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.

[KORD]: Safety is Losing Out with the O’Hare Modernization Plan

One week ago, United 441 departed Orlando [KMCO] late in the day on a scheduled trip to O’Hare [KORD]. The flight history was normal up until the last moment, when the Boeing 757 slid off the edge of the runway and ended up in the mud at 12:53AM. FlightAware shows the flight made it to the gate two hours later.

It turns out, the flight was cleared to land on Runway 4L at a time when runway traction was reduced (after hours of light snow and mist) and the winds were poorly aligned with the runway (nominally a 70-degree crosswind per this official weather: METAR KORD 180651Z 33017G25KT 1SM R10L/P6000FT -SN BR BKN017 OVC043 M08/M11 A2994 RMK AO2 PK WND 33029/0618).

A group in the Chicago area, FAiR.org, issued this press release, making some very credible points. It appears that, in the mad rush to spend billions replacing the O’Hare runway system with a gazillion east-west runways, the busiest commercial airport in the world is losing its capacity to offer runways aligned with the wind, which are needed most during poor weather. The multi-parallel runways, and the NextGen reliance on automation (in the tower, and on the flight deck), are increasing runway throughput but decreasing safety margins.

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

And what is driving all of this? The desire to be the world’s number one airport, in terms of operations per year. For a few years, Atlanta [KATL] took that title away from O’Hare. Atlanta operates using a set of five parallel east-west runways. Atlanta is Delta’s superHub, and an enormous fraction (well over half?) of arriving passengers never leave the airport… they sit and wait enjoying the comfortable seatpitch on the same plane, or they walk to another gate and depart on a different flight.

FAA is collaborating with the airlines with the same business plan at O’Hare, which is a superHub for both United and American. The safety consequences are not insignificant, but there are environmental impacts, too. Here’s two serious environmental problems with these superHubs:

  1. when a huge portion of arriving passengers are using the airport only as a connecting point, the number of flights in and out of the airport each day far surpasses what is needed to serve the actual community. So, you end up with double, triple, or more flights per hour as are needed. Under NextGen, some neighborhoods like Bensenville are inundated with nonstop noise related to the superHub airport.
  2. the carbon footprint for each passenger is greatly increased. Essentially, every time a passenger connects at a superHub not on the direct route between origin and destination, it increases miles travelled. It is quite common in the U.S. for airlines to offer discounted airfares to fill seats, so they offer itineraries that add 20% or more to the miles travelled. This translates to that passenger generating a proportional increase in fuel consuming to carry their butt/baggage to their destination. More time, more hassle, more CO2, but too many of us are conditioned to ignore that because we ‘stole a great deal’, saving $20 when we clicked the buy button.

‘Just Say No’ to a Third Runway at Heathrow

The impacts are already too large at two runways, and the air travel industry is evolving to reduce the need for Heathrow as a major international hub. So, let’s be done with this ridiculous idea of adding a third parallel runway.

Consider how technologies have changed. There was a time in the U.S. when all transcontinental flights had to stop at ‘hubs’ in the mid-continent, making for very busy airports in places like Wichita, Kansas. These former hubs are now all but ‘ghost-airports’, because we developed more powerful engines and larger fuel capacities, enabling much longer flights.

London’s Heathrow Airport should follow that same path, and the role of this airport as a major international hub should decline substantially. Geography made London a logical (and necessary) refueling hub location for Transatlantic flights, but that necessity has ended in recent decades. We now have direct flights from the U.S. West Coast to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Munich, Istanbul, Dubai, etc. So, we really do not need to stop anymore, in London or Dublin or even Iceland.

It makes far more sense for flights between North America and Europe to carry passengers directly from actual origin cities to actual destination cities. The carbon impact is minimized, the air traveler’s time-cost is minimized, and noise impacts upon airport neighbors are also minimized. And one more benefit: an evolved system with more thin routes takes pressure off of major U.S. hubs like KJFK, KBOS, KCLT, KORD, KPHX, and KSFO … and this has potential to greatly reduce the local impacts being magnified by the ongoing NextGen implementation debacles.

We can have better air service for people. We can minimize impacts on neighborhoods and the planet. The key to moving forward on this is to get national regulators and politicians to quit perpetuating inefficiencies, to quit subsidizing the airlines with excessive airport expansion. And in the UK, this means:

NO THIRD RUNWAY at HEATHROW!!

The ‘machine’ that keeps pressing for a third Heathrow runway is motivated by greed. Here is a copy of a recent news article about their campaign efforts, with analytical footnotes added by aiREFORM.

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

[QUOTE]: A Fluff Interview of American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker

QUOTE

“…The entire interview is one huge lie….”

– a typical reader comment in an AviationWeek article, featuring a fluff interview of the American Airlines CEO

When interviewed, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker coughed out the obligatory plug for ATC privatization with this comment:

It’s of the utmost importance to continue the strides we’ve made to make the United States the safest country for aviation, and we need to find new ways to fund innovation and better efficiencies, including Air Traffic Control reform. Our industry is at a crossroads right now in Washington as we’re seeking a transformational change to the way the U.S. ATC system is financed and governed.

The strides made by American/USAir include using Categorical Exclusions to impose NextGen procedures that are destroying quality of life near the largest airport hubs dominated by American. In fact, the list of NextGen-impacted airports includes nearly every major hub with a schedule dominated by American: Charlotte, Chicago-O’Hare, Phoenix (approximately 51% of flights), and Washington-National (approximately 50% of flights), as well as LaGuardia (approximately 30% of flights), and Boston (approximately 24% of flights).

If Doug Parker and American Airlines REALLY wanted to make customers happy, they would recognize they serve not only passengers but also communities. They would then insist that FAA manage and downsize hub scheduling, even disincentivizing airline hubbing, to ensure the residents of each community are well served yet not inundated with excessive repetitive noise impacts and aviation air pollution.

Click here to read the original blog post, or here to read an archived PDF copy with aiREFORM annotations.

[QUOTE]: NextGen Noise Impacts Nationwide

QUOTE

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

– a resident of Queens, NY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another FAA-NextGen Noise Ghetto: Bensenville, IL

In Washington, DC, a congressional committee is using the need to ‘re-authorize’ FAA spending as an excuse to try to ramrod a packaged sellout to the airlines. The package, generously called the ‘Aviation Innovation, Reform & Reauthorization Act’ (AIRR), contains 273-pages of ‘transformational’ legislation that seeks to insulate the airlines and ATC from Congressional oversight.

At the same time, across the nation, the repetitive noise of FAA’s NextGen operations continues to destroy once pleasant neighborhoods. One of those neighborhoods is in the Chicago area, the Village of Bensenville to the west of O’Hare Airport.

(click on image to view satellite map)

The new runway (10C) opened in 2013, and is marked with a thick red line. Hillside Drive is the east-west road under the south edge of the final approach course, and is marked with a thin red box in the left half of the image. (click on image to view satellite map)

Residents along Hillside Drive began enduring horrific repetitive flight noise when a new runway was opened in the Fall of 2013. Although FAA swears they complied with NEPA regulations and found the noise impacts would not be significant, some residents have hardly slept since.

Judge for yourself. Look and listen to the residents in this recently published video:

Frankly, the root of the problem at O’Hare is the use of this location as a major airline hub. It can be bad even if only one of the ‘final four’ major U.S. airlines operates a ‘superhub’, but at O’Hare, this is done by two: both United/Continental and American/USAir.

We all understand the concept of ‘economy of scale’, but in reality, there is an enormous ‘diseconomy of scale’ that sets in when airports grow too large. Multiple airlines and the airport authority can run a very successful operation at a smaller and more easily manageable airport, such as with a single pair of parallel runways, generating lots of profits while also serving the air transportation needs of the local community members. Economy of scale continues to this level of airport development. But, once the third parallel runway goes in, or if ATC is using multiple sets of parallel runways, diseconomy sets in. The added airport capacity, when utilized, creates a mess in many ways: not just the repetitive noise impact on neighborhoods, but also the magnified air pollution, the near-airport traffic congestion, the passenger chaos within the airport terminal, and the near-collisions and ‘SNAFU’ aspect that controllers must contend with.  All so that the airline can tweak out a bit more profit.

In the worst cases (U.S. airports KORD, KATL, KPHX and KCLT come to mind), the hub airlines schedule heavy ‘banks’ of non-stop arrivals and departures. The noise impact can stretch for hours, and yet much of the noise has nothing to do with serving the local community. People fly into the airport, walk to another gate, and fly out – never even visiting the community. The high traffic levels (and impacts) are thus related only to serving the airline’s ‘passenger sort facility’ (aka ‘hub’) business model. Of course, this business model is aimed solely at generating profits …and corporate representatives have a palpable disdain for homeowners and residents who complain about noise and other impacts. A disdain that FAA happily enables.

So, here we are in February 2016. After months of intensive preparatory work coordinated by the airline lobbyist, Airlines for America, Bill Shuster has capitulated to that same lobbyist by proposing his ‘transformational’ REFORM package. REFORM is in the name and yet the package has nothing to do with correcting problems like the Noise Ghettos being created in places like Bensenville (…and FQ Story, and Palo Alto, and Seattle, and Milton, and Flushing, and Mount Holly, and Georgetown…). And, on top of that, Mr. Shuster has admitted to having a personal relationship with a high-level official at Airlines for America, the sort of conflict of interest that past Congresses would never tolerate.

Here’s a suggestion for Mr. Shuster (& Ms. Rubino), Mr. LoBiondo, Mr. Calio, Mr.Huerta and Mr. Rinaldi: sit down with your family and watch this Hillside video (and, while you are at it, check out the video of flight-attendant Serena). Then, REFORM. Let these people sleep and enjoy their yards, for crying out loud!

Quit teasing the public and playing games to enrich your crony friends. Re-authorize FAA immediately, but insert REAL TRANSFORMATIONAL change, such as congestion pricing and a steep aviation fuel tax. You are lying when you claim the ATC system is operating on antique technologies, and you are also lying when you claim NextGen benefits that are already being realized without additional NextGen development. You are claiming ‘ATC corporatization’ is necessary, when you know this is just a bogus sales pitch. And most importantly, you know: the cascading delays and most other ‘claimed problems’ would be solved, almost immediately, if you would simply do two things:

  1. change the aviation taxes and fees to disincentivize the overuse of superhubs like O’Hare, and
  2. demand accountable performance at FAA.

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

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

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

The FAA Community Accountability Act, introduced today, would:

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

The original cosponsors (listed geographically) include:

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

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

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

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

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

HAIKU: Rahm, the Airlines, and another New Runway at O’Hare

An Aviation Impact haiku…
Pol’tics & Money…
Helps ‘merican & ‘nited…
Rahm gets a kickback?

Spend some time studying the politics of money in aviation and one thing becomes crystal clear: elected officials love airport projects for self-serving reasons. Not just for the photo-ops – standing in front of an oversized federal check or cutting a ribbon with celebrities – but also for the campaign funding potential, to bolster odds of being reelected. They speak and smile, and they cheerlead on the arguable claim that airports generate massive economic growth (while conveniently ignoring the ‘costs’, and ignoring the economic growth that would happen if the airport was not there); in return, some big money interests can reward elected officials like Rahm Emmanuel with something tangible to smile about: money and political support.

We are seeing a trend toward a consolidation of power to the airports/airlines at the expense of local residents, just as we are seeing a deeply interconnected trend toward elected officials who ‘say-one-thing-but-do-otherwise-behind-the-scenes’. Officials who generally refuse to govern in the Public interest (allowing their legislative body to wallow in a protracted stalemate). Officials and bodies who do NOTHING to hold agencies accountable. Perhaps we should call it ‘Stage 4 Cronyism’?

And where does all the money come from? For decades, FAA has worked with industry lobbyists (airlines, aircraft and avionics manufacturers, airports, etc.) to get Congress to pass the laws that fuel this cycle. Generating billions each year. A veritable slush fund. A monetary ‘carrot-on-a-stick’ that sets in motion so many of today’s failures, in aviation AND in governance.

Click on the image below to view a copy of the article in a scrollable PDF file…

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