Does JetBlue Care to Minimize Impacts?

Parts of Boston are being severely impacted by NextGen, under routes in and out of Logan [KBOS]. Not just by the narrow route concentration FAA is creating in their environmentally destructive application of satellite technologies, but also in the increased hub concentration that FAA is enabling.

In a nutshell, the airlines want to concentrate flights into just a handful of major hubs, but they need FAA’s help to do this. They need FAA to increase ‘runway throughput’, so that the major hub airlines at airports like Boston can add just a few more flights each hour. Of course, the problem is, in their accomodating the airlines, FAA is causing oversaturation of schedules to the point where:

  1. flows are virtually non-stop for most of the day; and
  2. the slightest bit of weather or surge of flights creates overload, and ATC works the arrivals into long conga lines – harder and less safe for ATC and flight crews, but also greatly amplifying impacts upon residents below.

JetBlue has a major hub presence at Boston. Not only that, but JetBlue is a major player at two other hub airports where flight overscheduling is destroying communities: LaGuardia [KLGA] and Reagan National [KDCA]. And, JetBlue’s network relies heavily on connecting passengers through these three hub airports.

Also, JetBlue uses social media to pitch their product, to try and encourage more people to take more flights, and more frequently. The JetBlue facebook page solicits comments from viewers, so it makes sense that a viewer in Milton, impacted by the increase in noise and air pollution by JetBlue and other airlines, would offer concerns and make constructive suggestions. This is precisely what was done, when Andy Schmidt initiated a discussion by sending JetBlue a message, on May 30th. After nearly a month of back-and-forth, and with many delays, Andy came to the conclusion that, frankly, “JetBlue doesn’t care.” He then posted a series of four screencaps, documenting the ‘discussion’. Here’s a compilation:

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

When it comes to environmental responsibility around hub airports, there is a huge vacuum. Neither FAA nor the industry they are supposed to regulate are working to protect communities from noise and air pollutant impacts. It is only about money, these days.

In the example above, Andy shows a great way to nudge the airlines toward becoming responsive and accountable. What is particularly intriguing about this example is that Andy pointed the airline right at a very effective and affordable action that would reap tremendous environmental benefits: the vortex generator. Here are two graphs from a320whine.com:

The red curve shows two spikes, at ~560 and ~620 hertz, which are the infamous ‘A320 whine’. Notice the substantial noise reduction (green curve) at these frequencies, when the VG deflectors are added.

The green shaded area shows noise reduction from red line (an A320 without the VGs) to green line (an A320 with the VGs added). Study this graph carefully; it shows an improvement, but notice, too, zero improvement within the final 12-miles (20-kilometers) of the arrival. Given the cost, this improvement is well worth the money spent, but airlines and FAA will also need to better manage traffic loads, such as by reducing hourly flow rates.

CONCLUSION: This is a good example of how social media can be used constructively, to engage airlines, and hopefully, to nudge them toward becoming more compatible with the communities they impact. And, the vortex generators are a real opportunity for JetBlue to show they care.

Will they? Will JetBlue’s management wake up, so thousands can sleep better?

Trump in 1988: “You’re going to be flying with something that is quality and good.”

It should come as no surprise that President Trump supports the disastrous ATC privatization proposal being pushed by Bill Shuster, A4A, and a few airlines. It’s a bad idea, all the way around. We have a hard enough time getting FAA to even listen to citizens; so, take away Congressional oversight of FAA and we’ll end up with the airlines running roughshod over any neighborhood that saves 5-seconds of flying time… even our oldest and most tranquil neighborhoods.

On the other hand, it may come as a surprise to many of us who were not paying attention 28-years ago, when Trump was in the airline business (see PDF copy of article, below). Way back in 1988 .. before Bush I was elected, before Clintons began to out-Reagan Reagan with neoliberalism, even 7-years before Bill Shuster’s dad Bud became chair of the same House Transportation Committee that Bill now chairs, …yes, the committee that wants us to privatize today.

In June 1989, Trump acquired the lucrative Eastern Shuttle, which had been the crown jewel for Eastern Air Lines. The shuttle offered hourly flights, focused on connecting Boston Logan [KBOS], LaGuardia, [KLGA], and Reagan National [KDCA] with a fleet of noise Boeing 727s. The renamed ‘Trump Shuttle’ did not last long and, today, these ‘shuttle’ legs remain a bread-and-butter profit-maker for American, Delta, and JetBlue, even while they increase the number of through-passengers (and thus flights AND neighborhood impacts), especially at LaGuardia.

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

According to Wikipedia, a syndicate of 22 banks provided a $380 Million loan. The banks took possession just 15-months later, in September 1990, when Trump defaulted on the loan.

It is almost as if Trump and FAA were born in the same litter. And here we are, 28-years later, and President Trump wants us to believe, ATC privatization will also be, “…something that is quality and good.”

Yeah…

…Right.

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.

Will ‘60 Minutes’ Help Us Expose and Correct FAA’s Nationwide NextGen Mess?

(click on image to view source Facebook page)

People everywhere – from Bethesda to Federal Way, and from Culver City to Belmont – know the failures of the NextGen program:

  • that the program is a fraud, pretending to implement new technologies that have actually already been in common use for decades;
  • that FAA is pushing NextGen solely to get Congress to dole out more money, to prop up more FAA waste;
  • that, to get the airlines (and their main lobby, Airlines for America, A4A) to not oppose NextGen, FAA is focused on removing all noise mitigation procedures and local agreements, at all airports;
  • that FAA is enabling the airlines to expand flights per hour without limits (hub concentration);
  • and that FAA is also enabling the airlines to fly repetitive routes that are lower and closer to the runways (route concentration), with a wholesale disregard for how these routes are destroying even our oldest communities.

Historically, our economic and political system has been a point of pride, in no small part because it has had a press that operates freely, a press that would reliably expose frauds and compel the correction of failures. People have been well served when reporters dig deep, unspinning the spin and propaganda.

There has been a lot of evidence in the last year, that this ‘free press’ is dead, that in fact most elements of the mainstream media now serve corporate and political agendas. Likewise, we have seen too many elected officials who seem to be incapable of comprehending the impacts, who instead can only understand serving commerce so they can get campaign contributions. ‘60 Minutes’ can do better, can help restore the balance we have lost, and in the process can help rebuild public confidence in the mainstream media.

(click on image to view source Change.org petition page)

Will ‘60 Minutes’ listen? If hundreds of us take a few minutes and send emails, letters, tweets and calls, expressing how NextGen is impacting our homes, will ‘60 Minutes’ do the diligent research and expose the depth of FAA’s NextGen failure? Let’s hope so.

There are hundreds of smart people, across the nation and standing ready to help ‘60 Minutes’ write the powerful news story needed by thousands.

Here are your contact options…

FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/60minutes/
TWITTER @60Minutes
EMAIL 60m@cbsnews.com
PHONE (212) 975-2006
POSTAL MAIL Story Editor, 60 MINUTES, CBS News
524 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

KDCA NextGen Impacts May Trigger Yet One More Legal Action Against FAA

FAA is presently being sued by groups across the nation, due to their botched NextGen implementation. It looks like another lawsuit may be initiated, seeking relief for residents in Bethesda, MD. See the Bethesda Magazine article (archived copy below, in a scrollable PDF).

Essentially, what is happening is FAA is tweaking upward the number of operations handled at Washington National Airport [KDCA], to enable four airlines (American, Delta, JetBlue and Southwest) to schedule heavier arrival and departure pushes. To facilitate this, FAA got Congress to pass legislation in early 2012 that eliminated the requirement to do real environmental assessments (this is the infamous ‘CATEX’ issue; click here to see documentation of a CATEX example impacting residents near LaGuardia).

Using CATEX to approve and implement NextGen procedures has turned out to be a huge failure. The root failure is that FAA’s DNL noise metric does not capture the very real and damaging noise impacts caused by repetitive flights passing one after another at low altitudes, using automation to track the same narrow path. This narrow route concentration is very clearly indicated in the graphics, within the article below. The repetitive noises go on for days and even weeks on end; people suffer sleep loss and elevated blood pressure, and some may be going crazy, but their problems are all dismissed by FAA. Oddly, FAA insists that by averaging those weeks over the entire calendar year, no damages are done ‘on average’. This is sort of a variation of a bad strategy for abating pollution: “the solution to pollution is dilution.”

The graphics in this article appear to depict the pre-NextGen and post-NextGen departure tracks. Montgomery County is concerned about the intense concentration for north flow departures heading northeast to NYC and Boston, etc.; the NextGen RNAV departure begins a right turn over the RNAV fix named ALEEX (Cabin John Parkway and I-495), then passes DOGUE (roughly 2-miles NW of the Mormon Temple), inundating North Bethesda. Similarly, residents in the Fort Hunt neighborhoods of Virginia are impacted, because the new RNAV departure procedure in south flow turns west at lower altitudes, roughly two miles north of Mt. Vernon … instead of climbing another couple miles southbound over the Potomac River. Again, all to save the airlines a smidgeon of money, while shifting a heavier noise and pollutant cost onto previously peaceful residential communities. The people below are frustrated not just because the noise pattern persists for hours on end (and can repeat each day for weeks on end), but also because they are trying to squeeze accountability out of one of the most intransigent and insensitive federal bureaucracies ever to exist: today’s FAA.

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

The Larger Picture

On a national scale, FAA is facilitating hub concentration (see this aiReform Post). Each of the hub-growth airports is also not just seeing a larger number of flights, but the flights are serving a higher percentage of through-passengers, who never even leave the airport terminal. And, for each of these few growing hub airports, other airports are in sharp decline. So, as KDCA grows, there is a shift of flights away from Washington-Dulles [KIAD] and Baltimore-Washington [KBWI]; Dulles is now down 47% from peak traffic year (2005), and BWI is now down 23% from peak traffic year (2001). This is precisely the problem that is growing at a tiny few other major U.S. hub airports, such as Seattle [KSEA] (where Delta is rapidly expanding its schedule) and at both Kennedy [KJFK] and LaGuardia [KLGA] in the New York City area. The KSEA hub expansion is diminishing Portland [KPDX] (down 31% from peak traffic year 1997) and Salt Lake City [KSLC] (down 30% from peak traffic year 2005). In the NYC area, Southwest is expanding while gutting service at Islip [KISP] (down 48% from peak traffic year 2000) American expansion has all but eliminated the use of Pittsburgh [KPIT] as a hub (down 69% from peak traffic year 1997); Delta expansion has all but eliminated the use of Cincinnati [KCVG] as a major airline hub (down 73% from peak traffic year 2004).

NextGen route concentration, caused by autopilot use of RNAV routes, is a serious impact that FAA chooses to totally ignore. Think about it: wherever you live, chances are that any aircraft flying through is not noticeable so long as it is roughly 2-miles or more away from directly overhead. In the case of Bethesda, the pre-NextGen dispersal of departures meant each resident below was subjected to randomized and irregular noise events; but, post-NextGen, the noise events are concentrated and repetitive, like a Chinese dripping water torture.

An 1860 photograph of an actual water torture, used by prison authorities to drive Sing Sing prisoners insane. (source: The Burns Archive, via Wikipedia)

Of course, this picture reflects the attitudes and values of our nation in 1860. Today, we have technologies that can benefit us, enhancing quality of life … but only if we manage them intelligently.


See also:

One Table Shows the Reality of NextGen

Here’s some data to ponder as we start into a new year: a table, showing commercial operations at each of FAA’s OEP-35 airports, from 2007 onward.

Focus first on the pink column, three columns from the right edge; the airports are ranked in descending order, by the percent decline in annual operations, comparing 2015 with 2007.

Note that the largest declines, at Cincinnati [KCVG], Cleveland [KCLE], and Memphis [KMEM] are huge: down 61%, 53%, and 43% respectively. Note also, the declines are even larger when you compare Total Annual Operations in 2015 vs the various historic peak years for each OEP-35 airport, in the two columns on the far right; for these figures (which include general aviation and military operations data), all airports have declined, ranging from 74% to 2% and averaging 24%.

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

Three facts stand out from this table, and they all strongly contradict the sales pitches that FAA and industry have been collaborating on the past few years:

  1. Note the bright green line across the table. Just under it are five airports: Charlotte [KCLT], Reagan National [KDCA], Miami [KMIA], Seattle [KSEA] and San Francisco [KSFO]. These are the only five of the OEP-35 airports that recorded an increase in commercial operations from 2007 to 2015; i.e., 6 out of 7 OEP airports SLOWED substantially while the national population grew.
  2. The airport identifiers marked in a dark-red background color are the airports that in 2016 had extensive noise complaint histories (documented online, and in the mainstream media) related to route concentrations under NextGen. Routinely, FAA has imposed these routes without adequate public review, abusing the ‘categorical exclusion’ process. Numerous legal actions have resulted.
  3. For all OEP-35 airports combined, commercial operations have steadily declined 11% from 2007 to 2015, nearly every year. This is industry contraction. And furthermore, the vast majority of U.S. commercial airports peaked in the 1990s, some more than two decades ago!

WIth the new year, we’ll see a new adminstration and changes at FAA and DoT. Don’t be fooled by the impending onslaught of yet another round of propaganda. The U.S. NAS is operating at far below historic peaks and continuing to trend downward. Growth is rare, and limited to key airports where airlines are concentrating flights into superhubs that severely impact local quality of life. The only true beneficiaries of NextGen and ATC privatization are industry stakeholders (especially the airline CEOs, FAA officials, lobbyists, and manufacturers, plus a few elected officials), who will narrowly share the profits while completely ignoring the larger environmental costs.

We don’t need oversold technology fixes pitching RNAV and RNP solutions that have been used for decades; technologies that could and would serve us all beautifully, if FAA would assert its authority with balance, and manage capacity at the largest U.S. hub airports. We need airports to serve communities while being truly environmentally responsible. And for that to happen, we need a new era of transparency and accountability at FAA. We need reform.

Exposing a NextGen Fraud: the so-called ‘Conventional’ ZigZag Routes

It is quite clear that, with the election results and the imminent White House occupancy change, coordinated efforts are ramping up to try and push through the latest pet projects: ATC privatization, and accelerated NextGen funding. These efforts are sourced in some backroom ‘collaboration’ between top-level FAA officials, key aviation leaders in Congress, and the industry (the airlines, the manufacturers, and the lobbyists).

As has always been the pattern, the Av-Gov Complex will knowingly lie to sell their schemes. One of the most graphic lies of the present cycle is variations of this graphic:

201106scp-conventional-vs-rnav-vs-rnp-faa-zigzag-graphic-at-pg7-of-satnavnews_summer_2011

This misleading graphic is liberally posted in news articles, FAA reports, etc. It implies that today’s air navigation systems are primitive, needing to upgrade via a progression from zigzag routes (left image) through RNAV routes and eventually RNP routes. An important fact being hidden, though, is that RNAV and RNP routes already exist, as they have for years. (SOURCE: pg.7 of FAA’s SatNav News, Summer 2011 edition)

Time and again, this image is pushed to help brainwash the Public (and especially Congress) to believe the current ATC system is incredibly archaic and shockingly inefficient, with flights zigging and zagging all across the continent. They pitch NextGen as ‘transformative’, while ignoring and concealing the facts that:

  1. commercial passenger flights have been flying mostly direct flights for decades, and thus these graphically presented zigzags are a complete lie;
  2. RNP & RNAV procedures have been available and usable by these flights for roughly two decades, and thus the whiz-bang NextGen changes are not really changes (we can accomplish the expensive NextGen goals by smartly using what we already have); and,
  3. an entirely new class of delays has been recently invented – enroute delays, at altitude; typically 100-200-miles from the destination airport, these are used to smooth out arrival surges because FAA refuses to restrict appropriate arrival rates to accommodate known airport capacity limits.

FAA et al need to be called out on this misinformation. It turns out, you will find two versions of this deceptive diagram in Chapter One of nearly every recently completed ‘Environmental Assessment’ for various airspace changes around the nation. Here are some examples, from recent OAPMs (Optimization of Airspace and Procedures in the Metroplex); look at the identical content in any of these cookie-cutter documents, at these pages:

  1. June 2013: Draft EA for DC OAPM (216p; see pages 6 and 14 in chapter one, marked pages ‘1-6’ and ‘1-14’)
  2. March 2014: EA for Atlanta OAPM (122p; see pages 1-6 and 1-14)
  3. July 2014: Final EA for NorCal OAPM (134p; see pages 1-5 and 1-11)
  4. December 2014: Draft EA for Charlotte OAPM (118p; see pages 1-5 and 1-11)
  5. August 2016: Final EA for SoCal OAPM (144p; see pages 1-6 and 1-12)

United Airlines at Dulles: Yet Another Example of Corporate Welfare?

The airlines offer an extraordinary example of how the playing field has become increasingly tipped, to favor money, corporations, and the politically connected. In this example, the Washington, DC area is served by three commercial airports: Baltimore-Washington [KBWI], Dulles [KIAD], and Reagan National [KDCA]. As is common at all major U.S. airports, there is little actual price competition at each airport, with each location dominated by one or two major carriers. So, travelers to the DC Metropolitan area via Southwest use KBWI, those flying United use KIAD, and those flying American use KDCA. The data for December 2013 shows Southwest flies 81% of KBWI flights, United flies 91% of KIAD flights, and American flies 56% of KDCA flights.

This airport dominance is problematic for local communities. It puts the non-resident airline corporate officials in a strong bargaining position to compel elected officials to create huge subsidies. The taxation system underlying U.S. commercial airlines and airports is such that, if an airline abandons a hub, the local economic impact can be severe. See for example the dramatic declines in airport operations when major airlines ‘moved on’ from former major hubs: USAir in Pittsburgh [KPIT], by Delta in Northern Kentucky [KCVG], by American in St. Louis [KSTL], and by United in Cleveland [KCLE].

In this case, elected officials are saying they believe United might leave Dulles, so they must give United lots of money. Well, think about that for a moment: if United left Dulles, where would they go? They certainly would not base at KBWI, and compete against Southwest. And trying to relocate to KDCA would be all but impossible, due to capacity limits. So, would United want to leave the entire DC metropolitan market? Would one of the four major U.S. commercial carriers be able to run a real airline without serving the lucrative market that feeds elected officials, lobbyists and aggrieved citizens to the nation’s capitol? Of course not. In other words, United was not going anywhere, and the huge subsidy being trumpeted by McAuliffe, Kaine, and others is nothing but another example of massive corporate welfare.

(click on image to read source article and reader comments, at Washington Post)

(click on image to read source article and reader comments, at Washington Post)

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

When Viewed Through Cash-Colored Glasses, ‘Clouds Cause Delays’

Everyday, FAA creates a traffic report, then uses social media to report expected air traffic delays.

(click on image to view source tweet)

(click on image to view source tweet)

Cute little graphics are intuitive: the cloud image means delays related to cloud layers (here listing the DC area to NYC area), and the lightning image means delays related to thunderstorms (here listing all major hubs from Charlotte to Houston).

Mindlessly, we absorb this report and feel a bit more ‘aware’ of the system managed by FAA. But, if we are a bit more mindful, and actually THINK about what FAA tweets, we have to ask: are clouds really a valid reason for delays?

The answer is obviously NO. These delays are happening routinely, triggered only by clouds. Not severe weather … just puffy, calm, benign layers and pockets of water vapor. These delays continue to happen – and at the same few hub airports everyday – but it is not due to ‘clouds’; they happen because of unmanaged capacity. I.e., FAA continues to allow too many planes in time slots that are too short.

Take a look at the weather maps for this day. In the first image, clouds are white and precipitation is green. Note the existence of both clouds and precipitation in many other parts of the nation… yet, no delays are reported/expected at most locations. Again, the delays are all happening at a select few hub airports, where FAA refuses to impose needed capacity management. All FAA has to do is impose sufficiently reduced hourly flow rates, but FAA refuses. And the consequences are significant: flights are delayed, passengers lose billions of dollars worth of their time, and communities are inundated with excessive aviation noise and air pollution, all to accommodate more flights than are needed to serve each specific community.

(click on image to view current image at ClimateReanalyzer; select the 'Precipitation & Clouds' view)

(click on image to view current image at ClimateReanalyzer; select the ‘Precipitation & Clouds’ view)

(click on image to view current CONUS infrared image at NOAA.gov)

(click on image to view current CONUS infrared image at NOAA.gov)

Although it conflicts with Congress’ original intent, the fact is that FAA serves the airlines, not the people. FAA, beholden to industry profit-interests (of the final-four major U.S. airlines, and of manufacturers, too), refuses to manage airport capacity by imposing reasonable flow-rate restrictions. Instead, FAA collaborates with their industry partners (aka, ‘stakeholders’) and creates manipulative spin/propaganda, trying to sell us on NextGen spending that creates greater impacts while producing little benefits.

FAA works to feed more money to the same industry partners who hire FAA officials when they retire. Just like the rigged U.S. political campaigns, where the system is manipulated by the duopoly parties. We suffer increasing impacts from failures that will never go away until we demand overdue reforms.

Debunking the A4A Op/Ed Letter at TimesLedger

Airlines for America is the largest lobbyist for U.S. airlines – and the main force behind years of coordinated spin seeking to dupe Congress and the Public. With added intensity these past few years, Airlines for America has been pressing to both privatize ATC and waste billions to ‘transform ATC’ by supposedly adding satellite-based NextGen technologies (while ignoring the fact these technologies are already widely used). Airlines for America is also known as ‘A4A’, and formerly known as the trade group, ‘Air Transport Association (ATA)’.

Doubtless, with possible rare exceptions, the people who work at Airlines for America are all good people:  hard-working, protective of their families, civic-minded and loyal to our nation, and careful to optimize quality-of-life in their home communities. And, when they don their most expensive outfits, they are Washington DC lobbyists.

Here is a picture of three of A4A’s lobbyists: Rubino, Calio, and Pinkerton:

(click on image to view bios for all A4A executives, at airlines.org)

(click on image to view bios for all A4A executives, at airlines.org)

The online bio for CEO Nick Calio notes his professional background. He co-founded a DC law firm, worked for Citigroup, and also worked within the presidential administrations of both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. All that before he became A4A’s CEO, in early 2011. The Wikipedia entry for A4A notes that “…Calio was hired after the Republicans made big gains in the 2010 midterm elections….”

One of the A4A VP’s has been reported to be dating House Transportation & Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster, of Pennsylvania. That would be Shelley Rubino, and her official title is ‘VP, Global Government Affairs‘ (perhaps this is more acceptable than ‘VP of government relations‘?). For what it is worth, Mr. Shuster has offered assurances that his relationship with this A4A VP does not have any bearing on his tenacious advocacy of privatizing ATC and accelerating NextGen.

Another A4A executive is Sharon Pinkerton, Senior Vice President for Legislative and Regulatory Policy. It appears that Sharon’s in-basket receives occasional directives to produce public relations material. One recent result was a letter with Sharon’s name, published in the TimesLedger, an old newspaper serving the borough of Queens, New York. Queens is highly significant here, because this is a densely populated area impacted by not just one but TWO major U.S. airports – both Kennedy and LaGuardia. As heavily covered in the news, Queens is one of those places where FAA’s NextGen implementation is destroying quality-of-life, and creating noise-ghettoes out of historic neighborhoods. Oh, and just like those executives at A4A, the residents of these impacted Queens neighborhoods consist largely of good people: hard-working, protective of their families, civic-minded and loyal to our nation, and careful to optimize quality-of-life in their home communities. And, all the more to their credit, very few of the Queens residents are lobbyists.

So, for your reading pleasure, here is a copy of the A4A letter, as published in the March 3rd edition of TimesLedger. Highlights and footnotes have been added, to rebut the misinformation being pushed by A4A. Following the letter is a compilation of graphics from the online flight-tracking website, FlightAware. This compilation shows all factual data (routes, times, speeds, etc.) needed to ascertain the efficiency of all 29 commercial airline flights, from LaGuardia to Reagan National, as flown on March 3rd, the day of the TimesLedger Op/Ed by A4A.

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

A key line within the A4A letter says: “…twenty years ago, a flight from LaGuardia to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport took less than an hour. Today the same flight takes 90 minutes, as airlines have to account for ATC delays.” This is not a casual slip, though, as the letter reinforces the delay concept by referring to ‘our Nation’s antiquated air traffic control system’ and citing ‘WWII-era radar technology’.

The facts prove the A4A line is totally false. Instead, the real data shows:

  1. On Thursday, March 3, 2016, there were 29 airline departures from LaGuardia to Reagan National.
  2. This route segment (KLGA-KDCA) is a duopoly, between two airlines pretending to compete, each offering hourly flights on the top of the hour, from 6AM until 8PM. American offers 15 daily flights, and Delta offers 14 daily flights.
  3. American schedules their flights at 84-minutes long, but the flights averaged 50-minutes; this means that, while airborne and under ATC control (using the present blend of radar and satellite technologies), each American flight ‘made up’ an average 34-minutes against their advertised schedule.
  4. Delta schedules their flights at 86-minutes long, but the flights averaged 49-minutes; this means that, while airborne and under ATC control (using the present blend of radar and satellite technologies), each Delta flight ‘made up’ an average 37-minutes against their advertised schedule. Also, Delta does not actually fly these flights; instead, they use a contract regional feeder, Shuttle America, a very common practice (used by United and Delta as well, and at nearly every major U.S. airline hub).
  5. In the A4A letter, it was claimed that “…twenty years ago, a flight from LaGuardia to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport took less than an hour….” Well, the same is true today: 50-minutes is comfortably under an hour.
  6. Looking closely at the screen-captured routes, it is clear they are VERY direct. In fact, the only significant route adjustments are all related to fitting the flight into the arrival sequence at Reagan National, and thus has NOTHING to do with LaGuardia. [NOTE: the primary route adjustments are a slight delay vector frequently applied near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, and the extension of the downwind leg (those sometimes-long U-shapes prior to landing), to accomplish spacing in the landing sequence]
  7. Both airlines are using small commuter-sized aircraft on essentially all flights: 69-seats for Delta (using the E175), and 100-seats for American (using the E190). Only American’s first flight of the day has higher capacity: a 128-seat Airbus 319 … which makes sense, since lots of people fly to DC to see their dealer elected representative.
  8. The small aircraft size points to an interesting possibility: if FAA and the airlines wanted to reduce delays and noise impacts, they could agree to fewer LGA-DCA trips per day, using larger aircraft (130-seat to 160-seats or more) that have essentially identical flight profiles (thus no greater noise impact per flight).
  9. Chances are high this same reduction strategy would apply on other route segments to major hubs (O’Hare, Atlanta, Charlotte, DFW and Boston, for example). That is to say, if use of many small planes was disincentivized but use of fewer large planes was incentivized, between LaGuardia and other hubs, we could easily reduce the number of flights using LaGuardia; huge improvements could be realized – and virtually overnight – in both local noise impacts and national airspace system delays.

About this data compilation:

The PDF below is a compilation of screen captures, showing all 29 airline flights from LaGuardia to Reagan National, on March 3, 2016. For each screen capture, the map on the left side clearly shows New Jersey and adjoining states, depicting shores, highways, etc. Notice how the flights consistently pass over the same locations, one flight after another.

On the right side of each screen capture is a datablock about each flight. It shows flight number, scheduled times, actual times, airspeed, filed altitude, aircraft type, and route of flight. Be sure to pop-out the graphic, so you can read the finer details. Pay attention to the actual departure times, actual arrival times, and compare them with the ‘official’ times scheduled by the airlines.

One important thought to keep in mind while studying these flights: controllers are like regular people, in that they try to do as little as possible. They try to keep things simple and easy. So, if other air traffic was not an issue, every one of these 29 flights would have been cleared to fly a beeline from off the departure runway to land on the arrival runway. Every variation from a direct route is solely to adjust the flight, to keep it out of conflict and to finesse it into a safe arrival flow. A tiny tweak, turning the flight to the left or right, while passing north of Baltimore, is generally all that is needed to add a minute of delay to the overall flight, enabling a smooth arrival flow. Alternatively, a speed adjustment ordered by ATC can accomplish the same end result. Look closely at the thin green line and you can see these route adjustments.

Click on the image below for a scrollable view; the PDF file may be downloaded. You can also click on the pop-out feature (dwell over the upper right corner and it will appear) and the magnifier to view the finer details of the maps and data/times for the 29 flights.

The flight data, as well as the maps, shows all 29 commercial flights from LaGuardia to Reagan National on March 3rd. These facts, when juxtaposed with the A4A letter, present a compelling case: A4A is in the business of making money by lobbying, and as with all examples of lobbying today, their methods sadly include the manipulation of facts and perceptions. In wartime, their methods would be called propaganda. In peacetime, too, A4A’s methods are destructive. Not just to local quality of life, but also to the larger issue: functional and effective democratic process, with empowered citizens, knowledgeable and responsibly engaged.

So, A4A, if you are sincerely committed to hearing concerns and finding solutions, please cease your attack on our ears, our homes, and our democracy. Start serving the nation, not just your ‘lobby base’.