[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.

[QUOTE]: NextGen Noise Impacts Nationwide

QUOTE

“…NextGen is the FAA’s war on noise abatement….”

– a resident of Queens, NY

FAA’s NextGen is neither clean nor environmentally friendly. It is destroying communities across the nation, solely to enable oversized and intensive airline hub operations that help increase airline profits.

In the short-term, profits are being tweaked upward by allowing the airlines to make their turns closer and lower to the airports, shortening routes by a few miles.

In the long term, by setting up flights that are rigidly defined to follow thin routes and precise altitude profiles, pilots will be forced to let the autopilot fly the entire trip, and thus the pilot role will reduce to one of simply sitting and monitoring. Eventually, the airlines and lobbyists will press FAA to allow single-pilot flight crews; by going from two-pilot to one-pilot flight decks, airlines will reap a substantial cost-savings (and thus higher profits).

All of this adds up to a clear reality: via NextGen, FAA is waging a war on noise abatement. Decades worth of procedures, carefully crafted between communities, airport authorities, the airlines and FAA, are simply being abandoned … in favor of enhancing airline profits. And the primary weapon in this war is the fraudulent propaganda and slick marketing spin being thrown at us everyday, at congressional hearings, in news stories, and with lots of help from a mainstream media that is frequently lazy and thus eager to publish agency/industry PR packages.

20160216scp.. nine tiles to videos (NextGenNoise.org)

(click on image to view original webpage at NextGenNoise.org)

One of the aviation impact activists in the New York City area is Jeffrey Starin, who set up the site NextGenNoise.org. He recently shared that the New York Times published an opinion, ‘Don’t Privatize Air Traffic Control’, on February 15th. The opinion piece is generally correct, but it includes one line that caters to the airlines and FAA’s ongoing NextGen fraud. That line, in the middle section, reads, “… (the) project is called NextGen, and it has shown promising results.”

Frankly, thus far the only ‘promise’ reliably delivered by NextGen is a major negative: the creation of ‘Noise Ghettos’ under narrow and intensive flight routes, often in neighborhoods where aviation noise was never previously an issue. As for the claimed environmental and efficiency improvements, these are actually not new; most claimed benefits have been realized for years already.

In short, NextGen is a shell of a program: it is really just a marketing name, tying together technological changes that already exist. It is really just a scheme to use the ‘NextGen brand name’, claiming FAA and industry have come up with something shiny and new, so as to leverage money from Congress. It is effectively a fraud, brought to us all by the FAA.
20160215cpy.. 'NextGen - selling your ears and health to Congress et al'

Senate Unanimously Passes Amendment to Address NextGen’s CATEX Flaw

Out of a clear blue Arizona sky – the kind best enjoyed while soaking in the vast silence at Grand Canyon – Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake introduced a 3-page amendment aimed at repairing NextGen noise impacts. The Senate promptly passed the amendment, by a unanimous vote. Here is a copy of a McCain Press Release:

20151118scp.. Senate Unanimously agrees to McCain-Flake Amendment (Sen.J.McCain Press Release)750px

(click on image to view the Press Releases page at Senator McCain’s website)

The amendment was thus added to the 2016 THUD Appropriations bill, HR2577. The Senate is expected to make their final vote on the full bill, perhaps within a week. It will then need to obtain House approval of the amendment (and any other changes) before it can become law.

‘THUD’ stands for ‘Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies’. In other words, this single piece of legislation covers FAA and all other units of the Department of Transportation (highways, rail, maritime, pipelines, etc.), AND ALSO INCLUDES public housing, community grants, and other vast programs under the Department of Housing & Urban Development. Therefore, it is not surprising that, of the eighty amendments tabulated on the Congress.gov webpage, only a few have to do with FAA.

A close look at the FAA-related amendments suggests, in most cases, each proposal was simply to make a statement of protest against a specific agency expenditure or action. Many of these proposals also appear to be a sort of ‘grandstanding’ on narrow issues, perhaps to make a good impression on voters back home. Interesting, too, is that the last surge of amendments was on June 9th, and then there were no additional amendments for more than five months. The ONLY subsequent amendment, 160-days after House passage, was the McCain/Flake amendment, which was quickly passed by a voice vote, and with no votes against.

According to the HR 2577 webpage at Congress.gov, the bill was introduced on 5/27/2015, passed by the House of Representatives on 6/9/2015, and reported to the Senate on 6/25/2015.

The amendment applies only to the busiest U.S. commercial airports, known as the OEP-35 Airports. (this aiREFORM webpage provides a list of all OEP-35 airports, notes their operational trends, and includes links to webpages with information about each airport)

It is important to recognize that the rush to implement NextGen was not needed, as U.S. commercial airline operations have declined substantially (and fairly steadily) for most of the past 15-years. The data showing this is viewable year-by-year, for each OEP-35 airport, at this aiREFORM webpage: Total Annual Operations & Trends for FAA’s OEP-35 Airports, 1990-2014. Or, here is the data presented graphically, from an informative presentation by Katana Consulting.

(click on the image to view the 'Real Impact of NextGen' presentation video by Katana Consulting)

(image from a presentation video by Katana Consulting)

Three Questions…

We certainly owe a ‘thank you’ to Senator McCain for finally taking this action, and we hope the eventual legislation, if passed, will quickly produce noise relief at places like Phoenix, Flushing, Charlotte and Palo Alto (and, the botched NextGen implementations are also impacting Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and other communities). But, as a career elected official, Senator McCain (and other Senators) should also welcome hard questions about his actions. The facts behind this latest action beg three such questions:

  1. Why was this proposal not made five months ago? It was quickly approved after it was offered, so it seems plausible that many different Senators (from both parties, and from numerous states) might have offered this amendment proposal as early at last June, to potentially accelerate relief for the thousands of impacted people. The most likely Senators would be those with the largest numbers of NextGen victims, and at locations with intense media coverage and even legal actions against FAA. These Senators would include: Schumer or Gillibrand (NY), Feinstein or Boxer (CA), Warren and Markey (MA), and of course, McCain and Flake (AZ). Each of these Senators would have served their constituents well, if they pushed this proposal last June or July. Why so long without any progress? Has the evidently bipartisan failure to serve constituents become this stark? Is this further evidence that U.S. Senators today serve money, not people?
  2. Was the timing of this amendment proposal connected to Senate discussion on the Syrian Refugee crisis? On the same day that McCain introduced his amendment, and in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Senators were cuing up with their positions on our national role, whether to accept or block Middle Eastern refugees. McCain was quoted in an article at theHill.com, insisting there was no connection, while also referring to his differences with the White House. This echoes a similar situation two years ago, when a rift developed within Republican ranks, on the issue of authorizing air strikes in Syria. Then, too, both McCain and Flake were on the hawk end of the spectrum, while newer Senators (and Presidential candidates) Rubio and Paul were on the dove end, questioning the U.S.’s role and use of force. It seems that a seasoned politician may well understand, when you are about to do something unpopular, doing something positive may help to diminish opposition. With this in mind, is it conceivable to think that our elected officials may appreciate agencies creating problems so that, when the timing is right, the elected official can become a quick and momentary hero?
  3. Is McCain cleaning up, perhaps trying to make amends for some of his past misdeeds? Back in 2012, this Senator, teaming up with Senator Harry Reid (NV), single-handedly stopped a carefully crafted proposal by the National Park Service to get air tourism noise impacts under control, at the Grand Canyon National Park. In so doing, McCain was capitulating to the profit-interests of Papillon, Maverick, and other helicopter operators, who make millions each year in these lucrative flights, while severely diminishing the quality of the experience for millions of park visitors.

So, what is REALLY driving FAA’s NextGen program? It is not safety or capacity. It is simply MONEY. As has happened time and again with FAA, they scheme up ways to sell a new program, to get Congress to pay out more money, which then benefits FAA employees as well as the industry. Contractors, manufacturers, the airlines and other so-called ‘stakeholders’ all get a piece of the pie in exchange for not opposing the wasteful congressional handout. And, in a few years, yet another round of slush-slinging will follow.

Some would call it a fraud that is generating waste as well as excess aviation noise, an irresponsible action by an unaccountable FAA that is destroying neighborhoods around the nation. It would be nice if the current Presidential candidates in both major parties would start to debate how to repair the ongoing performance failures at FAA.


UPDATE, 11/20/2015: — Just a few hours after this aiREFORM Post was published, an Airport Legislative Alert by AAAE was posted by the Phoenix airport management. The title of the Alert was ‘Senate Halts Consideration of DOT-FAA 2016 Appropriations’, and it discussed the many political maneuvers underway, all related to the Syrian refugee crisis.
UPDATE, 11/24/2015: — Hoping to accelerate resolution of this problem (which began 14-months ago!), a letter was sent to the U.S. Senate, signed by all Phoenix councilmembers and the mayors of Phoenix and other nearby communities.

See also… (blue dates link to online content)

2/14/2012
FAA Modernization & Reform Act of 2012
REFERENCE – a copy of the 145-page Public Law-112-95. CATEX is discussed in Section 213.
4/25/2015
¡¿Happy Earth Day, Mr. Huerta?!
Blog Post – After FAA had the audacity to post on their Facebook Page on the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, dozens submitted comments. A Post was created by aiREFORM, firing back at FAA’s hypocrisy and archiving copies of those reader comments.

Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego Introduces ‘FAA Community Accountability Act’

20151105scp.. Rep.R.Gallego Introduces FAA Community Accountability Act

(click on image to view Press Release at Representative Gallego’s congressional website)

The FAA Community Accountability Act, introduced today, would:

  1. establish a new process to compel the FAA to reconsider existing flight routes that are exposing residents to unacceptably high levels of aviation noise;
  2. end the presumption under current law that flight paths implemented through the NextGen program may not follow pre-existing routes, even when these paths better reflect land use around the airport;
  3. designate a Community Ombudsmen to serve as effective, independent voices for airport communities within the agency;
  4. prevent the FAA from bypassing the environmental review process for new flight paths over the objections of local communities.

The original cosponsors (listed geographically) include:

  • Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ)
  • Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ)
  • Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA)
  • Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL)
  • Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL)
  • Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA)
  • Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA)
  • Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY)
  • Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)
  • Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY)
  • Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY)
  • Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY)
  • Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA)
  • Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)

Here are some of the comments made during the introduction (emphasis added by aiReform.com):

Rep. Ruben Gallego – “Last September, the FAA altered flight paths for aircrafts departing from Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport. The changes were made without meaningful input or consultation with community members or civic leaders, and have caused severe noise disruptions that have lowered the quality of life for many members of my community. My bill would help address this problem in Phoenix and make sure that other communities across the country don’t suffer the same consequences of the FAA’s opaque decision-making process.”
Rep. Steve Israel (NY) – “Airplane noise continues to have a negative impact on the lives of my constituents in Queens and Nassau county. This bill will ensure that residents affected by airplane noise have a voice in urging the FAA to reconsider placing these noisy flight paths over their homes and communities.”
Rep. Mike Quigley (IL) – “My constituents back home in Chicago are facing unprecedented noise pollution from passing aircraft that is eroding their quality of life, lowering their property values, and impacting their health. But this is clearly not just a Chicago issue. Communities across the country are experiencing increased airplane noise, and it’s time for the FAA to be more accountable and responsive to their concerns. I’m proud to introduce the FAA Community Accountability Act with my colleagues to ensure that the voices of our constituents are heard before any changes to flight paths are considered.”
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ) – “Phoenix residents have every right to be frustrated, not only by disruptive noise from new flight paths but by the FAA’s unwillingness to listen. It shouldn’t have taken congressional action to find a solution, but if that’s what it takes then we’ll fight for these folks until the FAA is responsive and accountable.”
Rep. Don Beyer (VA) – “Our communities deserve greater input in the FAA’s processes to minimize airplane noise. I am proud to join Congressman Gallego in urging the FAA to be more inclusive in considering the impact of its flight paths”
Rep. Joseph Crowley (NY) – “Unfortunately, aircraft noise pollution isn’t merely a nuisance – it poses health risks, disrupts student learning and drowns out the joys of daily life. Our airports will never be perfect neighbors, but we can certainly work to make them better ones. I’m proud to join Congressman Gallego in sponsoring this much-needed legislation that will go a long way in helping communities impacted by aircraft noise.”
Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (MA) – “Many of the towns and neighborhoods that I represent are close to Logan Airport and the residents in our area have faced a huge increase in airplane noise and a total lack of responsiveness from the FAA. Some of these citizens and taxpayers have 500 planes fly directly over their homes each day – and they deserve to have their voices heard and they are entitled to some relief. I am proud to cosponsor Congressman Gallego’s bill, which will demand accountability and create a dialogue between these affected communities and the FAA.”
Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (CA) – New flight paths associated with implementation of the FAA’s NextGen satellite-based navigation program have caused major increases in aircraft noise. For thousands of Americans, including so many throughout my congressional district, a family conversation at the dinner table, sitting outside, or trying to sleep have all been disrupted because of the roar of jet engines overhead. I’m proud to be part of the effort to resolve this untenable situation by introducing the FAA Community Accountability Act, which requires the FAA to work with local communities and limit noise impacts when planning and implementing new flight paths with NextGen. This legislation can mitigate unacceptable high levels of aircraft noise while continually modernizing our aviation system.”

This proposed legislation appears to be a very good step forward, needed to bring FAA and the airlines under control on their ‘out-of-control’ NextGen implementations. More elected officials need to advocate on behalf of the millions of people adversely impacted by NextGen.

Has YOUR Congressional representative signed on in support? For contact information, be sure to see the original press release at Representative Gallego’s website, or use this link and your zip code.

No Fly Day on October 24th

In less than two weeks, No Fly Day happens. People across the nation are pledging to not fly, in protest of FAA NextGen implementations, which are causing severe aviation noise impacts at many of the major commercial passenger airports. FAA and the airlines and airport authorities are literally destroying neighborhoods and quality of life, inflicting a noise-cost upon hundreds of thousands of people so that the four largest airlines can add to their quarterly profits.

Here is an image of a flyer by one of the Boston-area airport noise groups, Boston West Fair Skies (BWFS). This group is well-organized; they created their own QR code (scannable square) to help people get to their website, and they are encouraging other groups to act fast on a Groupon for a 6′ by 2.5′ protest banner (ends on 10/14 at the end of 10/13). Also, please see two additional images with text summarizing the NoFlyDay.org goals, as well as the FAA’s failures that necessitated this protest.

20151024.. No Fly Day flyer, KBOS version (A.Poole, 10-12-2015)

20151024.. 'Reasons for the Protest' (NoFlyDay flyer content)

(click on image to read a timeline about FAA’s ongoing NextGen failures)

20151024.. '3 demands of FAA to Protect' (NoFlyDay flyer content)Learn more and sign the pledge: NoFlyDay.org

NOTE: individuals or groups interested in joining the protest, producing local materials, etc. are encouraged to contact NoFlyDay.org at: stopjetnoise@noflyday.org

 

NextGen is Being Used to Justify Lower & Noisier Flying While Ignoring the Impacts

On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, aviation regulators are working with their ‘stakeholders’ to give the airline industry relief from pesky noise-abatement procedures. This translates to allowing turns immediately after takeoff, as well as turning arrivals lower and closer to the landing runway. It also means jamming local flights lower so they remain below these designed departure and arrival flows.

(click on image to view article at AirportWatch.org.UK)

(click on image to view article at AirportWatch.org.UK)

The impacted neighbors near London appear to be a few years ahead of U.S. residents in the area of citizen activism. They have numerous airport groups who are creating a steady flow of actions and news stories aimed at stopping airport expansion. Thanks to some insensitive NextGen implementations creating new noise ghettoes, though, U.S. citizens are increasingly speaking up. They have to, to protect their quality of life.

FAA continues to implement new routes without environmental review. In a way, they have to, for this is all part of their ‘NextGen’ program. FAA has oversold the claimed benefits of NextGen to both the Public and to Congress, because they need Congress to continue approving billions in additional funding. FAA has also made deals with the unions and the airlines, to ensure they will not speak out of line about FAA’s NextGen ambitions.

We Don’t Need NextGen to Benefit from the GPS Technologies

But FAA is conveniently not sharing the fact that the GPS technologies have been around for decades, and have been practically and routinely used in ATC for more than a decade. Instead, FAA has chosen to ‘package’ these technologies and present them as a new and costly program wrapped in their carefully-crafted, glossy sales pitch. The program frankly offers no practical safety benefit; the monies approved by Congress and spent by FAA serve mostly to justify excess FAA positions and duties (from headquarters to the regions to the union leaders who spend much of their work time ‘collaborating’ on committees at each facility) while also propping up a handful of aviation industry contractors. And when they retire, many employees at the top of FAA (and quite a few at the lower ranks, too) will do as their predecessors did: hire into second careers with these same contractors, to richly supplement their already ample federal pensions.

And What Exactly did FAA Use to Buy Airline Silence?

Well, they promised to shave off a few miles (translating to a few million in added airline profits), by removing all environmental restrictions on departures. Hence, the TNNIS departure off LaGuardia, the stressful noise impacts over Laveen and F.Q. Story in Phoenix, and the newly created NextGen noise ghettoes around American’s new hub in Charlotte, NC. And, they promised the same lower (and noisier) routes with tighter turns on arrivals, such as the SERFR arrival into SFO.

Fly Up, FAA!!

Poster - 'Fly Up FAA'

(click on image to view slideshow of 7/24/2015 rally by Save our Skies Santa Cruz)

So, is it any wonder that more people are hating FAA and the airlines with greater intensity? Is there really any surprise that this sign was carried at a recent protest against FAA’s NextGen noise?

October 24: Join the ‘No Fly Day’ to Protest NextGen

20150825scp.. Petition for NoFlyDay 10-24-2015

(click on image to sign the pledge at the petition webpage)

The pledge is to NOT fly on October 24th (or your next trip). The associated petition is being delivered to 68 leaders (in Congress, at the airlines, at FAA, etc.) and it lays out just three simple requests aimed at fixing the problems NextGen has created:

  1. Give people in Boston, Charlotte, Phoenix and elsewhere relief by reverting immediately to the pre-NextGen flight procedures;
  2. Conduct Environmental Impact Studies that use an updated, relevant noise standard (FAA tricked Congress into exempting environmental review, so there was no meaningful analysis for the NextGen flight procedures); and,
  3. Fix the broken review process whereby citizens are supposed to be shown the plan and empowered to offer valuable feedback BEFORE new procedures are implemented.

Please pledge, and please encourage others to join this action.

Airport Noise: Fifteen Ways to Quiet the Skies

The following list was compiled by one of the oldest groups advocating for cleaner and less impactful aviation in the United States: US-CAW (U.S.-Citizens Aviation Watch). A reference to ‘Stage IV’ suggests this was compiled long ago, even as early as the 1990s. Items #1, #2, #3, and #12 would greatly improve quality of life at Santa Monica, Longmont, East Hampton, and the growing list of NextGen-impacted airports (Phoenix, Charlotte and LaGuardia stand out on the list).

The list below is filled with great ideas, but we all just wait for the long overdue action by Congress and FAA….

  1. Increase local control of airports.
    Demand that two-thirds of airport commission members live within the high impact area where average day/night levels exceed 65 dBA (what the FAA calls moderate noise exposure). Also, increase local control with regard to expansion, number and time of takeoffs, landings, ground operations, etc.
  2. Remove FAA from oversight of environmental quality and public health.
    This would remove a significant conflict of interest for the FAA which has too often seen its role as promoting air transportation. Noise and other environmental pollutants need to be regulated by some combination of EPA and local oversight.
  3. Abandon the day/night sound pressure level of 65 dBA that the FAA uses to separate “low” noise exposure from “moderate” noise exposure.
    The 65 dBA value is too noisy and unhealthy. Use 55 dBA as an interim value until a descriptor that includes low frequency noise, and better reflects the impacts of aircraft noise such as sleep disturbance, interference with learning, and other noise impacts.
  4. Develop high-speed rail alternatives to aircraft flights of less than 500 miles.
    Redirect government investment from airport expansion to high-speed rail. Also, support efforts to quiet rail transit.
  5. Protect the public from environmental and health hazards at and near airports.
    These include the release of significant amounts of toxins, known carcinogens and de-icing fluids. Existing Clean Air and Clean Water regulations need to be enforced and new regulations addressing the public health and environmental impacts of airports and airplane travel need to be adopted.
  6. Support a Global Nighttime Curfew.
    Around the world, hundreds of airports already have curfews. Local nighttime curfews, while a positive step, shift the problem elsewhere. A nationwide and global effort is needed.
  7. Demand that airports and airlines pay the full cost of airline travel.
    Remove all FAA subsidies; increase landing fees to cover lost property value, insulation programs, health effects, and annoyance; increase fuel taxes to account for environmental and public health damage; and remove local subsidies.
  8. Expand soundproofing programs to all homes, churches, schools, hospitals, and commercial businesses experiencing a day/night average of greater than 55 dBA from airports.
    Eventually, all sensitive properties–homes, churches, schools, day care, hospitals, etc.–should be protected against indoor single event readings exceeding 45 dBA with windows open. Insulation and soundproofing alone, however, is not the solution because it neglects outdoor noise. Insulation does not provide for the full enjoyment of common and private property. However, at least it protects people inside their homes.
  9. Demand objective health studies of noise and other pollutants near airports.

  10. Support quieter and cleaner aircraft technology (called Stage IV).
    Stage IV technology may be years away, and in the future, aircraft may achieve smaller reductions in pollution, both in terms of air and noise pollution. Therefore, Stage IV technology should not be relied upon as the main solution to aircraft pollution. Nevertheless, technological improvements should be aggressively pursued.
  11. Ban flights over and within 2 miles
    of non-urban National Parks, Wilderness areas, National Monuments, National Seashores, and other sensitive and pristine public lands (except for emergency, research, construction and maintenance activities).
  12. Increase the minimum altitude for general aviation craft and helicopters
    to 2,000 feet above ground level and implement an effective policing mechanism. Impose a minimum flight altitude for 2,500 feet above ground level for all tour operations and commercial transport services (for example, air taxis).
  13. Ban commercial and corporate SST flights from United States Airports and airspace.

  14. Avoid solutions that shift noise to others.
    The FAA likes to pit one community against another because it divides opposition to its policies. A fairer distribution of noise might make sense for many airports, but moving the noise around doesn’t solve the problem and divides people who should be united against airport noise. The problem of airport noise will not be solved one airport at a time. Persons with airport noise problems must unite. Significant changes in the FAA will likely occur only when airport groups can show significant power and support to Washington.
  15. Foster connections with and support other noise pollution organizations.
    A victory for any group fighting noise is a victory for all. This is the only way to create a broad enough coalition to actually reduce noise pollution.

Our Collective ADD, and Some History on US Airways

The general public lacks awareness of major trends in U.S. aviation, not just in the past hundred years, but even in the past decade. Indeed, the current set of popular communications technologies (internet, twitter, etc.) bombard us with so much rapid information that Public memory has arguably been all but destroyed . Many of us fail to process events from mere weeks ago. So, it is not surprising that people have no idea how contentious U.S. aviation history has been, getting to where we are today, with just four remaining major U.S. airlines: American, Delta, Southwest, and United.

It does not help that all of our aviation professionals do nothing to nurture a citizenry that is vastly informed and technically savvy, empowered by knowledge. Instead, FAA, NATCA, A4A and other members of the Av-Gov Complex seem to want to keep us ignorant. So, they always tend to hand us off to technical experts, and shout off infinite acronyms as effective weapons of mass confusion. They religiously avoid talking about safety deficiencies, wasteful spending, controller errors, etc. And all this they do while speaking cheerfully, as if from a Koolaid Bowl, to promote air travel (and thus their personal paychecks and pensions).

In total, we have been collectively dumbed down; nearly all of us now suffer a substantial culturally-based Attention Deficit Disorder. This ensures that meaningful decisions by governmental agencies, such as FAA’s NextGen implementations, will continue to happen in a vacuum. It also means that most impacted people will be too flustered (or too distracted onto other life matters or by trivialities – hey, did you see the great catch by what’s his name?) to focus through repairing FAA’s damages.

US Airways: An Airline Dysfunction Case Study?

While researching a recent aiREFORM Post about FAA’s NextGen Hydra at Charlotte, NC, it became clear that a closer look at Charlotte, and the airline at the heart of the airport’s history, might help educate us all. There is much that needs to be learned….

