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.

Twitter Being Used to Help Fight Aviation Noise

Twitter is becoming a powerful venue for people to share NextGen noise concerns, vent frustrations, and coordinate activism. Even better, the exchange extends around the world, with active participation near Toronto (e.g., see @FairFlightPath) and London (see @planeondaroof for Heathrow, or  @Crowsays_no for Gatwick).

Worldwide, NextGen impacts are driven by technology, airline greed and captured aviation regulators, so we stand to learn a lot when we microblog on social media.

Currently, some of the most active Twitter hotspots for U.S. activism against FAA’s NextGenHell (#NextGenHellFAA) include:

FAA is making plenty of noise with their NextGen route implementations. To quiet them, we need to make at least as much noise back, and carefully coordinate our efforts.

As an example, here is an image showing a recent tweet out of Phoenix:20150530.. Tweet example (KPHX lawn signs, replies)

As another example, check out the great summary of how NextGen is adversely impacting people around Charlotte [KCLT], as blogged (and tweeted) by @StopCLTNoise. (here is a PDF version to download and share)

Global Warming Denialism Is as Wrong as FAA’s NextGen

There is so much work to do, just trying to stay on top of FAA’s full frontal assault. Over the past three years, and under the guise of ‘safety and efficiency’, FAA has begun imposing NextGenHell and OAPMfraud, and thus destroying quality of life in residential neighborhoods across the nation. [NOTE, added 12/10/2016: FAA has frequently amended their webpages after issues have been raised in aiREFORM Posts; a copy of the FAA webpage connected to the ‘OAPMfraud’ link above is archived here.]

New Posts by aiREFORM will soon discuss the OAPMFraud issue, and will also cover impacts around Atlanta [KATL], the Bay Area [KSFO], Boston [BOS], Charlotte [KCLT], Chicago [KORD], Minneapolis [KMSP], Seattle [KSEA], and other emerging NextGenHell Impact Zones.

But other important news is happening, and it is quite related. For example, the rain events and deadly flooding, particularly in Texas, are indicative of what we can expect when we seed more intense weather by adding more water vapor (melted ice) and more energy (higher air temperatures, including enhanced solar energy absorption by much higher CO2 levels) to our changing atmosphere.

The Arctic Ice situation continues to worsen.

20150525.. NSIDC ArcticIce graph showing 5 days record low (w markups)

NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent graph for 5/25/2015. Gray band is +/- 2SD’s off the mean value (solid black line). Dashed black line is 2012. Dark blue line is 2015. The year holding the record low value is labeled in orange, at bottom. Note that the current 2015 value is more than two standard deviations below the historical mean. (click on image to view current graph at NSIDC)

Ten days ago, an aiREFORM Post offered a pair of graphs showing low Arctic sea ice extent. The Post also noted that 2015 looks likely to set many new records. Well, we are now five days into a third new record this year.

Thus far in 2015, new low-records for Arctic Sea Ice Extent have been set from March 4th through March 22nd, April 4th through April 10th, and May 20th onward. And worse, not only is the sea ice extent plummeting, but weather and other conditions stand to keep it plummeting, maybe even accelerate it. For example, loss of white sea ice is replaced by dark open water, which tends to reflect less and absorb much more of the energy (thus, heating). This is an example of ‘positive feedback’ with negative climatological consequences.

Here are two ClimateReAnalyzer images, for May 26, 2015:20150526scp.. Arctic Sea Ice Extent and Air Temp Anomaly (ClimateReAnalyzer)

In both images, the North Pole is depicted by the crossing dashed lines (main meridians) centered and a third of the way down from the top. These modified satellite images are updated daily at their website (once you are at the website, note that the words listed to the left of the globe are all links to images; click on ‘Sea Ice & Snow‘ to view the left image, and click on ‘Temperature Anomaly‘ to view the right image).

The left image shows ‘Sea Ice Extent’. Open water is dark blue, 100% ice is solid white, and partial melt is in darker white shades. A thin cyan line marks the average sea ice extent for the years 1979-2000.

The right image shows ‘Temperature Anomaly’ for air temperature at 2-meter height above the surface. Colors grade toward warm extremes (brown) and cold extremes (blue). The anomaly values are relative to a baseline for temperatures during the 1979-2000 timeframe. The predominant brown shows that the Arctic Ocean is substantially warmed, with areas near the North Pole at 10-degrees+ Fahrenheit above normal.

It’s Global Warming, and it is Anthropogenic

These images, when compared with past Sea Ice Extent images, destroy the claims by those who deny Global Warming. 20150526scp.. Arctic Sea Ice Extent year 2000 gray(ClimateReAnalyzer)Here are two earlier images, for the same date in 2000 and in 2012.

The year 2000 was chosen because it most closely matches the ‘average 1979-2000’ graph (see the solid black line).

The year 2012 was chosen because it was the blockbuster year with the most records and the lowest readings during human history (see the dashed black line in the large graph near the top of this Post).20000526scp.. Arctic Sea Ice Extent (ClimateReAnalyzer)20120526scp.. Arctic Sea Ice Extent (ClimateReAnalyzer)

Look particularly at two map features: terrain snow cover, and open water. The terrain snow cover is a light gray overlay of brown land, and has clearly declined in Alaska, across northern Canada, and in the Rocky Mountains, from 2000 to 2012 to 2015. Likewise, the dark blue ‘open sea water’ has extended far northward, including:

  • the Bering Sea is now nearly ice free, and earlier melting in the Chukchi Sea north of the Bering Straits.
  • earlier open water in the lowest latitudes of the Beaufort Sea, around the MacKenzie River delta.
  • recession of the northern tips of both the Greenland Sea and the Barents Sea, north of Europe.
  • earlier meltoff of both Hudson Bay and Baffin Bay.

See also:

¡¿Happy Earth Day, Mr. Huerta?!

20150422scp.. FAA's 'Happy Earth Day' FB text20150422.. FAA sunset pic, poster image from their Earth Day 2015 Facebook PostThis is what FAA posted on the FAA Facebook site, on Wednesday morning. And they clearly want ALL OF US to celebrate with them, from Phoenix to Flushing, and from Charlotte to Chicago. Take a close look at the small text above, in the glorious picture with no airplanes (hence, the glory); FAA wants everyone to believe, “NextGen routes ease aviation’s burden on the environment….”

NextGen and EarthDay2015. Like two peas in a pod…

…¡¡¿¿Are you kidding me??!!

Hey, I forgot, too. The world has been looking a lot less beautiful in recent years. In fact, on that morning, my distraction was studying noise impacts created by focused NextGen tracks, trying to figure out how to get a certain three-letter aviation authority to clean up their mess. It was only when FAA sent out their disingenuous propaganda-piece that I remembered, ‘…hey, today is the 45th anniversary of Earth Day!’

Some of us might easily have been distracted watching the new record levels of atmospheric CO2 or the accelerating polar ice melt that appears to be closely tied to our weird winter weather. And, no doubt, if we live in one of the NextGen launch communities, perhaps we were too busy testifying (again!) before our local City Council, hoping – even praying – we could get relief from NextGen noise.

A lot of us probably forgot. But, thank you FAA, for reminding us. Oh, and by the way, we posted many comments onto your Facebook page (a copy has been saved at page two of this aiREFORM Post). Here is one of the comments:

“What a farce NextGen is: Lies and deceit; Environmental “reviews” with no basis in facts; The ruination of quiet neighborhoods; Destruction of property values without any compensation.
It’s Federal government bullying at its worst, and they claim to be celebrating Earth Day? George Orwell could not have written such a scenario.”

 

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Administrator Huerta, your agency’s PR branch will likely tell you the comments are all ‘thank you notes’, but you might want to read them yourself. They are overwhelmingly opposed to what your agency is doing. And they find your NextGen greenwashing to be absolutely despicable. Why? Well, put it all into perspective.

Earth Day started in 1970 because people were fed up with the trends toward environmental destruction, largely accelerated by greed and indifference. And it wasn’t about aesthetics; it was about health. Essentially, the people demanded effective regulations, and they also demanded to be meaningfully involved in a transparent democratic process.

What FAA did in 2014, with the CATEX applications and refusals to mitigate bad NextGen launches, is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of what Earth Day represents. In early 2012, under pressure to move past years of legislative gridlock, our Congress punted; they put the decision solely on YOU. At Section 213 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, they codified that you were to make the determination as to whether or not ‘extraordinary circumstances’ would void filing of a Categorical Exclusion. Here is a screen-capture of the relevant section (with markups by aiREFORM):20120214scp.. 'expedited review' portion of Section 213, H.R. 658, 112th Congress, FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, re CATEXMost of the FAA Administrators who preceded you expended enormous effort trying to balance the profit goals of the airlines with the quality-of-life needs of the larger public. Under your helm, and particularly with your NextGen launches, this balance has been completely discarded. You (and your subordinate Regional Administrators) have failed to see the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ of the noise impacts you have imposed upon families in places like Phoenix and Flushing. FAA is failing and has become YOUR agency, because it sure as hell isn’t serving the people anymore.

Sure, the Cuyahoga River is no longer igniting, like it was before the first Earth Day in 1970, but YOU are putting the fire in our skies with your NextGen noise. YOU are destroying our quality of life, and allowing your employees to delay producing records and correcting FAA’s cronyistic actions.

Mr. Huerta, your agency appears to have lost sight of an important fact:

Aviation and the NAS should be an asset

for the whole country, not just a way for

‘the final four major airlines’

to make a profit.

Too many in your organization are failing to serve the whole public. Our aviation system needs to be deliberately and equitably managed.

A year from now, if you (or your successor) want to make a similar ‘Happy Earth Day!’ post, you may want to show that you mean it. Starting today, you might want to put the environment and quality-of-life front and center, to reform your agency and serve the larger public.

¡¡Happy Earth Day, Mr. Huerta!!