routes. It took nearly three months for Mr. Huerta to finally send a response letter. The long delay was not necessary to do any difficult analysis or produce any changes. No, nothing was analyzed, and nothing was changed; the long delay was just to waste time. In fact, Huerta’s letter was chock full of platitudes and unsupported sales pitches. Here’s a PDF copy of the entire letter, showing portions with footnoted analysis added by aiREFORM:

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

Enough is enough. Huerta’s belated reply letter is garbage: a classic example of what we would expect from an agency head who views the airlines as his ‘customers’, not the regulatory subject for the rigorous regulations FAA fails to write and fails to apply. Through the botched NextGen implementation, Mr. Huerta’s agency has also become a case study in ‘runaway captured regulators’. FAA is a perfect target for sweeping reforms. If President Trump wants to do good while throwing fire and fury, he should direct his energies domestically. Cleaning up FAA can set the example for how all federal agencies need to be trimmed back to a focused mission and restrained from federal over-reach, while becoming massively transparent and accountable.

It’s an easy call: fire Michael Huerta, and make FAA serve the people, first.

NextGen: “A Virtual Highway, and the Traffic Never Stops”

A good opinion piece related to NextGen impacts (and ongoing FAA failures) near the Baltimore-Washington Airport [KBWI]. This airport serves as the hub for Southwest, in the DC area (NOTE: the two other major airports serving the DC area are Dulles [KIAD] and Reagan National [KDCA]; United hubs at KIAD, and American dominates at KDCA]. There is some misinformation in the Op/Ed, as happens in a world run by money and set on crafting and pitching propaganda, but they also make some great points.

Here is an archived copy, with aiREFORM footnotes added:

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

Another community up in arms against NextGen: Linthicum, MD

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(click on image to view source tweet)

As is the pattern everywhere, FAA’s NextGen implementation throws away the balance that previously existed between airport expansion and local quality of life. Near Baltimore [KBWI], and with FAA’s help, airline profits trump sleep and health. Click here to view an archived copy of this news article.

(kudos to Elaine Miller, at PlaneSense4LI, for tweeting this link!)


UPDATE, 7/17/2017: — The FAA/NextGen impacts around KBWI were brought up during a radio call-in show with Governor Hogan, who said: “This thing was a terrible decision in my opinion by the FAA, without really getting the proper input from the state and local authorities….” Click here for the article, or here for the 4-minute audio.

FAA Forms Workgroups to solve their ‘People Problems’

FAA has a problem, and like any over-matured and sclerotic agency, they have their solutions. Not clean solutions that actually FIX THE PROBLEM, but dirty solutions to serve the agency/industry interests while disempowering people.

FAA’s failing NextGen implementations are destroying long-established residential communities across the nation. People are standing up, speaking louder and louder, and connecting and organizing. So, how does FAA propose to deal with this problem?

Form workgroups.

Just to be clear, the ‘problem’ FAA wants to ‘deal with’ is not the NextGen failures but the PEOPLE who are organizing. If their message gains traction, the People might actually get a few in Congress off their butts, demanding (and I mean REALLY DEMANDING!) that FAA fix this mess. The right steps are obvious:

  • demand Huerta step down (he has disserved the larger Public under two administrations, and is clearly just an industry hack);
  • revert the problematic NextGen implementations to pre-NextGen routes;
  • legislate a robust local democratic voice so that local citizens are able to decide what curfews and operational restrictions are needed to best serve their local community (i.e., the airport should be THEIR LOCAL AIRPORT, not a fortress for a major airline);
  • legislate reforms that disincentivize hubbing, so the airlines will instead offer more direct routes and a better/fairer distribution of airport impacts, equitably using hundreds and thousands of under-utilized airports instead of just a dozen evolving superHubs.

Why does FAA like to form workgroups? Simply because they are ‘manageable’. Each workgroup first creates an illusion of citizen involvement. But, the membership consistently includes industry ‘stakeholders’, who dutifully steer the work process – and infuse delays when the work product is going in the wrong direction. Plus, even the most ardent and effective aviation impact activists are human, thus susceptible to feeling a lot more accepting of the impacts because they are now an elite citizen representative.

Here’s an example of a new workgroup related to Baltimore [KBWI]. They appear to be very well focused on fixing the problems, but are running into an intransigent FAA. The Facebook group, Save Milton Skies, shared a link to this article, which is archived below. Rebuttal comments have been added by aiREFORM. It is a good article, overall, though it again demonstrates how FAA’s salespitch elements are readily incorporated into the final news article.

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

See also:

Maryland Governor’s Great Letter Demands FAA Revert to Ease NextGen Impacts

This is a great letter. It precisely defines the NextGen problems, points out FAA’s casual indifference that only delays while sustaining these impacts, and all but demands that FAA revert to pre-NextGen procedures until the problems are corrected. The Governor and his Chief of Staff should be proud to post this, as it shows a proper focus, serving real people ahead of corporations.

(click on image to view source and video at Baltimore Sun)

The only thing that will improve this letter is the follow through. I.e., at some point, when FAA continues to fail, requests must become demands. Concern must morph into outrage. Not just in Maryland, but everywhere, and for every instance of FAA impacts upon local communities: from Boston to San Diego, and at places like Santa Monica and Longmont, too.

If our leaders continue their general aversion to showing outrage and demanding reform, we will only continue to slide deeper into the new realm: a corporatocracy that produces profits, narrowly enjoyed by an elite few, while growing negative impacts – the diminishment of health and loss of quality of life – are born by a wide swath of citizens.

Thank you, Governor Hogan, for recognizing this is unacceptable, and demanding FAA reform NextGen.

NextGen Impacts, Reported in Baltimore Sun Article

“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:

  1. 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;
  2. to justify these changes, FAA exaggerates benefits while ignoring not only the local community impacts but also ignoring the increased fuel consumption and CO2 pollution due to delay turns commonly imposed during the enroute phase of the flights;
  3. more and more people lose sleep, and lose the calming benefit of being able to peacefully enjoy their backyard;
  4. residents deal with the noise the only way they can… organizing locally, and submitting noise complaints;
  5. in short time, residents realize their noise complaints are being ignored by the airport authority;
  6. when residents air their concerns with elected officials, those officials try to appeal to FAA to correct the problems, but FAA ignores them, and frequently lies in the response letters;
  7. when reporters get involved, no matter how hard they work to fully cover the story, FAA refuses to cooperate, and does not offer an official to answer questions.

Click here to view an archived PDF copy of the online article (9/10/2016, by Colin Campbell at The Baltimore Sun).

NextGen Impacting Baltimore … and Why Congress Is Also Failing

The video about NextGen impacts recently posted by activists south of San Francisco is resonating far away, even near Baltimore, Maryland. Below is text from an email sent by a Maryland homeowner who has experienced the same noise and pollutant intensification due to NextGen route concentration:

I came across your website and first want to thank you for creating it. At the moment I’m feeling completely powerless in my current quest to do something about the effects of NextGen in my small town in Maryland.

The NextGen program was implemented at BWI last fall, and since then we have seen a ridiculous increase in air traffic over our neighborhood. There are days when it is virtually constant. We bought our house in this neighborhood last summer before we knew anything about NextGen. We had a few planes here and there, but they were at higher altitudes and not so bothersome. People here are used to some noise, as we are about 13 miles from BWI. But I, like you, have kids that I would like to protect. I’d like them to be able to swim in our pool without being worried that they are constantly breathing in particle pollution. The NextGen noise corridor also goes directly over several of our schools, our sports fields, and many neighborhoods from Annapolis and all the way north to the airport. I just feel like we never get a break from the planes, no matter where we go.

Here is the FAA letter I received. Interestingly enough, the letter says that there were environmental studies done for our area? But it’s my understanding that NextGen was exempted from EA. Also, their statements about noise and air pollution contradicts everything I’m reading, and more importantly, what I’m witnessing in my own neighborhood. It’s beyond frustrating.

Frankly, receiving yet another email like this further reinforces the obvious reality: FAA is a captured agency, and our Congress is essentially out to lunch. In the context of the current election debates, it is quite clear that our Congress has become derelict and is no longer compelling agency accountability.

How can we explain this? Decades ago, Congress passed legislation that taxed system users – especially airline passengers and people sending packages by air – to generate billions each year, for redistribution in ‘airport development’. We now have thousands of airports that have been developed, redeveloped, and developed again, all at public expense. Compared to other transportation infrastructure, airports are overdeveloped … and there is an awful lot of airport infrastructure that is severely underutilized (check out any major airport in Ohio, for example, such as [KCVG], with a triple parallel runway but abandoned by Delta, so today’s ops are down 75% from peak!). What’s more, the majority of today’s aviation impacts are being caused by airport development that would not happen if we did not continue to collect and use these public funds.

So, why does this problem continue? Well, it distills down to money. Our elected officials greatly enhance their chances for reelection if they bring home airport grant monies and smile in front of oversized checks. They have become severely addicted to money; this means that they just cannot say no to federal grants. Democrat and Republican members alike thus become subject to the proverb: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

FAA serves out the money, so while the voice in front of the camera may sound critical, the heart behind the voice always votes what FAA wants. In other words, the MAIN BENEFICIARIES of the current system are the agency (FAA) and the elected officials (Congress), none of whom are held accountable, yet all of whom can ‘look busy’ while issuing grant monies and waddling ineffectively while failing to fix the problems. Yup, create a problem then sustain the problem so you will always look busy!

Think about it for a minute and you can actually see: it behooves Congress to have FAA screwing up regularly, as this predictable failure ‘churns’ work, creating endless opportunities for Congress to ‘look’ busy. And it then circles back around: when an elected official browbeats FAA, FAA then looks busy, too, responding to the criticism while failing to resolve problems created by FAA itself! And ALWAYS, within their superficial responses (such as FAA’s response letter, signed by Diane Crean for Carmine Gallo), FAA will repeat the same slick phrases and empty assertions that prop up the many layers of propaganda and misinformation. What a racket!!

Airport Weather Observations (METARs) for Winter Storm Jonas

20160124cpy.. Winter Storm Jonas snow depth map (WeatherChannel)A storm for the record books, Jonas is also understood to be an indication of storms to come. And, it is not a stretch to understand the cause and effect – the link between these extreme weather events and our energy consumption habits:

  • excessive fossil fuel consumption, causes…
    • …excessive greenhouse gas accumulation, causes…
      • …geologically rapid and substantial temperature increases, causes…
        •  …a more energized weather system, with more heat energy and larger amounts of water vapor, causes…
          • …more violently-interacting air masses (hence, intensified weather).

So, in the course of just a few human generations, we are literally destroying the habitability of our waters and our air. And aviation is very much at the heart of this problem. Not only is aviation arguably the poster-child of excessive and arbitrary energy consumption, but this industry also relies heavily on fossil fuel consumption (and it does us no real benefit to take food crops out of production to grow biofuels for aviation!). Thus, our best political leaders (if we have any?!) will take note: aviation is perhaps the most logical first target within the transportation sector, for meaningful action to address our growing problem of excessive atmospheric CO2.

Weather & Aviation

Aviation safety has always depended on accurate and detailed weather predictions and observations. The international system for recording weather observations is METAR. METAR observations are recorded at least once per hour at most U.S. airports, and more frequently when conditions are changing or marginal. Although the intricate coding may feel a bit ‘geeky’, it is not difficult to learn to read METARs; see Reference Materials for Decoding METARs.

July 22, 2013: Dangerous crosswinds and tailwinds contributed to this high-speed landing and nose gear collapse for a Southwest KLGA arrival.

METARs are also an excellent resource to use, to help predict the flow configurations and thus the likely impacts on your home or community, as caused by your local airport. ATC constantly refers to METARs to make runway change decisions. In most cases, ATC selects a runway configuration that is aligned into the wind, to maximize safety. At some of the most congested airports though (LGA and JFK come to mind), FAA’s failure to stop excessive airline scheduling has created barriers to runway changes, and has thus created unsafe landing conditions. These conditions have contributed to incidents, sometimes with injuries or worse. One example: the July 22, 2013 crash of Southwest Flight #345 while landing at La Guardia.

DIY: Viewing METARs Online

Most of the larger snow-impacted airports include snowfall and accumulated snow depth in their METAR observations. The METAR observations, recorded 3-times per hour during most of this weather event, offer a fascinating and precise insight into the weather severity.

Here is a summary of snowfall totals and snow history for the ten largest commercial service airports, listed from north to south. For each airport, three blue links include the aiREFORM airport page, the current METAR (showing the last 168 observations), and the NOAA forecast:

[KBOS] — Boston-Logan Airport
Snowfall first reported at 1:54pm Saturday, ended 11-hours later at 12:04am Sunday. Snow Depth not recorded. Peak winds 35 gusting to 45.METARForecast
[KPVD] — Providence Airport
Snowfall first reported at 12:30pm Saturday, ended 10-hours later at 10:16pm Saturday. Snow Depth not recorded. Peak winds 29 gusting to 38.METARForecast
[KISP] — Long Island / Islip Airport
Snowfall first reported at 11:56pm Friday, ended 29-hours later at 4:56am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 23-inches. Peak winds 36 gusting to 52.METARForecast
[KLGA] — LaGuardia Airport
Snowfall first reported at 10:30pm Friday, ended 28-hours later at 2:45am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 28-inches. Peak winds 32 gusting to 48.METARForecast
[KJFK] — JFK Airport
Snowfall first reported at 9:49pm Friday, ended 27-hours later at 2:51am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 30-inches. Peak winds 33 gusting to 46.METARForecast
[KEWR] — Newark Airport
Snowfall first reported at 9:28pm Friday, ended 29-hours later at 2:51am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 21-inches. Peak winds 30 gusting to 39.METARForecast
[KPHL] — Philadelpia Airport
Snowfall first reported at 6:34pm Friday, ended 28-hours later at 10:19pm Saturday. Snow Depth not recorded. Peak winds 31 gusting to 49.METARForecast
[BWI] — Baltimore-Washington Airport
Snowfall first reported at 1:38pm Friday, ended 35-hours later at 12:54am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 27-inches. Peak winds 23 gusting to 37.METARForecast
[KIAD] — Washington-Dulles Airport
Snowfall first reported at 12:52pm Friday, ended 35-hours later at 11:52pm Saturday. Snow Depth reached 23-inches. Peak winds 28 gusting to 46.METARForecast
[KDCA] — Washington-Reagan Airport
Snowfall first reported at 12:59pm Friday, ended 36-hours later at 12:52 am Sunday. Snow Depth reached 18-inches. Peak winds 29 gusting to 43.METARForecast

And, here is a compilation of the METARs for all ten airports, converted into a scrollable PDF file:

This pop-out view is scrollable, and the PDF copy may be downloaded.

Next Up: The Melting

The initial snowfall and winds are just Part One of this weather event. Part Two will soon play out, as the accumulated snowfall melts and eventually flows away. Depending on how much (and how quickly) temperatures warm up, and how much rain falls onto the accumulated snow, there may be local flooding, ponding, and other problems. Airport conditions could remain untenable for many days.


See also: