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Reading the beginning of Mary Beth Sheridan's article in the Washington Post Thanksgiving morning, one might think serious critics of Bill and Hillary Clinton have voiced serious questions about possible conflicts inherent in their roles as former[...]
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From a White House press release, President Obama's first Thanksgiving Day proclamation:
What began as a harvest celebration between European settlers and indigenous communities nearly four centuries ago has become our cherished tradition of Thanksgiving. This day's roots are intertwined with those of our Nation, and its history traces the American narrative.
Today, we recall President George Washington, who proclaimed our first national day of public thanksgiving to be observed "by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God," and President Abraham Lincoln, who established our annual Thanksgiving Day to help mend a fractured Nation in the midst of civil war. We also recognize the contributions of Native Americans, who helped the early colonists survive their first harsh winter and continue to strengthen our Nation. From our earliest days of independence, and in times of tragedy and triumph, Americans have come together to celebrate Thanksgiving.
As Americans, we hail from every part of the world. While we observe traditions from every culture, Thanksgiving Day is a unique national tradition we all share. Its spirit binds us together as one people, each of us thankful for our common blessings.
As we gather once again among loved ones, let us also reach out to our neighbors and fellow citizens in need of a helping hand. This is a time for us to renew our bonds with one another, and we can fulfill that commitment by serving our communities and our Nation throughout the year. In doing so, we pay tribute to our country's men and women in uniform who set an example of service that inspires us all. Let us be guided by the legacy of those who have fought for the freedoms for which we give thanks, and be worthy heirs to the noble tradition of goodwill shown on this day.
The mountains will be in labour; an absurd mouse will be born. -- HoraceSo many meetings of the war council! So much intense deliberation over so many months! So many knowledgeable experts training their finely honed minds on the problem of Afghanistan and Pakistan! So many challenges to conventional wisdom and the policies inherited from the reviled Bush administration! So much independence of thought, sober reflection, and careful calibration of the array of competing objectives and concerns!
At a news conference in the East Room with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, Mr. Obama suggested that his approach would break from the policies he had inherited from the Bush administration and said that the goals would be to keep Al Qaeda from using the region to launch more attacks against the United States and to bring more stability to Afghanistan.Did Al Qaeda ever "us[e] the region to launch...attacks against the United States"? Were other regions used to launch attacks? As I recall, certain of the people involved in the 9/11 attack trained in Europe, and others trained in...wait, hmm...oh, yes, the United States. Well, it's complicated, and Obama surely has information that can't be entrusted to feeble laypersons like you and me.
?I feel very confident that when the American people hear a clear rationale for what we?re doing there and how we intend to achieve our goals, that they will be supportive.?He's "very confident" that we'll all be "supportive." That's sweet. Are you "American people"? Am I? Who are these "American people"? And -- now I'm just saying this hypothetically, in an exercise of wildly fanciful imagination -- what if some of us aren't all that rah-rah and "supportive" of his plans? (Let's just assume we're "American people" for this fiction assignment.) What happens then? Back to the drawing board? Do we get invited to the White House for one of those "war councils"? That would be cool! Those meetings are in the Situation Room. That is way cool. I'm ready, Mr. President!
Though he and his advisers have drawn up benchmarks to measure progress and put pressure on the Afghan government to do its part, Mr. Obama offered no details in his public remarks on Tuesday. He was also silent on precisely what would constitute finishing the job in Afghanistan or how soon he envisioned being able to begin extricating the United States from the war there.That sounds sort of...um...vague. Maybe open-ended. But that can't be true! He's thoughtful, deliberate, careful Obama! And it's complicated! Besides, they've "drawn up benchmarks"! Didn't Bush have those in Iraq? I don't recall that Democrats found "benchmarks" all that consoling then. I'm probably not remembering that right. I'm sure they're completely consistent on this point, as on all the others. Surely they wouldn't say one thing when a Republican adopts a certain policy and another thing entirely when a Democrat adopts the same exact policy. That would never happen.
One administration official involved in Afghanistan policy said the president and his top advisers were thinking in terms of ?exit strategies? and not necessarily ?exit timetables.? He compared the current thinking to the ?conditional engagement? that President George W. Bush used in Iraq.Exit strategies! Conditional engagement! Sheesh, this is way above my pay grade, and yours too. Only thoughtful, serious adults can handle stuff like this. That's not you, not me. We should just shut up. Well, not just yet. We're badly behaved children.
Although his aides told some allies that the troop increase would most likely be slightly below 30,000 ? there are currently 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan ? several officials said Mr. Obama did not appear completely settled on a final number.Compromise! And no one is completely happy! That means this must be the right policy! And totally unexpected and unpredictable, too!
Which brings us to Garry Wills' dismaying essay in the New York Review of Books about the political cost Obama will pay if he chooses, as he should, to resist the crushing domestic political imperatives to continue Bush's war in Afghanistan.According to this view, should Democrats be ousted from power, it is impossible that such a development could be the result of widespread dissatisfaction with the Democrats' performance -- arising out of, for example, the Democrats' refusal to do anything to alleviate in any substantial way the vast economic suffering of "ordinary" Americans even as the ruling elites increase their immense wealth and power still more, or the Democrats' (and progressives') insistence on enacting a "health care reform" bill that won't help you or me but will bring massive wealth and a forcibly guaranteed market to insurance companies already bloated by monumental wealth.
Can even someone as brilliant as Barack Obama [!!!] resolve this ghastly dilemma? Can he find a way both to avoid the bloody quagmire Bush - deliberately - left for the incoming president, and also serve for two terms? Wills seems to think it's all but impossible. Sadly, I agree.
Escalating the Afghanistan conflict will lead to disaster. Refusing to escalate it will lead to political ruin not only for Obama or the Democratic party, but for this country, which will be torn apart by the extreme right, even if there isn't a spectacular 9/11 attack after an American withdrawal.
Indeed, Digby is probably right: Obama will escalate, somehow. And countless American and Afghani lives will be sacrificed, for... what, exactly? Certainly not Hamid Karzai's corrupt government.
No. Escalation will likely have little to do with Afghanistan, or even foreign policy, but everything to do both with a sitting president's ambition as well as the prevention of an extreme right takeover in the next presidential election. Just like Vietnam. I hate the American far right as much as any liberal, but it is not worth getting people killed in Kandahar to prevent them from seizing power. If the US really is that far down the road to fascism, then escalating a pointless war will not prevent an imminent rightwing takeover.
In terms of these issues, what today's progressives do is exactly what many conservatives did during the Bush years. Today, we must stay in Iraq and Afghanistan, for our enemies will not permit us to do otherwise. We must bail out Wall Street, for if we don't, our entire economy will collapse. We must provide the insurance companies a gigantic guaranteed market, a market delivered to the insurers by the threat of government force, for this is the only way we can take this necessary "first step." The Democrats and progressives repeatedly claim that they have no choice about any of it.To come back to Afghanistan, consider the other significant aspect of that blog entry: "Obama will escalate, somehow. And countless American and Afghani lives will be sacrificed, for... what, exactly? Certainly not Hamid Karzai's corrupt government." This raises an issue that I consider to be of special importance, one I will be discussing in further detail in some upcoming essays. This is only one example, albeit a very significant one, of a fundamental problem in thinking and analysis.
Precisely as was the case for many conservatives, it is now the case for the Democrats and progressives: nothing is their fault, and nothing is their responsibility. But as Tuchman and many others have proven at blistering length, not a single element of this argument is true: "[N]o matter how equal two alternatives may appear, there is always freedom of choice to change or desist from a counter-productive course if the policy-maker has the moral courage to exercise it."
The endless appeals to "spreading democracy," fostering "stable governments," and all the rest are nothing but marketing and public relations. They are the camouflage for the actual purposes of our government's actions. You can dissect and demolish those purported justifications for U.S. policy all you wish; our leaders don't care about any of that, no matter how successful your demolition efforts are, because all of that is completely irrelevant. But our leaders and most commentators do love the marketing, so with only very rare exceptions, their analysis and even their criticisms remain on this superficial level.This is perhaps the key paragraph from Higgs:
The actual reasons that drive U.S. policy aren't hidden. Again, the evidence is spread before you in plain sight: all you have to do is look at and understand it. I discussed the general contours of U.S. foreign policy for over the last hundred years in a piece just the other day: "The Empty Establishment: No One's Home in an Intellectual Wasteland." With regard to our presence in Afghanistan, a presence which will continue in one form or another for decades to come barring unforeseen developments (or possibly a regional conflagration, which would most likely be set off by a U.S. attack on Iran), I direct you to an invaluable article by the indispensable Robert Higgs. The article first appeared over a year ago, and I've been meaning to discuss it ever since.
I strongly recommend you read every word of it, several times at a minimum: "CENTCOM's Master Plan and U.S. Global Hegemony."
It comes as no surprise, then, that of all the unified commands, CENTCOM is the one in which, in today?s world, the U.S. empire?s rubber meets the road most abrasively. The command?s area of responsibility includes a great part of the world?s known petroleum and natural gas deposits, a preponderance of Israel?s enemies, and the places in which the George W. Bush administration has chosen to focus its so-called Global War on Terror. Of course, the region also includes Iraq and Afghanistan, where U.S. forces have been fighting for years, and, sandwiched between these two battlefields, Iran, where Dick Cheney and the rest of the neocons ardently desire to extend the fighting at the earliest opportunity.Following the Higgs excerpt, I said:
This is the general policy that Obama continues, and that he will continue into the foreseeable future. He made his intentions clear from the beginning of his campaign, and nothing has changed. Nor will it, certainly not insofar as Obama is concerned. ...That last link goes to one of the essays in my "Dominion Over the World" series. Two other essays in that series speak to this point, and the nature and purposes of U.S. foreign policy for more than the last half century: "The Open Door to Worldwide Hegemony," and "Global Interventionism -- A Disastrous Policy Supported by Indefensible Ideas." (All of the essays in that series are listed at the conclusion of this post.)
So all of the feigned bafflement and incessant caterwauling about the supposedly indecipherable actions of the United States -- Why, oh why, did we invade Iraq?, and Why, dear God, are we in Afghanistan? -- represent only the capitulation of the purported critics to precisely those arguments U.S. leaders hope you will engage. They want you to spend all your time on those arguments, because they're only marketing ploys having nothing at all to do with their actual goals. As I said the other day, if you want to stop this murderous madness -- and I dearly hope you do -- forget about what they say their goals are (fostering "democratic" governments, ?regional stability,? ?security,? and all the associated claptrap), and focus on the real problem: the carefully chosen policy of U.S. geopolitical dominance over the entire globe. On the day Obama announces the scheduled closure of at least one-third of the U.S.'s worldwide empire of bases, I'll believe he's serious about altering any of this, and not a moment before. He never will, and you know he won't. (I myself would prefer the closure within three to six months of three-quarters of them at a minimum. But contrary to some of my critics, I actually do reside in this world, and not the one I would prefer.)
Higgs' argument and those I consistently make explain the U.S. presence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in countless other places around the world.
Mutual fund behemoth Vanguard rolled out seven new bond ETFs this week. Collectively called “Vanguard Sector Bond Index Funds,” the new funds increase the number of Vanguard bond ETFs to 12 and the total Vanguard ETF count to 47. There wasn’t much fanfare about the launch and we wonder why Vanguard would make its move in a holiday week. Presumably someone thought it would be a good idea.Vanguard ETFs have a different structure than most. Instead of stand-alone funds, their ETFs are separate share classes of corresponding open-end mutual funds. This brings some efficiencies on both sides. Vanguard was relatively late to…
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This is a guest note by Daniel Levy, who served as the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative and directs the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force.
Pugnacious Netanyahu Pushes U.S. to Call for 1967 Borders
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced yesterday his cabinet's decision, "To suspend new construction in Judea and Samaria." (Yes, they still call it Judea and Samaria).
