With FAA, ‘Collaboration’ is Just a Slick Euphemism for ‘Propaganda Campaign’

Time and again this year, the mainstream media has been shown to be fully collaborating with those they report on, thus effectively serving not as objective journalists but as servant propaganda agents. We’ve seen this in politics (yes, 2016 has been a big and very troubling year!), and we’ve seen it in the lobbying efforts of certain industries, aviation included.

The key to these propaganda campaigns is to ALWAYS frame the message (using carefully selected keywords), and coordinate the delivery of information. In the context of our U.S. Congress, in its present and ongoing state of oligarchy-serving dysfunction, it is critical that opposition voices are tamped down; that is, it would be problematic if any of the aviation stakeholders spoke up against the objective. So, within the group of stakeholders/players who are coordinating the propaganda campaign, each must find an aspect of the program that serves their own narrow interests, and accept that personal benefit as sufficient for their agreement to remain quiet about aspects they dislike. This is precisely what has evolved with NextGen and ATC Privatization; this is how we end up with the air traffic controllers’ union, NATCA, doing a reversal this year and now declaring that union leaders are onboard with both proposals.

The current propaganda campaign for the U.S. aviation system focuses on two things:

  1. ATC privatization – the ‘real goal’ is to further insulate this safety/regulatory function from accountability and transparency, making it that much harder for impacted citizens to resolve aviation-related problems. Many in industry like this idea, for obvious reasons (it creates ‘business opportunities’); top officials at NATCA see a chance to remove controllers from federal salary caps and the age-56 mandatory retirement, so thousands of the most senior controllers today would earn more than $180,000 per year (and build much larger retirement pensions).
  2. NextGen investment – as happens with most matured agencies, there is a constant need to project a message that helps the agency mission appear relevant and worthy of further funding. So, every few years, FAA dreams up a way to spend money, coordinates with ‘stakeholders’ to ensure their non-opposition, then carefully maneuvers Congress, seeking billions for a new so-called ‘transformative’ program. It is all smoke-and-mirrors and pork, benefitting not just industry players but also FAA officials who retire, collect pensions, and become consultants and lobbyists for those same industry players.

Any effective propaganda campaign requires consistent and frequent restatement of key bits of disinformation. I.e., if you repeat a lie long enough, it effectively becomes fact. This truism is understood and abused by both major political parties in the U.S., just as it is understood and abused by accountability-averse agencies, FAA included. So, what are the key bits of disinformation FAA is using…?

  1. use the words ‘increasingly congested’ … even when you know it is just a bald-faced lie (see the data analysis within the Post, The Incredible Shrinking NAS … that FAA & the Av-Gov Complex Don’t Talk About; on average, for the 504 U.S. airports with control civilian control towers, annual operations are now down 45% from the peak years at each airport. DOWN 45% … but does the mainstream media tell us this statistic?
  2. distract the citizens with snazzy graphics and jargon that pretends to be selling something new and incredible [even when the actual change is minimal to none]
  3. tack on the latest buzzwords, such as ‘transformative’, ‘collaborative’, and of course ‘NextGen’.
  4. make sure it appears that the message is organic, authentic, and sourced NOT in the agency (FAA) but in the real world (the airlines, the airline lobby, the unions, the manufacturers). [again, this is just illusion… there is a huge amount of coordination going on behind the scenes, with FAA and the other parties very carefully designing the campaign, and orchestrating who says what and when]

Here’s a recent example: a news article with warm and fuzzy airport growth hopes at the St. Paul Downtown Airport [KSTP], near Minneapolis. This is an airport catering primarily to elite personal and business travel, such as using charter bizjets. The airport management expects roughly a hundred elite sport fans to use KSTP in early 2018, for their flight to watch the Super Bowl. The article more than implies that the airport is a money-generator. But, as shown in this aiREFORM analysis, and as is so typical across the nation, annual operations at this airport peaked in 1990 and have since declined 70%. The federal monies spent there are essentially maintaining infrastructure that is increasingly underused.

So, when you read articles such as this, be sure to consider the long history of spin and propaganda by FAA and other Av/Gov Complex players.

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


Learn the Parts of NextGen that FAA Does Not Talk About: Four Informative Slideshows by MSP FairSkies Coalition

KPHX NW SID, NextGen Impact Area

A graphic showing NextGen impact in neighborhoods northwest of the Skyharbor Airport in Phoenix. For decades before NextGen, departures climbed out to the west, over the Salt River, and were at much higher altitudes when they began turns toward northern neighborhoods. For a year now, FAA controllers have issued immediate right turns to the northwest. Neighbors within a couple miles of the thick green line of concentrated departures are complaining about the new noise, but FAA just ignores and delays.

If you or someone you know is being impacted by aviation noise due to FAA’s flawed NextGen implementation, you need to watch the four short slideshows linked below. This series was created by one of the leading citizen-experts in the nation doing research and teaching others about NextGen impacts: Kevin Terrell.

Mr. Terrell lives near the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport [KMSP], which was once a major U.S. airline hub for Northwest Airlines. Like so many other airlines, Northwest is long gone, now part of the final four in this nation: American, Delta, Southwest and United. Annual airport operations at KMSP peaked in 2004, and have since steadily declined by 24%. Despite this ongoing decline, FAA has funded construction of a new $70 Million Runway 17, which aligns with a nearby river corridor to reduce noise impacts, but is substantially underutilized.

While this expensive new runway remains underutilized, FAA and NATCA are collaborating to impose new NextGen procedures that increase capacity on the older parallel runways that have a higher noise impact. The collaborations between management and the controller’s union follow the same basic strategies as used elsewhere: increased capacity by establishing immediate course divergence, with turns of at least 15-degrees near the departure end of the runway. Mr. Terrell and others have learned the lingo and fought back. They have successfully stopped numerous FAA proposals and are slowly accumulating support from elected officials. And, with these online slideshows, they are educating people across the nation.

The first two videos provide an excellent primer on RNAV and NextGen, and were published in 2013. The second two videos are from Summer 2015. They are particularly relevant to FAA’s expanding noise impacts at Phoenix, Charlotte, Boston and elsewhere. They focus on FAA’s improper use of ‘Categorical Exclusion’, FAA’s revision of their Environmental Impact Policies & Procedures (FAA Order 1050.1F) to further ignore citizen noise concerns, and the need for citizens to become active, speaking up to garner Congressional action.

See the four videos at these four blog Posts:

  1. RNAV (NextGen) departure tracks at MSP airport, Minnesota
  2. FAA’s outdated, insufficient & incomplete approach to measuring aircraft noise
  3. The Real Impact of Aircraft Noise, Part 1
  4. The Real Impact of Aircraft Noise, Part 2

UPDATED 10/4/2016 – revised links to the four videos

See also:

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.”


<< <> <<>> <> >>

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!!

The Real Impacts of NextGen

A short article by a TV station in Minnesota helps illustrate the problem with FAA’s huge (and very costly) NextGen program. Simply put, NextGen is designed to narrow the flight paths, which will intensify noise impacts under those thin flight paths. In this story, a local citizen pointed out that this would be problematic to those living under the narrower flight paths; FAA’s response was to do nothing, and just play dumb. Here’s the article:

Minneapolis Man Takes On Feds Over Proposed Flight Path

The Federal Government has not disclosed how many airplanes could soon fly over Southwest Minneapolis and Edina, if a newly proposed flight path change is approved. But, one man who has crunched numbers and analyzed data for the CIA and the Defense Department’s Intelligence Division says he has a pretty good idea how many planes will be over his neighborhood all the way to Edina every day, if the change is adopted. Kevin Terrell says he’s dissected data of the Federal Aviation Administration and he estimates Southwest Minneapolis and Edina could have as many as 135 flights overhead every day. Right now, he says, there are about 20 to 30 daily flights near his home departing from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Terrell says he’s shared his research with FAA officials in Washington, D.C., but he says they have not acknowledged his data. Terrell says he is also frustrated that public officials in Minneapolis have not asked for more environmental impact studies on the newly proposed flight routes. He tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the “people of Minneapolis and Edina deserve a definitive number of proposed flights that will be heard overhead every day, from the FAA.”

We contacted the FAA and asked for an on-camera interview, but they declined. They did not endorse Terrell’s research, but they did not criticize it either. They would only say they “commend Terrell for his work on this issue, but it is too early to predict how many flights would be re-directed if this new proposal is approved.” An FAA spokesperson told us they do not not have a timetable for completing their review of the proposal, however, if the change is approved, it would take effect next year.

To put this into context, consider the evolving technologies used by air traffic controllers, and how those technologies change the flow of traffic.

Fundamentally, a controller’s job is all about ensuring two flights remain properly separated. This requires that the controller be able to accurately define the position of each flight. Decades ago, before the application of radar, controllers had to apply time separation, which typically meant separating two flights by at least 15-minutes time (based on pilot reported and estimated times). Once radar was introduced, controllers could start to ‘see’ the picture, and they began applying a 5-mile separation standard. As radar became more precise and reliable, separation standards were gradually reduced to even less than 3-miles.

As a rule of thumb, when today’s commercial aircraft are in sequence to use the same runway (for takeoff or for landing), they need to be roughly one minute apart. Today’s controllers have an extraordinary array of tools that enable them to reduce most air traffic situations into a string of speed-matched flights. This is true for the pilots, too, who have much better control via advancements in flight automation systems.

Although we hear stories about how incredibly primitive U.S. ATC technologies are, those stories are bunk. The real purpose of those stories is two-fold: they serve to maximize the funding of new technologies (which translates to billions paid each year to the industry), and they serve to elevate pay for controllers and all others at FAA. ATC automation has made huge progress beyond the early radar presentations of the 1960’s, when midair collisions peaked.* Today, computer sophistication allows the controller to place a precise ‘bubble’ (typically a 3-mile ring) around the radar target – and it allows the computer to alert the controller in advance of a projected loss of separation. There are also technologies that warn pilots to avoid*For the record, midairs peaked with the rapid growth of commercial jet service, starting around 1960. It took FAA a full decade to recognize and finally correct the problem, with new airspace and speed rules. collision – and these technologies have been effective for nearly four decades (TCAS was the major technical fix created in response to the rash of 1960’s midair collisions).

In the NextGen concept, digital technology is essentially being applied to tightly model flights, with so much time precision that the computers end up doing the separation. In other words, NextGen transitions the role of the air traffic controller away from active control, and makes him or her more of a ‘systems monitor’. This is a main reason why NATCA was initially opposed to FAA’s NextGen.

In the present system (as we start to implement NextGen), when controllers work arrival and departure flows, they often use vectors (assigned headings) to fan out flights, producing a more random distribution over a larger area. More people encounter noise impacts, but the impacts are shared, and tend not to be intense and repetitive. With NextGen, this will change. The key change in NextGen is to create very precise routes, which are designed with minimal lateral separation. Because the objective is to condense all of the fanned traffic into those defined routes, residents under those thin routes WILL SEE HUGE INCREASES in air traffic, and it will be intense and repetitive.

This problem has been reported recently in news stories out of Seattle, Boston, New York City (and who knows how many other cities), and now this problem is being accurately defined in Minnesota. But, FAA and others choose to ignore it. Instead, they cheer-lead for more NextGen spending. Nobody holds them accountable when they throw out figures that claim huge fuel savings, all the while ‘greenwashing’ NextGen to be environment-friendly … which it is not.

Do We Even Need NextGen?

Nearly everyone continues to look past an important fact: the number of commercial aviation operations has been steadily declining for roughly a decade. As such, there is no pressing ‘need’ to deploy NextGen. And, in fact, we could dramatically reduce the number of flights, if we managed this system so as to get the airlines to use larger aircraft with reduced flight frequencies. For example, today there will be approximately 30 flights from PDX to Seattle on small commuter aircraft. This is a frequency of roughly one flight every thirty minutes, and similar to the frequency flown between many busy city-pairs (JFK–Boston, SFO–LAX, ATL–DFW, etc.). These high-frequency flights create congestion and delays and relentless impacts on airport neighbors. Does FAA even know (or care?) how many of these are hauling passengers to/from a hub airport, when that passenger might be better served with more direct flights to real (non-hub) destinations?

Clearly, the same technologies that give us a decade of mega-investment into NextGen can also be used far more effectively to re-frame the entire air traffic system to become smarter and more efficient. Why do we still rely so heavily on the massive hub-and-spoke system, which requires passengers to make hub stops enroute, sometimes far off the direct route (e.g., Portland to Boston via DFW or Atlanta)? Why not use this same incredible number-crunching capacity to start to fully manage the larger system, to design the number of direct flights each day to fit real passenger demand for that city-pair? Should we start to recognize that U.S. airline deregulation is failing, and that the hub-and-spoke system is only intensifying aviation’s impact on CO2?

If we want to, we can have a far more efficient system, based primarily on direct-flights. And, it would be much better for the environment we need to preserve for our grandchildren.