The Northern California Airspace Virtual FAA workshops last week (#1 and #2) were a shock to the public on many levels. The recommendations that the Select Committee developed in 2016 for SFO Southern arrivals - with the FAA acting as a technical advisor - have resulted in an abrupt end. Please see:
The news of the FAA’s decision was delivered by a coalition of airports, airlines, pilots, air traffic control, the FAA’s Western Regional Administrator and other FAA staff with what we believe are signs that the FAA misrepresented or withheld information that was crucial to the public and that could have averted years of waiting for a response. Not only was there no effort to come back to communities in five years to work on follow up, citizens were shut down time and again when we probed. The SCSC roundtable itself was established with the directive that “the FAA has determined as a condition of participating in this new organization that the former Select Committee recommendations will not be reopened by this new body.”
The FAA now appears to invite communities to work with the roundtables if we can be “flexible with criteria”; if there is 100% community consensus, and if new technology can help. Among the “criteria” they seem to suggest are lower altitudes from Monterey to Palo Alto, and overflying more populated areas. Pitting neighbors against each other--East vs West, North vs South-- without any substantive analysis of ground effects is not going to result in 100% community consensus but 100% consensus is an arbitrary criteria. For example, when the FAA makes changes for the NextGen Advisory Committee or for routine airport and airline requests, they don't ask. Instead of special rules for different stakeholders, we need fair criteria for all, starting with quieter standards when carrying out National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) protections and public agents enforcing due process for all citizens.
Responsible governments ensure that accurate noise and air quality pollutants are analyzed for the population at large on a regular basis, as a matter of public health policy and protecting natural resources. Affected areas need permanent noise monitoring - with active and appropriate mitigations. Environmental rules are enforced with fines in Europe, noise is not free. The Roundtables cannot continue with business as usual. Erratic meetings decade after decade discussing mostly the FAA's navigation charts with 300+ page packets, to end up losing or giving up generation after generation on behalf of all of us. Member cities of the roundtables in the Bay Area have not once challenged NEPA abuses for the many Nextgen procedures as is happening now with the GBAS “overlays.” If the roundtables, state, regional and local governments don’t care about the laws meant to protect people and the environment, why should the FAA bother.
At the conclusion of the workshops, Western Regional Administrator referred to us as “external” stakeholders. Individuals and communities are more than that, we - the folks that have something to lose in any airspace procedure or project discussions - is what the National Environmental Protection Act is for. It is however up to our elected officials to ensure that the laws meant to protect our health, productivity and environment are not abused.
Responsible governance of all aviation impacts from all levels of government in the Bay Area needs to be stronger. Bay Area leaders should stop the accommodations and conditions imposed by the FAA, or with airports and aviation businesses to perennially deny citizens any opportunity to weigh in on air traffic noise and air quality pollutants issues that directly affect health, productivity and well being.
Please join us to insist that all our representative bodies act in real time, to STOP Catex and the use of 65 DNL as the arbitrary criteria to pass airspace procedures when these are knowingly being used to bypass due process. There is no urgency for the FAA to fast track anything Nextgen or actions that increase airport capacity in the Bay Area. Whereas there is urgency to address the millions of noise complaints that have been neglected.
Our needs for quality noise analysis and reasonable mitigations do not take years to do. If every country in the EU can publish noise maps to manage public health, so can the state of California.
Write, call all elected representatives, or show up to speak at the upcoming roundtable meetings: