SERFR: FAA’s ‘Acoustical Sewerline’ over the Santa Cruz area

Across the nation, over the past two years, FAA has been accommodating the desire of airlines to pad their profits by turning lower and closer to the airports. FAA, collaborating with so-called ‘stakeholders’ including the air traffic controllers union (NATCA), developed and imposed sets of routes using satellite navigation technologies. In the process, decades worth of noise abatement procedures were simply abandoned. All of this is cheerfully presented as an improvement, a product of NextGen. And it is happening at dozens of communities, across the nation.

How bad is it? Activists in the Bay Area are doing an excellent job fighting back. Watch this short video, created by SOSSC, a large group of residents impacted under the SERFR arrival route, to the south of San Francisco:

Want more? Listen to this radio show from last August, after 5+ months of NextGen’s SERFR arrivals:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-Nvzuvr6ouZXzU2bWNray1vMGM/view
This local radio show covers a lot of ground. Many listeners call in with a spectrum of questions, and the four SOSSC members do a great job, explaining the impacts and detailing the failures by FAA and the others who implemented SERFR. Here are a few times:

  • ‘Acoustical Sewerline’ is mentioned at ~6:30
  • NextGen is defined at ~15:30
  • ‘NoFlyDay is discussed at ~28:00

Having heard all this, want to know what FAA has done, to give these caring citizens some noise-impact relief? The answer to that question is easy:

…at this point in time, FAA has done NOTHING.

The Acoustical Sewerline continues….

[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'

Senate Unanimously Passes Amendment to Address NextGen’s CATEX Flaw

Out of a clear blue Arizona sky – the kind best enjoyed while soaking in the vast silence at Grand Canyon – Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake introduced a 3-page amendment aimed at repairing NextGen noise impacts. The Senate promptly passed the amendment, by a unanimous vote. Here is a copy of a McCain Press Release:

20151118scp.. Senate Unanimously agrees to McCain-Flake Amendment (Sen.J.McCain Press Release)750px

(click on image to view the Press Releases page at Senator McCain’s website)

The amendment was thus added to the 2016 THUD Appropriations bill, HR2577. The Senate is expected to make their final vote on the full bill, perhaps within a week. It will then need to obtain House approval of the amendment (and any other changes) before it can become law.

‘THUD’ stands for ‘Transportation, Housing & Urban Development, and Related Agencies’. In other words, this single piece of legislation covers FAA and all other units of the Department of Transportation (highways, rail, maritime, pipelines, etc.), AND ALSO INCLUDES public housing, community grants, and other vast programs under the Department of Housing & Urban Development. Therefore, it is not surprising that, of the eighty amendments tabulated on the Congress.gov webpage, only a few have to do with FAA.

A close look at the FAA-related amendments suggests, in most cases, each proposal was simply to make a statement of protest against a specific agency expenditure or action. Many of these proposals also appear to be a sort of ‘grandstanding’ on narrow issues, perhaps to make a good impression on voters back home. Interesting, too, is that the last surge of amendments was on June 9th, and then there were no additional amendments for more than five months. The ONLY subsequent amendment, 160-days after House passage, was the McCain/Flake amendment, which was quickly passed by a voice vote, and with no votes against.

According to the HR 2577 webpage at Congress.gov, the bill was introduced on 5/27/2015, passed by the House of Representatives on 6/9/2015, and reported to the Senate on 6/25/2015.

The amendment applies only to the busiest U.S. commercial airports, known as the OEP-35 Airports. (this aiREFORM webpage provides a list of all OEP-35 airports, notes their operational trends, and includes links to webpages with information about each airport)

It is important to recognize that the rush to implement NextGen was not needed, as U.S. commercial airline operations have declined substantially (and fairly steadily) for most of the past 15-years. The data showing this is viewable year-by-year, for each OEP-35 airport, at this aiREFORM webpage: Total Annual Operations & Trends for FAA’s OEP-35 Airports, 1990-2014. Or, here is the data presented graphically, from an informative presentation by Katana Consulting.

(click on the image to view the 'Real Impact of NextGen' presentation video by Katana Consulting)

(image from a presentation video by Katana Consulting)

Three Questions…

We certainly owe a ‘thank you’ to Senator McCain for finally taking this action, and we hope the eventual legislation, if passed, will quickly produce noise relief at places like Phoenix, Flushing, Charlotte and Palo Alto (and, the botched NextGen implementations are also impacting Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and other communities). But, as a career elected official, Senator McCain (and other Senators) should also welcome hard questions about his actions. The facts behind this latest action beg three such questions:

  1. Why was this proposal not made five months ago? It was quickly approved after it was offered, so it seems plausible that many different Senators (from both parties, and from numerous states) might have offered this amendment proposal as early at last June, to potentially accelerate relief for the thousands of impacted people. The most likely Senators would be those with the largest numbers of NextGen victims, and at locations with intense media coverage and even legal actions against FAA. These Senators would include: Schumer or Gillibrand (NY), Feinstein or Boxer (CA), Warren and Markey (MA), and of course, McCain and Flake (AZ). Each of these Senators would have served their constituents well, if they pushed this proposal last June or July. Why so long without any progress? Has the evidently bipartisan failure to serve constituents become this stark? Is this further evidence that U.S. Senators today serve money, not people?
  2. Was the timing of this amendment proposal connected to Senate discussion on the Syrian Refugee crisis? On the same day that McCain introduced his amendment, and in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Senators were cuing up with their positions on our national role, whether to accept or block Middle Eastern refugees. McCain was quoted in an article at theHill.com, insisting there was no connection, while also referring to his differences with the White House. This echoes a similar situation two years ago, when a rift developed within Republican ranks, on the issue of authorizing air strikes in Syria. Then, too, both McCain and Flake were on the hawk end of the spectrum, while newer Senators (and Presidential candidates) Rubio and Paul were on the dove end, questioning the U.S.’s role and use of force. It seems that a seasoned politician may well understand, when you are about to do something unpopular, doing something positive may help to diminish opposition. With this in mind, is it conceivable to think that our elected officials may appreciate agencies creating problems so that, when the timing is right, the elected official can become a quick and momentary hero?
  3. Is McCain cleaning up, perhaps trying to make amends for some of his past misdeeds? Back in 2012, this Senator, teaming up with Senator Harry Reid (NV), single-handedly stopped a carefully crafted proposal by the National Park Service to get air tourism noise impacts under control, at the Grand Canyon National Park. In so doing, McCain was capitulating to the profit-interests of Papillon, Maverick, and other helicopter operators, who make millions each year in these lucrative flights, while severely diminishing the quality of the experience for millions of park visitors.

So, what is REALLY driving FAA’s NextGen program? It is not safety or capacity. It is simply MONEY. As has happened time and again with FAA, they scheme up ways to sell a new program, to get Congress to pay out more money, which then benefits FAA employees as well as the industry. Contractors, manufacturers, the airlines and other so-called ‘stakeholders’ all get a piece of the pie in exchange for not opposing the wasteful congressional handout. And, in a few years, yet another round of slush-slinging will follow.

Some would call it a fraud that is generating waste as well as excess aviation noise, an irresponsible action by an unaccountable FAA that is destroying neighborhoods around the nation. It would be nice if the current Presidential candidates in both major parties would start to debate how to repair the ongoing performance failures at FAA.


UPDATE, 11/20/2015: — Just a few hours after this aiREFORM Post was published, an Airport Legislative Alert by AAAE was posted by the Phoenix airport management. The title of the Alert was ‘Senate Halts Consideration of DOT-FAA 2016 Appropriations’, and it discussed the many political maneuvers underway, all related to the Syrian refugee crisis.
UPDATE, 11/24/2015: — Hoping to accelerate resolution of this problem (which began 14-months ago!), a letter was sent to the U.S. Senate, signed by all Phoenix councilmembers and the mayors of Phoenix and other nearby communities.

See also… (blue dates link to online content)

2/14/2012
FAA Modernization & Reform Act of 2012
REFERENCE – a copy of the 145-page Public Law-112-95. CATEX is discussed in Section 213.
4/25/2015
¡¿Happy Earth Day, Mr. Huerta?!
Blog Post – After FAA had the audacity to post on their Facebook Page on the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, dozens submitted comments. A Post was created by aiREFORM, firing back at FAA’s hypocrisy and archiving copies of those reader comments.

Finally! … a Fair Article about NextGen Impacts!

QUOTE

“…Over and over again, it’s like a stab in your brain….”

– a resident of Palo Alto, describing FAA’s NextGen Impact on her home

Thank You, Los Angeles Times, for your article about FAA’s NextGen impacts in the Bay Area. You got it right.

There are many articles being published about these NextGen impacts nationwide, particularly at Phoenix, at Boston, and around New York City’s LaGaurdia and JFK airports. This article did not go so far as to reveal the NextGen fraud FAA is pulling, with their greenwashing the public and manipulating Congress to spend billions, but it is truly one of the best articles yet. The reporter actually looked into the situation and compiled her own story, instead of lazily posting the pre-spun talking points that FAA and the industry provide. And, critically, the article was published without being re-spun by editors catering to FAA/industry money and power … a democracy-killing problem at most of today’s news outlets.

With their botched NextGen implementations and tone-deaf arrogance, FAA is making itself the poster child of failed federal agencies. A captured agency, serving only the industry they were created to regulate, while also destroying quality of life for the masses. This must end. We are long overdue for real FAA reform, with full accountability and transparency.

A short video, posted by Save Our Skies Santa Cruz, showing the impact on people, south of San Francisco…

[QUOTE]: An Editorial about FAA Arrogance, Congressional Failure, and Airline Greed

Aside

QUOTE

“…As has been quite clear from the work being done by concerned residents on the Peninsula and elsewhere around the nation, getting heard is not the problem. An arrogant federal agency has simply ignored the input and protests, including those from our local members of Congress….”

– a comment, within a Palo Alto Weekly editorial, posted 11/13/2015

 

The editorial shows zero confidence in Congress, and concludes that heavier political pressure needs to bear upon both the White House and FAA: “The slow, virtually moribund legislative process isn’t the answer. Hard ball politics is.” The author may be correct.

Click here to read the original Editorial. Be sure to also read the comments. Some comments are by the same-old pro-aviation hacks who heartlessly deny the problems, sometimes even attacking FAA’s noise-victims as NIMBYs. Other comments, such as the specific solutions (with links) proposed by Peter Carpenter, are truly constructive, and very thought-provoking.

The bottom-line is this: NextGen is a tool with real positive potential, being abused by an agency with negative intentions, serving only the industry. But, NextGen can be configured to serve both aviation AND airport neighbors. This will only happen if somehow, by pressure from Congress or the White House, FAA is compelled to do their job with true balance. The two legislative proposals, by Representatives Gallego and Meng, are both designed to restore the balance that FAA has knowingly stripped away. We need more local control, and more meaningful oversight from OUTSIDE the captured agency we call 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.

Citizen’s Noise Monitoring (website)

There’s a new website of great value to Nextgen victims and others suffering from aviation noise impacts: Citizen’s Noise Monitoring. It appears to be based in the San Francisco Bay Area, created by a tech-savvy impacted citizen trying to find relief from noise impacts such as the SERFR arrivals to KSFO over the Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, and Portola Valley areas. (NOTE: for a graphic image showing the absurdly low SERFR arrivals, click this link; this is not just a noise issue, but also a SAFETY ISSUE!)

Here is a screen-capture showing the homepage, packed with information. Be sure to click through and spend some time studying what has been posted in just the past two months. Some truly amazing work!

(click on image to view original at Skyote.com)
(click on image to view original at Skyote.com)

 

The gist of this website appears to be to facilitate a workaround to a serious aviation noise problem. Specifically, FAA, Airports and the Airlines are effectively conspiring to shut out citizen-involvement in aviation impact decisions, such as the implementation of new NextGen routes that are consistently lower over our communities.

It can be said that truth comes from data, and he who controls the data thus defines the truth. Well, we simply can no longer allow the intensifying spin of this evolving troika, aka the Av-Gov Complex (an unfortunate consequence of FAA’s regulatory capture, wherein the regulator caters to the regulated industry), to define and frame aviation noise issues. Thus, we go beyond their spin and create our own REAL data.

More information about Citizen’s Noise Monitoring will be added soon…

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

 

NextGen is Being Used to Justify Lower & Noisier Flying While Ignoring the Impacts

On both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, aviation regulators are working with their ‘stakeholders’ to give the airline industry relief from pesky noise-abatement procedures. This translates to allowing turns immediately after takeoff, as well as turning arrivals lower and closer to the landing runway. It also means jamming local flights lower so they remain below these designed departure and arrival flows.

(click on image to view article at AirportWatch.org.UK)

(click on image to view article at AirportWatch.org.UK)

The impacted neighbors near London appear to be a few years ahead of U.S. residents in the area of citizen activism. They have numerous airport groups who are creating a steady flow of actions and news stories aimed at stopping airport expansion. Thanks to some insensitive NextGen implementations creating new noise ghettoes, though, U.S. citizens are increasingly speaking up. They have to, to protect their quality of life.

FAA continues to implement new routes without environmental review. In a way, they have to, for this is all part of their ‘NextGen’ program. FAA has oversold the claimed benefits of NextGen to both the Public and to Congress, because they need Congress to continue approving billions in additional funding. FAA has also made deals with the unions and the airlines, to ensure they will not speak out of line about FAA’s NextGen ambitions.

We Don’t Need NextGen to Benefit from the GPS Technologies

But FAA is conveniently not sharing the fact that the GPS technologies have been around for decades, and have been practically and routinely used in ATC for more than a decade. Instead, FAA has chosen to ‘package’ these technologies and present them as a new and costly program wrapped in their carefully-crafted, glossy sales pitch. The program frankly offers no practical safety benefit; the monies approved by Congress and spent by FAA serve mostly to justify excess FAA positions and duties (from headquarters to the regions to the union leaders who spend much of their work time ‘collaborating’ on committees at each facility) while also propping up a handful of aviation industry contractors. And when they retire, many employees at the top of FAA (and quite a few at the lower ranks, too) will do as their predecessors did: hire into second careers with these same contractors, to richly supplement their already ample federal pensions.

And What Exactly did FAA Use to Buy Airline Silence?

Well, they promised to shave off a few miles (translating to a few million in added airline profits), by removing all environmental restrictions on departures. Hence, the TNNIS departure off LaGuardia, the stressful noise impacts over Laveen and F.Q. Story in Phoenix, and the newly created NextGen noise ghettoes around American’s new hub in Charlotte, NC. And, they promised the same lower (and noisier) routes with tighter turns on arrivals, such as the SERFR arrival into SFO.

Fly Up, FAA!!

Poster - 'Fly Up FAA'

(click on image to view slideshow of 7/24/2015 rally by Save our Skies Santa Cruz)

So, is it any wonder that more people are hating FAA and the airlines with greater intensity? Is there really any surprise that this sign was carried at a recent protest against FAA’s NextGen noise?

FAA: Winging it with Arbitrary Numbers & Declarations

In a recent cartoon, the concerns of residents in the Santa Cruz Mountains area (south of the San Francisco Airport) were graphically presented by Steven DeCinzo:20150614.. Cartoon re citizens upset at FAA-NextGenHell around Santa Cruz (S.DeCinzo, SCSentinel)DeCinzo’s Op/Ed is drawing many chuckles. But, more importantly, it is not an exaggeration of how upset people are by the changes FAA has imposed. All under the guise of ‘NextGen’, in a contemporary example of aviation ‘greenwashing’.

So, why are people so upset?

Well, there is clearly the lost quality of life (sleep interruption at night, and new streams of aviation noise during many stretches of the day). But, the upset is compounded by how FAA came to impose these procedures. There was the CATEX rule (categorical exclusions), manipulated through Congress in late 2011, as a workaround that would eliminate FAA’s need to do full environmental reviews. And, there was the broad use of FONSI declarations, also as a workaround to eliminate any real environmental review.

FONSI means Finding of No Significant Impact. In July 2014, FAA declared FONSI on their NorCal OAPM (for Northern California), thus declaring their belief that nobody would be bothered by the proposed new NextGen arrival and departure procedures. Boy, were they wrong. But this is not surprising. Fact is, FAA routinely says what they need to say (not what the facts would have them say) to check off the boxes, to complete the required processes, to go forward with their plans. And, also routinely, their ‘plans’ are not to serve the airport neighbors, but to bring ‘relief’ to the airlines, so that  they are no longer burdened by pesky environmental restrictions.

Oh, and FAA is repeating the NorCal OAPM process in Southern California right now; they have published hundreds of pages of SoCal OAPM documents and plan to announce yet another FONSI in the coming months.

An Example of FAA’s Arbitrary Numbers

The NorCal OAPM paper was done by ATAC, and followed an analysis done by SH&E, in 2009, Baseline Capacity & Delay Analysis for the Primary Bay Area Airports. Here is a JPEG showing page 9 from the SH&E study: 20090925scp.. KOAK Baseline Activity Forecast thru 2035

The figures reflect actual airport operations (takeoffs and landings) for 2007, and projections for 2020 and 2035. Dark blue shows a projected slow increase in the number of passenger airline operations. Light green is air cargo. Medium blue is general aviation (GA). And, pale blue are GA ops that stay in the local pattern (mostly for flight instruction). An orange line has been added on the left side, identifying the annual itinerant operations totals at around 255,000, but projected to exceed 300,000 by 2035. The prediction was to stay flat, but instead, at the midpoint toward 2020, there has been a sharp decline to average just 170,000 operations in the past two years.

What’s shocking is that FAA pays money for these projections and uses them to justify new programs like NextGen. All while not looking at the real data. So, here is the real data, copied from FAA’s ATADS site (and with peak years highlighted):20150617cpy.. KOAK ATADS 1990-2014What the real data shows is that operations at Oakland peaked nearly twenty years ago, in the mid-1990’s. By the time the SH&E study was done, they had declined by a third, so the study projected a brief flattening and a rebound by 2035. Well, instead of a brief flattening we have seen a massive decline, and the 2014 total itinerant operations are now a 57% decline from peak year 1997. The steady downward trend shows no sign of reversing.

How does this connect back to NextGen?

When trying to justify NextGen, FAA routinely implies (and in some situations outright states) that NextGen is critically needed to increase capacity, to prepare for future demand. At airports across the nation, such as at SFO, established routes are being abruptly abandoned in favor of imposed NextGen routes. Despite the fact that these established routes had evolved slowly, sometimes over decades, to balance aviation efficiency against airport neighbor quality of life, FAA is proceeding with their wholesale abandonment.

These abandonment actions are being done as part of the NextGen implementation, and they are all predicated on the FAA belief that they are necessary, to accommodate future growth. The Oakland example shows that FAA has no real data to back that up. And, this is the case not just at Oakland, but also at the vast majority of the primary U.S. commercial airports.