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

JetSuiteX Blowing Off Airport Authorities, Still Planning Scheduled Flights Out of Santa Monica

We’re down to the last two weeks. On February 6th, a charter operator wants to add to the impacts at Santa Monica with the start of scheduled passenger service on 30-passenger jets, offering flights to San Jose, Carlsbad, and Las Vegas. It appears the airport has not been certified to handle this type of operation, that for example the emergency response personnel and equipment is not sufficient for a possible accident by the operator ‘Delux Public Charter’ under JetSuiteX. But, corporate hubris ignores safety, legality, and environmental compatibility.

The scrollable PDF below shows a recent article by Beige Luciano-Adams, in a local paper, the Argonaut. This reporter did a very good job asking questions and getting candid answers from both sides. On the other hand, attempts to get candor from FAA were rebuffed. Indeed, in this whole matter, the worst character is FAA. They are truly acting as a captured regulator serving only aviation, enabling JetSuiteX to compel the City to waste resources protecting the City and people from excessive and unacceptable risks.

A real aviation regulator would have put a stop on JetSuiteX in December, shortly after they started selling tickets online. A real aviation regulator also would have ordered JetSuiteX to cease selling of these tickets with discounts for Santa Monica residents, a practice that is discriminatory and thus appears to be illegal. A real aviation regulator would have worked hard to bring the operator and the airport authority together to quickly resolve all issues, trying earnestly to create air service, but rejecting the proposal if it failed safety standards and other requirements.

FAA has done nothing … which is part of the collaborated plan.

Readers are encouraged to study this article. Reader comments/analysis shared with aiREFORM may be added to this aiREFORM page, with or without attribution, at the request of the reader.

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

To read another local article, and to also see an analysis showing how poorly JetuiteX has done selling passenger seats to Santa Monicans (despite the discriminatory pricing), click here.

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.

An A-OK for FAA’s OAPM EA, aka a FONSI-ROD.

Heavy on the acronyms, light on the justice. Plus, their tone-deafness appears incurable: FAA continues to shove impactful NextGen changes onto people, despite more and more opposition. This time the victims are residents of the Los Angeles Basin.

On August 31, FAA signed off their administrative ‘Finding of No Significant Impact – Record of Decision’ for the LA Metroplex project. Click here to view or download an archived PDF copy of the FONSI-ROD. Click here to view or download an archived PDF copy of the SoCal Public Radio news article on 9/6/2016, by Sharon McNary.

Update: The Fight for Local Control (and eventual closure?) of the Santa Monica Airport [KSMO]

The level of organization in the neighborhoods surrounding the airport in Santa Monica continues to be impressive. This is not surprising, though, as the fight for local control over their local airport has been going on for more than THREE DECADES! The latest progress includes a push for the City Council to “…close the Santa Monica Airport to aviation use, as soon as that is legally permitted with a goal of June 30, 2018 and earlier if possible….” In support, a local Facebook group, SMOfuture, has created an 18-page factual summary of airport data that supports the closure proposal (a scrollable PDF copy is viewable at the bottom of this Post).

Take a look at the graphs in the report. There has been a lot of change in three decades. Some of the original impacts have all but disappeared. The main remaining airport impacts are the most severe, and are caused primarily by air charter jets and flight training pattern work. The flights that create the worst pollution – including added pollution at LAX due to delays – are the IFR departures. These are commonly charter jets and business jets, frequently carrying only one or two passengers. Each of these flights creates an enormous carbon impact per passenger mile, all for the ‘convenience’ of that small passenger load.

None of this is necessary, and KSMO offers no tangible benefits to the larger ‘National Airspace System’ (NAS). If an airport closure happened, flights using Santa Monica Airport would easily be absorbed at LAX, Burbank, Van Nuys and Hawthorne. The capacity at these other airports is far beyond the current usage. Indeed, as shown in the scrollable PDF below, everything has declined substantially at all Southern California airports, with the vast majority of airports seeing declines between 40% and 60%! The declining parameters include number of based aircraft, number of pilots, and number of operations per day. The only ‘growth’ at KSMO is in commercial flights, for air charter.

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


That these health impacts and other problems persist is testimony to how entrenched FAA is, in a position that consistently protects elite airport interests, delaying any and all meaningful action. At this and other airports across then nation, locals are disgusted at this ongoing FAA failure. Adding insult to injury, the bulk of this poor performance by FAA is done using the Peoples’ money, primarily from airline passenger taxes.

See also:
  • SMO Future – a Facebook group, advocating to reduce airport pollution, noise, dangers, and costs, and seeking a better future use of the airport land.

MHFC: NextGen Enroute Delays & Noise Impacts over Vashon Island

An incredible airshow: Michael Huerta’s Flying Circus.

20160408.. Michael Huerta's Flying CircusIn service to the airlines, FAA has carefully worked to bypass environmental review procedures while also embarking on a scheme to abandon wholesale decades worth of noise mitigation procedures. In their effort to increase ‘throughput’, turns are being made lower and closer to the airports, for both departures and arrivals. This would reduce fuel consumption by a small amount, but the savings are routinely more than lost when excessive airline scheduling necessitates that ATC must issue delay turns (even entire delay loops) during the enroute/cruise portion of the flight.

It is really a circus. ATCs work harder, and pilots also work harder. More delays are incurred, all so that FAA can justify increasing the repetitive-noise-pattern impacts on neighborhoods that previously had no aviation noise issues.

This Analysis looks at how NextGen is destroying quality of life for residents of Vashon Island, west of SeaTac [KSEA]. As shown in the map below, with FAA’s NextGen redesign of the Seattle airspace, ATC is compressing small planes to fly lower in corridors crossing east-west over KSEA (specifically, note the magenta arrows and magenta text boxes). This is to accommodate lower (and heavier) arrival flows on north-south downwind legs roughly 6-miles west of SeaTac (over the island’s eastern half). KSEA.20160512.. portion of VFR sectional focused on S ARR flow impacts Vashon level-offsOn a beautiful clear day (May 12, 2016), KSEA was landing south. In a south flow, all arrivals from California/Oregon are aligned northbound on a published RNAV route over the east half of Vashon Island. Thus, Vashon Island residents become subjected to the noise of one flight after another. Problematically, with the NextGen changes, this noise impact pattern is repeated all day long and all night long.

A scrollable PDF of the Analysis is presented below. Note that the Analysis also looks at how NextGen is being oversold and consistently fails to deliver on the ‘benefits’ claimed by FAA and others. In this example, every KSEA arrival from California was turned early after taking off, and then given a direct flight to the KSEA arrival fix at Battle Ground, just north of Portland. But then, once enroute, ATC issued significant delays to each arrival, eliminating all time and fuel savings benefits of the NextGen departure procedures. These delays were necessitated by the excessive arrival flows that happen at hub airports. In this example, KSEA is a major hub used by both Delta (including Compass, or CPZ) and Alaska (including Horizon).

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

If FAA chose to, they could substantially mitigate these Vashon Island noise impacts. Notably, a natural descent corridor exists a few miles to the east, over Puget Sound. NextGen technologies would easily allow FAA to create a simple customized noise-mitigation arrival route over the middle water area. But, unfortunately, it appears FAA is set on cookie-cutter downwind legs.

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

 

PETITION: Culver City Opposition to NextGen-Related Route Changes

20150906cpy.. SoCal flights, color-coded by airport, showing KLAX dominance, routes

(click on image to view petition at Change.org)

Parents and Residents of Culver City are petitioning President Obama, FAA Administrator Huerta, and others to stop new NextGen-related routes FAA proposes to implement over Southern California. The petition includes the above graphic, which appears to show a sampling of actual radar tracks for the LA Basin, color-coded by airport. LAX tracks are in magenta.

The Culver City area has been delineated on this aviation plot. It is the white patch outlined in red, and sits north-northeast of LAX and just east of Santa Monica. The magenta routes show that Culver City is under a heavy LAX arrival stream from points north, particularly the Bay Area. Note the fan of magenta lines from the northwest corner of the image; these are arrivals, converging over Santa Monica, where they then make a slight left turn to create an eastbound downwind leg for LAX. ATC then peels off these arrivals to fit into the arrivals from the east (most of the U.S.); i.e., notice the long series of sweeping right turns from the downwind onto final for landing LAX.

The petition makes some very good points. It also provides many links to articles and related materials. An easy and informative read, well worth a look.

Here are three links:

How FAA is Sabotaging the Citizen Involvement Process on ‘OAPMs’

Suppose you live in Southern California, maybe near the airport in Santa Monica. And, suppose you are highly responsible, the kind of person who doesn’t just take the time to vote but also sacrifices even more of your precious personal time to participate in important decisions by your government. You make it a habit to stay informed and involved.

One day, a news item announces that FAA has a big airspace redesign project: the SoCal Metroplex OAPM.**OAPM = ‘Optimization of Airspace & Procedures in the Metroplex’. You read the article and see that FAA has posted documents online and will have public ‘open houses’ at libraries and other locations, to answer questions and to enable citizen awareness of the proposals. At the end of the ‘open houses’, FAA has set a deadline for you to offer your concerns, suggestions, etc.

You are a busy person, with a job and a home and a family, but you nonetheless make time to do what you feel is your civic duty. You go online and find a slick webpage (created by a contractor for FAA) with an overview and more links. You click on the ‘Documents’ link and find another slick page, this one with links to 57 documents totaling 793 megabytes. Some of the links point to PDF files so large (the largest three are 70MB, 83MB, and 84MB) that you cannot even bear the long wait time to finish a download. You nonetheless wait through the slow downloads and open a few of the links.

You then wade through hundreds of pages, filled with aviation acronyms and other gobbledygook. You are bright and curious, and try your damnedest to make sense of what you are reading, and yet many pages are filled with information that appears to be completely irrelevant. Not just irrelevant to your small area of concern (how will these changes impact my home and my family, here in Santa Monica?), but even for the larger area of focus identified in FAA’s 57 online documents (the entire SoCal Metroplex, spanning from the Salton Sea to Solvang, and from Victorville to Tijuana).

You plow ahead and formulate a few questions. You attend a local Open House, where you find a team of FAA employees and aviation professionals awaits, ready to answer your questions. They eagerly focus on the claimed benefits, especially the claimed reduction in fuel consumption, but they grow quiet on some of your questions. You become perplexed when you realize: they are refusing to answer any questions related to the environmental impacts of their proposed changes. It is as if the proposal is all about enhancing capacity while blindly ignoring the environment. You depart the Open House and maybe, just MAYBE, you still have enough energy left to write and submit a comment before the deadline. Or, perhaps more likely, you simply shake your head and wonder: Why is this such a broken process?

The Laws…

Rest assured: it was never intended that the process would evolve as it has, to narrowly serve only the regulator and the regulated, at the expense of the much larger Public. And it is not you; it is the process that has gone nuts.

In the big picture, there are two fundamental elements needed for the effective functioning of Democracy and representative government:

  1. maximum informational transparency (in the timely release of quality reports and draft documents),
  2. and the assurance that individual citizens have an opportunity to meaningfully participate in the decision-making process.

To protect the people against agency regulatory capture, many federal laws have been deliberated and passed by Congress. Not least of these laws is the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The APA was passed in the 1940’s, aimed at bringing the evolving over-reach of numerous federal agencies back under control. Aimed at ensuring, no matter how simple or complex a proposed new rule was, agencies were not allowed to operate in a vacuum, and citizens were empowered to make meaningful contributions. Essentially, it is a check-and-balance; our past Congress’ passed laws that empowered our federal employees to create changes, but to protect our rights and ensure an effective process, Congress also passed laws requiring an open process engaging the public.

Wonderful concept, isn’t it? The problem, though, is this is only a ‘concept’, because in reality FAA (and more than a few other federal agencies) have slowly developed strategies for subverting the process. FAA is the regulatory agency with the authority to regulate airlines, manufacturers, and other aviation entities. But, FAA is a captured agency, and as such routinely serves the interests of the airlines and others FAA is supposed to be regulating.

…And How FAA is Subverting the Laws

FAA is knowingly ‘fixing’ the outcome of the reviews for changes in airport procedures and airspace design, by using the following strategies:

  • overwhelm the individual citizen with documentation, so that it is impossible for a responsible citizen to dedicate enough of their personal time to completing a thorough review. For example, a typical airport Master Plan, even for a very insignificant rural airport with little traffic, commonly measures 300-500 pages; it is hard for even a very intelligent citizen to sort through the document, even just to establish which pages are relevant and which pages are irrelevant.
  • further overwhelm the individual citizen by expanding the scope of the changes being proposed. By doing this, even the sharpest citizen (and what are the odds they are also blessed with limitless time and obsessive research skills?) will find it impossible to produce any kind of focused, specific comments. In the example of the current SoCal OAPM, the only people who MIGHT be able to process all the data are the FAA contractors who earned millions in public funds creating that webpage with 57 links to 793 MB’s of PDF files. And, don’t forget: FAA and its contractors are all biased toward approving the proposals!
  • be selective with FAA’s answers to citizen questions. By routinely ignoring the environmental questions, the agency (and, also, the aviation professionals who are ‘collaborating ‘ with FAA in this selective ‘non-answering’ policy) will nudge concerned citizens toward self-doubt. Some may even begin to question whether they are too sensitive about a problem the so-called experts cannot even recognize.
  • drag it all out forever. Delay, and delay some more, so that the process cannot possibly engage the ongoing attention of a concerned citizen. They can come to a long series of presentations, and hear the same garbage. Each time, the citizen is allowed to express his or her concern. After doing so a few times, they may just get the intended message: “WE ARE NOT REALLY LISTENING! So, move along and shut up, and accept we will do what we want at this airport!”
  • Divide and conquer. The larger Public is horribly disserved, but FAA does their job very well (that is, their REAL job, which clearly is ‘serving aviation interests’) when they find ways to get those who question airport projects to instead fight among themselves. Even good, smart and dedicated people have their limits. Stress them with noise and leaded exhaust and jet fumes, then do little to mitigate the problems; eventually, passions will flare and more citizens will give up.

 

Growth of Jet Operations at KSMO, 1983-2014

20150202cpy.. KSMO Annual Jet Ops chart, 1983-2014The number of jet operations per year, in and out of the airport at Santa Monica [KSMO], was barely 1,000 in 1983, and peaked at around 18,000 from 2004-2007. There was a substantial decline coincident with the financial collapse of 2008, and jet operations bottomed out below 13,000 during 2010-2012, before climbing back to 15,000 in 2014.

FAA’s records indicate there are only 6 or 7 jets actually hangared at KSMO. In fact, much of the jet traffic at KSMO is on-demand charter jets, often flying relatively short distances to Arizona, Nevada, the Rockies, or the Bay Area. The on-demand charter jets also frequently fly repositioning hops between KSMO and the three closest airports: KLAX, KVNY, or KBUR. Thus, a 6-mile or 8-mile direct trip becomes 50-60 miles of flying, mostly at altitudes no higher than 5,000 feet. The noise, soot, and other pollution impacts are substantial. And, as close as the houses are to the runway at KSMO, these jet operations are certainly not good for the health of local residents.

Below are aerial views showing the approaches to the two runway ends: Runway 21 (the primary runway) facing towards the ocean, and Runway 03 (used far less frequently) facing away from the ocean. These images are copied from a November 2011 presentation by Martin Rubin, Santa Monica Airport & Public Health.20111130.. aerial view RY21 looking SW [KSMO]20111130.. aerial view RY03 looking NE [KSMO]
Given the dense residential development close-in to the runway, air charter service to the Santa Monica area would be more safely and efficiently handled out of KLAX, KVNY, or KBUR. All three of these other airports offer much longer runways as well as multiple runways, so they can safely segregate faster jets from slower recreational aircraft. Plus, at all three airports, the controllers regularly work steady jet flows.


See also: