New Jersey Coalition Against Aircraft Noise
metro airspace redesign

NJCAAN Intends To Block Implementation Of The FAA's Airspace Redesign Plan

The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Airspace Redesign is fundamentally flawed since the agency developed the plan with the region's air traffic controllers and air carriers, while excluding public participation and independent Federal and State agency oversight. The agency has failed to detail how the project will make environmental and economic sense (with an air quality and cost/benefit analysis) since the plan increases flight distance by 3.7 miles per aircraft on average.

Although the FAA's modeling shows a net reduction in total population exposed to aircraft noise, we believe that the modeling if flawed. The FAA results are based on highly questionable modeling and mitigation measures that may never work. As a result, we believe that the FAA's modeling results substantially understate the noise damage from the plan. Residents in the immediate vicinity of the airport can expect an onerous increase in aircraft noise from the implementation of new low altitude departure patterns over their communities through departure "fanning" procedures. A number of separable aspects of the plan result in noise impacts that are out of proportion to any claimed benefit. For these reasons, we believe that the agency's plan should be substantially revised. We believe that the following should to be included in modifications to the project going forward:

1) environmental considerations (both aircraft noise and emissions mitigation) must be included as high level project goals;
2) public and independent Federal agency oversight.

The onerous environmental impacts of the FAA's plan are no surprise since it singularly attempts to address aviation industry issues. As a result, the Redesign could increase aircraft noise and aircraft emissions in the metropolitan area, while not meaningfully addressing the area's chronic delays. The plan could serve to exacerbate delays by introducing more traffic into the area, while it is questionable that the area's airports can accommodate such traffic. As a result, the metropolitan area's aircraft gridlock could be magnified.

We are pleased to see that the General Accounting Office (GAO) has decided to investigate this project and look forward to reviewing the GAO's report. However, we believe that legal action currently is required to halt implementation of the Redesign beginning this fall.

The FAA's Airspace Redesign Documents Are Available At:

Background On Metro Airspace Redesign

In April 1998, the FAA and its political supporters introduce the Metro Airspace Redesign project. The FAA commits to fully considering ocean routing for Newark departures in the project and to address environmental concerns (including emissions and noise reduction) as project goals.

In November 1999, the House Aviation Subcommittee hears testimony that confirms the Metro Airspace Redesign has established noise reduction as a goal of the redesign and will examine ocean routing. This same year, the FAA, in its first in a series of NY/NJ Metro 'airspace redesign project' newsletters, prominently cites four objectives for the redesign. It includes "Reduced adverse environmental impacts (both noise and air emissions)." It corroborates testimony offered to the House Aviation Subcommittee by FAA Administrator Garvey and FAA Eastern Region Administrator Feldman and restates the 1995 noise reduction pledge of the EECP. In addition, the FAA lists the same environmental criteria in the purpose and need in the 2000 pre-scoping report.

In 2001, FAA Administrator Garvey and Port Authority Aviation Director DeCota testify before a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing and reaffirm the metro redesign is intended to address airport noise as a primary objective.

During 1999 and 2002, a "tidal wave" of endorsements follows. It includes members of the New Jersey Delegation, the State Legislature, County Freeholder Boards, and local municipalities.

Despite this extraordinary widespread support for Ocean Routing and the earlier pledge by FAA Administrator Garvey that noise relief will be a focus of the metropolitan airport redesign Eastern Region FAA publicly proclaims, in 2001, that the redesign will spread aircraft routes and its concomitant noise over the Garden State.

In its effort to promote airline industry redesign goals, the FAA blatantly dismisses Administrator Garvey's pledge to the citizens of New Jersey. It accomplishes this end by omitting aircraft noise reduction as a scoping purpose, listing only increased capacity and reduced delays as its primary intent. Background: the airlines oppose ocean routing because of the added cost associated with the extra miles required to implement this "good neighbor" route design.

During the EIS scoping period in 2001, NJCAAN advocates a unified position from all elected officials. Critical components of the response include substantial noise reduction as a primary goal, implementation of Ocean Routing, and use of a variety of noise metrics to determine noise impact. Record widespread support is summarized under "Closing Date for the Environmental Impact Scoping Comments to the FAA on the Metropolitan Airspace Redesign." In March 2002, the FAA releases its scoping results report. Airport noise is the overwhelming concern of all respondents -- from public officeholders to citizens. Over 90% of New Jersey's elected officials endorse Ocean Routing in their scoping comments. Unfortunately, NOISE REDUCTION and OCEAN ROUTING remain an FAA postscript.

At the close of 2001, the FAA abruptly announces a major routing change. Called the Yardley/Robbinsville Flip-Flop, it exchanges Newark and LaGuardia arrival routes and goes into effect just days following the FAA's notice to the public. In the early weeks of 2002, an investigation is initiated to determine if the FAA has complied with proper legal procedures in implementing this route change outside of the ongoing redesign EIS. Freedom of Information Act requests are issued by counsel. NJCAAN reports the FAA FALSIFIED THE PUBLIC RECORD in order to conclude an environmental assessment could be avoided. This falsification provides cover to the FAA to hide the Flip-Flop from the citizens and elected representatives of New Jersey.

In June 2002, Senator Torricelli and Representative Ferguson publicly release their joint letter to the Department of Transportation Inspector General (DOT IG) requesting an investigation to determine if the FAA failed to follow legally required environmental guidelines in revising arrival air routes over New Jersey.

In January 2003, the FAA provides a metro airspace report to the public. Entitled "Listening to the Public," it absurdly assigns the task of noise reduction for its five-state airspace redesign to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. This is the agency's latest effort to mislead the public and disengage from its obligation to address noise. The report specifically states five redesign objectives and despite its declaration of "listening," none of these objectives involve noise reduction. Further, the FAA specifically states noise reduction is not a redesign objective. Ocean routing receives no mention.

Shortly after the release of the FAA's metro airspace redesign report, NJCAAN publicly announces the discovery of an FAA WEB site accessed by the aviation industry and unrelated to the Metro Airspace Redesign. The site reveals the FAA has dismissed its own metro Scoping Report conclusion on its National Airspace Redesign WEB, a posting hidden-from-public-view. No mention is made of noise reduction or ocean routing. FAA intentions are confirmed -- more planes over more people for New Jersey's redesign outcome.

In February 2003, NJCAAN signs an agreement with Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic. It will provide legal representation to ensure substantial noise reduction for New Jersey as an outcome of the Metro Airspace Redesign.

In February 2003, the State Senate joins the State Assembly in adopting a resolution memorializing the President and Congress to include noise reduction as a redesign goal: AR 128 [6/20/02] and SR 71 [3/27/03]. Additionally, the Governor, on numerous occasions, has publicly promoted this position. Unanimity of purpose from all three branches of state government has been achieved with bipartisan support -- noise reduction must be a redesign priority.

In March 2003, State Senator Kean provides these resolutions to various elected officials in Washington and officially submits authenticated copies for the Metro Redesign public record.

In May 2003, the Transportation Inspector General completes his investigation on the FAA's compliance with NEPA in its implementation of the 12/01 Flip-Flop. Representative Ferguson's public release of the IG report shows the FAA failed to notify Congress about the changes and ignored "red flags" that the changes would increase airline noise for hundreds of thousands of residents.

In May 2003, recognizing that noise is the most common quality-of-life complaint across the nation, Senator Corzine and Representative Rothman circulate a bicameral NJ delegation letter that receives substantial bipartisan support. This letter, released to the entire Congress, seeks an alliance of concerned Members to establish substantial noise reduction as an FAA national redesign goal. The initiative opens up a new chapter in New Jersey's fight for quiet and establishes our Delegation as the conscience of the Congress on airport noise reduction.

In May 2003, the FAA introduced the Integrated Airspace Concept for the first time in a presentation to Congress. This concept replaced the Four Corner proposal as a redesign alternative. This plan would increase departure patterns over New Jersey, consolidate arrival patterns, and introduce new holding patterns in the metropolitan area. A key component of the proposal is to reduce enroute aircraft separation from five to three miles. The review avoids detailed information on the noise impact of the proposed flight patterns on communities. NJCAAN believes that the Integrated Airspace concept is the FAA's preferred alternative for the redesign. This concept appears to spread more planes over more people.

The FAA also reported that it had isolated the modified and ocean routing alternatives. However, NJCAAN has reviewed information that suggests that the FAA may have included components of these concepts in the Integrated Airspace alternative. See summaries of the FAA's project proposals (pages 12-16) from the agency's May 2003 project update to Congress at http://aea.faa.gov/airspace/NYNJPHL_Airspace_Redesign/ (On the left hand column, scroll to the bottom of the page in the to the Congressional update section.)

In June 2003 at NJCAAN's request, the Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic submits a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) to the FAA requesting a variety of documents. Special emphasis is placed on securing modeling studies performed for the Metro Airspace Redesign and ocean routing.

In December 2003, the FAA responds to the FOIA refusing, in almost every case, our request or claiming to have no documents. The FAA's unremitting stonewalling makes clear the agency has a lot to hide. In response, the Rutgers Environmental Law Clinic files an appeal.

In April of 2004, 'Aviation and Environmental News' reports the FAA announces a further delay in releasing the Draft Environmental Impact Study for the Metro Airspace Redesign. Originally slated for a November 2003 release and later rescheduled for May 2004, this most recent announcement places the release date as "not likely to be completed before the second half of 2005." However, the operational modeling for all the considered alternatives is nearly complete and is being provided to the industry and the RTCA for comments. The public remains locked out of this process and the public officials representing affected citizens remain silent. And so the battle for quiet continues

Subsequently, the FAA posts on the Metro Airspace Redesign project Internet page, a slide show presented to Congress on March 26, 2004. The FAA reported to Congress that it is using the RTCA as an Advisory Committee to develop the redesign. The agency also reported that it expected input from airport operators and final RTCA recommendations by mid-April. The reference represents the first indication by the FAA to the public of aviation industry participation in the Redesign Project.

The RTCA is chartered by the FAA as an advisory committee under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The committee consists of FAA/aviation industry members such as American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Federal Express, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines.

NJCAAN also unearths two memos posted on RTCA's Internet site. Aviation industry participation in the Redesign Project is taking place in the Airspace Work Group (AWG) of the RTCA Free Flight Select Committee (FFSC) and apparently began as early as August 2001. The memos do not contain specific information on the project modeling but clearly illustrate FAA/industry cooperation in the development of the Redesign Project. Continental Airlines is a primary player in activities of the Airspace Work Group of the FFSC.

This information leads to a series of discoveries including an audit by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Transportation conducted in 2000 titled "The FAA's Use of RTCA as an Advisory Committee." The OIG conducted the audit to assess whether the FAA was in compliance with the FACA regarding its use of the RTCA. The audit made several recommendations including:

  • publish meeting minutes and other reports reviewed at closed meetings for public review; and
  • committee recommendations should flow through the committee deliberations process and not directly to the agency outside of the public eye.
The FAA's public disclosure of its activities with the RTCA on the Metro Redesign have been limited to cursory descriptions of concepts developed and a few meeting minutes of AWG FFSC committee meetings.

The 2004 Department of Transportation Appropriations Bill includes language requiring the FAA to publish a study on the Redesign Project by April 1, 2004. The study is to include " details on all planned components and elements of the redesign project, including details on aircraft noise reduction and any ocean routing modeling that has been conducted." The agency prepares the study but refuses to publish it.

In the summer and fall of 2004, NJCAAN is active with the New Jersey Congressional delegation seeking information on the FAA's modeling for the Redesign Project. Congressional delegation support comes from Senators Corzine and Lautenberg and Representatives Ferguson, Garrett, Frelinghuysen, and Payne. All members of the Delegation correspond with the FAA seeking information on the Metro Redesign. The FAA replies by stating it will not provide information to the public until the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) is filed. The date for the filing currently is for the fall of 2005.

In August 2004, NJCAAN files a complaint on the Office of Inspection General's (OIG's) hotline regarding the FAA's apparent failure to comply with the recommendations of the 2000 OIG audit. The OIG has yet to respond to the complaint.

In September 2004, NJCAAN learns that the FAA has retired the RTCA FFSC, which it replaced with the RTCA Air Traffic Management Advisory Committee (ATMAC). The RTCA scheduled a ATMAC meeting on October 7, 2004, which included a review of the committee's recommendations on the Redesign Project. The meeting represents the first time where redesign information would be presented in a public setting. Three NJCAAN board members attend the meeting. Due to failure to post a meeting notice in the Federal Register, the meeting is reformatted to be an information only session and not a formal Advisory Committee meeting. Russ Chew, chief operating officer of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, headed the meeting. He abruptly ends the meeting prior to reviewing any information on the Redesign Project.

In November 2004, the 2005 Federal Budget is passed. It includes $4 million in funding for the FAA to continue to develop the Redesign Project. Despite no clear attempt by the agency to address aviation industry environmental issues, the project continues.

In February 2005, the RTCA ATMAC meets and provides only cursory information on the committee's activities to the public. NJCAAN believes that the RTCA would need to provide detailed information of its activities to the public in advance of any deliberations on recommendations in order for the public to participate in the committee's deliberations. In the meantime, the FAA continues to refuse to provide the public with the same level of information and involvement in the project that it has given to the aviation industry, which NJCAAN believes undermines the public's interests.

The FAA also has utilized a second joint FAA/aviation industry committee for the Metro Redesign-the Performance Based Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (PARC), formerly the Terminal Area Operations Aviation Rulemaking Committee (TAOARC). David Nakamura of the Boeing Company chairs the PARC. This committee also is closed to public participation. Mr. Wall, the former chair of the FFSC also served on the PARC and Mr. Nakamura served on the FFSC. In addition, several airline representatives also served on both committees, which suggests substantial information sharing between committees.

At the February 2005 ATMAC meeting, NJCAAN requested that the FAA and RTCA detail the relationship between RTCA and PARC and provide airspace modeling, reports, and meeting minutes for both committee activities with regard to the Metro Redesign; however, the FAA has not responded to our request.

PARC's function is the roll out of the next-generation satellite based terminal area navigation flight patterns called RNAV/RNP procedures, which the FAA has identified as integral components of the Metro Redesign. These include RNAV layovers of current flight patterns. The FAA is scheduled to publish 15 RNAV procedures for the New York metropolitan area airports in October. The production schedule can be accessed at: http://avnweb.jccbi.gov/schedule/production (Type EWR, LGA, JFK in the search window for each airport's RNAV production schedule.)

When the FAA shut down the FFSC in the summer of 2005, it chartered the RTCA ATMAC, which is open to public participation. In 2005, the ATMAC formed a subgroup-the ATMAC Requirements and Planning Workgroup (ATMAC R&P), which is closed to public participation. Mr. Wall chairs this subgroup with a similar host of players from the folded FFSC including Glen Morse of Continental Airlines. THE PARC IS CURRENTLY REPORTING INTO THIS SUBGROUP.
In a letter dated August 19, 2005, Acting Governor Richard J. Codey wrote to FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey in support of public participation in the deliberations for the Metro Redesign. In the letter, Acting Governor Codey also supported significant noise reduction as an outcome for the project. The FAA has yet to respond to this latest request.

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