…So, take a look at the Wikipedia page on US Airways. Especially, be sure to read their history, with bankruptcies in both 2002 AND 2004. This was one of the first major U.S. airlines to liquidate the pensions of its pilots, as they did in 2003. This is also an airline that built up a huge hub at Pittsburgh [KPIT], got the airport authority to spend billions in new facilities, then abruptly up and left when the airport authority refused their ultimatum to lower airline operating fees.

By the way, Pittsburgh is one a growing number of U.S. airports that have seen enormous federal investment, only to be abandoned by their main airline (see also Delta at Cincinnati [KCVG], American at St. Louis [KSTL], Northwest (now Delta) at Detroit [KDTW], and Continental (now United) at Cleveland [KCLE].

And on the subject of airline dysfunction, it seems notable that the newest merger – American-US Airways – is deeply at the heart of nearly all of the biggest NextGen rollout debacles: at Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, New York’s JFK, and Phoenix. This one airline, if they shook their head and said ‘NO’ to FAA’s NextGen routes, could make a hugely positive quality of life difference for hundreds of thousands of airport neighbors.

We need to know history…

…and we need to apply what we know. Otherwise, we will keep doing the same stupid things, over and over again. Money will be wasted. Neighborhoods will be ruined. And a slim few will get rich.

FAA’s NextGen Hydra: Breathing Hellish Noise-Fire Upon Charlotte, NC

Source: tabletophell.com

Source: tabletophell.com

When the noise seems to never go away, in areas where only months before there just wasn’t any airport noise, people tend to get worn out. The noise becomes an occupying force, a controlling presence. Perhaps it was after nights of enduring NextGen sleep deprivation that a retiree near Charlotte, NC began to see FAA’s NextGen as a mythical, multi-headed hydra, breathing noise-fire from Hell.

The heads of this monster are the many newly designed routes, wherein FAA is effectively mandating pilots to let the autopilot fly the airplane as soon as they lift off. In FAA’s current NextGen implementation, these automated routes are being focused by the navigational precision of new GPS technologies. The result, being ignored by FAA, is the creation of intense noise impact areas. People are speaking up, but FAA won’t listen; instead, agency spokespersons just try to drown out the popular concerns by repeating their mantra, “NextGen is needed for ‘safety and efficiency’.”

The Charlotte NextGen Hydra Looks Like This

Here’s a map showing actual flight tracks during a North Flow at Charlotte. Green lines are departures, red lines are arrivals. The pink ellipses mark the areas heavily impacted by crossing compressed routes. The airport runways are identifiable in the small area where the green lines butt into the ends of the red lines, midway between the bottom edges of the two upper pink ellipses.[KCLT] N Flow, route compilation map with pink markups

20150531cpy.. portion of Munch's 'The Scream'

(click on image to view painting in a larger window)

It is uncanny, how much this plot of FAA’s NextGen impact on Charlotte resembles the tormented subject in Munch’s priceless painting, ‘The Scream’. Priceless.

Actually, not just Priceless. Pointless too, because FAA doesn’t need NextGen to continue to manage what FAA has been telling Congress for decades is the safest and most efficient aviation system ever. So, the only valid justification for spending tens of billions to ‘upgrade’ would be to handle higher traffic levels.

Which brings us to exactly what is wrong with FAA’s NextGen (other than the wasted money): there is no capacity demand justifying NextGen.

In fact, air traffic has declined sharply in the past two decades, and FAA has produced no evidence that traffic levels will be going up any time soon. The Av-Gov Complex (FAA and their ‘collaborators’) knows this, but they remain careful not to talk about it. So, while people are upset, losing sleep, and speaking up more, FAA just continues with their mantra that NextGen is ‘critically needed for safety and efficiency’.

How Far Has U.S. Air Traffic Declined?

The key metric for assessing both airport noise impact and ATC workload is the number of airport operations (i.e., how many airport takeoffs and landings in a year). FAA’s ATADS database is maintained specifically to track this metric. According to FAA’s ATADS data for all towered airports, total U.S. airport operations peaked way back in 1999; since then, there has been a steady decline, and in 2014 total operations at ALL TOWERS were DOWN 28% from the 1999 peak.

Another way to assess growth or decline to try to justify a need for NextGen is to look at commercial operations at a subset of the largest commercial airports. FAA says that 70% of all passengers enplane at the ‘OEP-35 airports’. At these 35 major airports, ANNUAL OPERATIONS PEAKED IN 2000, AND BY 2014 HAD DECLINED 19%. [see: OEP-35 Airports (list & links) which shows trends for each OEP-35 airport]

During the 2000 to 2014 timeframe, nearly half (16) of the U.S. OEP-35 airports, declined by 21% or more. During this same time period, the U.S. population grew by 13%. Seemingly, any healthy service industry should at least keep pace with population growth. Well, of the 35 marker airports on the OEP list, only TWO beat population growth: operations at New York JFK was one (up 20%), and Charlotte was the other (up 18%).

All other of FAA’s busiest airports declined versus population, most of them substantially. The five worst case declines (and these numbers would be still lower if population growth was factored in!) happened at:

  • Cincinnati Northern Kentucky [KCVG]: down 72%
  • Pittsburgh [KPIT]: down 70%
  • St Louis [KSTL]: down 62%
  • Cleveland [KCLE]: down 61%
  • Memphis [KMEM]: down 43%

The Significance of KCLT

As noted, between 2000 and 2014 the hub airport in Charlotte, NC was one of only two major U.S. airports to grow faster than population (though it did peak in 2013, and showed a 2% decline in 2014). How did Charlotte do this? By becoming a larger hub airport, and with lots of federal subsidy. Charlotte is now a Super-Hub for US Airways, which is just now finishing its merger with American Airlines.

The [KCLT] super-hub is to American/USAirways as the Atlanta [KATL] super-hub is to Delta. Both are positioned with multiple parallel runways, and between two key major passenger markets: the north/northeastern U.S. market, and the Florida market. Their business model is simple: bring passengers in from both markets, have them ‘self-sort’ in the KCLT terminal, and send them out to their destinations. Interestingly, both the KATL and the KCLT model rely on extreme monopoly. The merged American/US Airways (and it’s subordinate feeder airlines) handled 96% of the KCLT commercial passenger operations in December 2013; that same reference month, Delta dominated KATL with 91% of all operations. [see: A Table Showing the ASPM-77 Airports (Peak Years, Traffic Declines, and Trends Toward Airline Monopolies)]

A huge environmental problem with this type of ‘Passenger Sort Facility’ is the out-scaled impact on airport neighbors. In particular, these airports have many more flights per local resident, simply because most of the flights are not scheduled to serve locals, they are scheduled to serve non-residents ‘just-passing-through’.

The impacts are intensified by airline practices. When an airline like American ‘banks’ its KCLT schedule with heavy inflows and outflows, it is going to create congestion. ATC will manage that congestion by designing routes, to proceduralize the flow, and these route designs will include holding departures to lower altitudes to avoid arrivals at higher altitudes. In some critical locations, especially where focused routes cross, neighbors have to endure nearly continuous noise for hours – or even days – at a time.

Overflights. Over and over and over again. Near constant noise. After a while, residents may start to see a Hydra.

So, Charlotte is Just One More Example, showing NextGen is Really all About CAPACITY

(Foxx, Huerta, and Calio: the program is even more off balance than the photo)

(Foxx, Huerta, and Calio: the program is even more off balance than the photo)

What it all distills down to is a reality many have recognized for a very long time. FAA is a politicized beast that extracts billions every year and has to spend that money. Furthermore, our Presidents have nearly always demonstrated a bipartisan appetite for encouraging FAA spending, often seeking to prop up local economies. Both agencies and Presidents are inclined to spend for political advantage. In these times, political advantage rests with money. So, the role of Administrator Huerta and Secretary Foxx is reduced down to being just a pair of very well-paid cheerleaders, a Congressionally-appointed lobbyist duo.

In other words, FAA is working FOR the airlines, with false cover from the RTCA committees who make ‘NextGen recommendations (and who are dominated by the airlines) to essentially eliminate all environmental restrictions that we (the people) have needed to impose on the airlines.

In Charlotte and elsewhere, NextGen is a workaround to environmental regulation. It is a wholesale discarding of decades worth of environmental balance, implemented to protect neighborhoods from commercial aviation noise. With NextGen, FAA is essentially allowing departures to immediately turn, no longer requiring straight-out climbs to altitude before turning toward their destination. And the local residents, who never had a voice in the change process, are forced to endure the NextGen Noise-Hell.