On the face of it, this was a step forward by the Israeli government, acknowledged and welcomed (though not blessed) by the US government, and a move that one hopes will facilitate Palestinian agreement to resume negotiations. But if one digs just a little bit deeper, it becomes very evident that it was nothing of the sort. Rather, today's events closed the first chapter in a game of dare being played out between the new leaderships in Washington and Jerusalem.
Today's statements appeared to be part of an elaborate and ongoing dance of suspicion between the two supposed allies.
During his first term as prime minister in the late 90's, Benjamin Netanyahu made an enemy of then US President Clinton and played the Republican congress against the Democrat president. This directly led to the collapse of Netanyahu's government and his fall from office. Judging by today, Netanyahu is keen for a repeat performance albeit under circumstances even less propitious for him politically. The response of the Obama team might be an interesting pointer as to where things might be headed on the peace front.
The Obama administration has been calling on Israel to make good on a settlement freeze commitment dating to the 2003 Bush-era Road Map (and, questionably to the 1993 Oslo DoP).
Netanyahu has been unwilling to do anything of the sort. He sought to codify a set of exemptions to a settlement freeze or in plainer English, guidelines for ongoing settlement expansion, and to have those blessed by Washington. The Obama team refused to become the first ever American government to formally authorize settlement expansion. That is the situation we have reached with today's announcement.
Netanyahu's cabinet clarified its so-called "settlement restraint" policy with today's decision (some have called it a "moratorium" or a "freeze" but as you will see shortly, it is nothing of the sort, and those words are an inappropriate description).
The only apparent restraint in the Israeli cabinet decision was to suspend issuing of new permits or beginning new construction in the West Bank for ten months. The less restrained side of the equation is this: 3000 units already under construction will continue; all public buildings and security infrastructure will continue to be built; no restrictions would apply to occupied East Jerusalem; and construction would resume after ten months.
Netanyahu also repeated the totally (meaningless) commitment of no new settlements or land confiscations (meaningless because since 1993, the official policy is no new settlements yet via expansion, new neighborhoods and outposts, the West Bank settler population has grown from 111,000 then to over 300,000 today, and because although the built-up area of settlements constitutes only 2% of West Bank land, double that amount is slated for growth, and a total of 40% comes under the Settlement Regional Councils, therefore land confiscation issue is a red herring).
While it is technically true that this "restraint" is a new Israeli commitment, its practical relevance is of very limited significance - building 3000 units in ten months neatly dovetails the regular annual settlement construction rates. Moreover, Netanyahu made sure to assertively mention all these caveats in today's announcement - in effect, poking the Obama administration, the international community, and the Palestinians in the eye.
While some claim this was a politically courageous act by Netanyahu, the real litmus test is easy to apply: Has this led to any shakiness, any crisis, any resignations in the most right wing coalition ever in Israel's history? The answer: absolutely not, and resignations in Israeli politics are about as rare as Turkeys on Thanksgiving.
Netanyahu's so-called "restraint package" was so minimalist that it kept his coalition happy while doing nothing to advance a genuine peace effort (Yes, there is some criticism from the far-right, and Netanyahu's supporters will point to it as proof of his bravery, but as I say, the real test is in his coalition - and there: not so much as a wobble).
The interesting development today, indeed the unprecedented development, was in the US response. Yes, Senator Mitchell did pro-forma explain why this is new, why this was progress from the Israeli government.
But the real American response came elsewhere, in Secretary Clinton and Envoy Mitchell's statements. They did not bless the Israeli non-freeze, explaining it fell short and that they expected more, and that "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements". (Admittedly they could have explicitly said that after ten months and the 3000 units, their expectation was for not a single new home to be built, they didn't).
The new language came in Secretary Clinton's description of what American expects the outcome of negotiations to be - for an "independent and viable [Palestinian] state based on the 1967 lines". Senator Mitchell quoted Clinton in repeating the call for a Palestinian state "based on the 67 lines."
Every conflict and every situation has its own lingua franca. In the Israeli-Palestinian context, a state based on the 67 lines is the dog-whistle for what constitutes a real, no-B.S. two-state outcome. It is also language that the US has conspicuously avoided using - avoided that is until today.
Previous administrations would speak of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 (but those are interpreted differently by the Israelis and Palestinians); the Clinton Parameters of December 2000 suggested percentages on territory, but never mentioned the 67 lines; in June 2002, President Bush used the phrase, ending the "occupation that began in 1967."
That language was adopted in the 2003 Road Map and used verbatim by President Obama in his September United Nations General Assembly speech. It is language very much open to interpretation. The "1967 lines" language add a far greater degree of clarity - and, as such, is an anathema to the Greater Land of Israel, anti-peace forces (many of whom are represented in today's Israeli government).
Interestingly, Secretary Clinton had begun to play with this language during her recent Middle East trip but had never been so explicit - until today. It is true that this adoption of new language comes late (perhaps too late) in the process and will need to be backed up by more concrete steps. It is though progress.
So the subtext of what went on today - the Obama administration is beginning to up the ante, at least declaratively, in the signals it is sending in response to Netanyahu's stubbornness on settlements, and in setting the table for the next phase of its peace efforts.
The question of course is - what next?
Senator Mitchell gave some hints about that also. He suggested that the US was still pursuing a comprehensive peace effort and notably discussed Syria at some length. He briefly mentioned the option of resuming regional multilateral talks with Israel and various Arab states on issues such as water and energy at an appropriate time. Most interesting perhaps, Senator Mitchell explained that negotiations, "will proceed on a variety of tracks," and while he continued to push for the resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, he also spoke of parallel talks that the US would conduct with each of the parties.
This combination of back-to-back negotiations - US-Israel and US-Palestinians - combined with the reference to the 1967 lines may signpost the way out of the peace impasse. The US will need to elaborate and put flesh on the bones of its "based on the 1967 lines" parameter and then pursue a conversation, mostly with the Israeli side, on how to implement that, and if necessary go public with a plan and tie incentives/disincentives to its acceptance/rejection.
-- Daniel Levy
From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE...
Things for Which I am Thankful: 2009
Barack Obama is our 44th president and John McCain is not
Joe Biden is our vice president and Sarah Palin is not
That somehow we didn't fall into Great Depression II
The hope of semi-significant healthcare reform
The Congressional Progressive Caucus
Michelle and those arms
Olbermann, Maddow, Schultz, Stewart, Colbert
That my spellchecker recognizes "Maddow" and doesn’t try to replace it with "mad cow" or "mildew."
Lou Dobbs' forced exit
25 years of Bill Moyers on my teevee
Senator Al Franken
Also senators Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders.
The rising star that is Rep. Alan Grayson, and his perfect summary of Blanche Lincoln's, Joe Lieberman's, Ben Nelson's, Mary Landrieu's and the GOP's healthcare plan: "Don’t get sick. If you do get sick, die quickly."
My new congresswoman, true-blue progressive Chellie Pingree
Also Congressman Anthony Weiner, for articulating the progressive position on healthcare reform so perfectly
The continuing Republican implosion
The rest of the world, for liking us again
That I'm not traveling for Thanksgiving
My partner, Michael, for his patience
All of my bosses here at Daily Kos
The front-pagers and diarists here, for explaining stuff I don't know boo about
The rest of the progressive blogosphere, for having the wisdom to follow all orders issued by Kingmaker Markos
Netroots Nation and its organizers
Netroots for the Troops
Righty blogs, an endless source of amusement (bless their hearts)
Public works projects
Stem cell research
Our soldiers over here and over there
The folks here in Maine who voted 'No on 1'
The folks in Washington who voted 'Yes on 71' and those in Kalamazoo who voted 'Yes on 1856'
Our new kitty
Water on the Moon
And, as ever, that magic moment at 6am when the rum crosses the blood-brain barrier
Okay. Let's eat.
Cheers and Jeers, including the debut of our special hymn for the season, starts in There's Moreville... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]
Gee. Maybe FAA "management" should actually start listening to its Air Traffic Controllers for a change.
OSC Press Statement:
DOT 11/29 Audit:
DOT Ray Adams Letter:
Adams/Congressional Letters RE 11/29 Safety:
Report: FAA Endangered Public At Newark Airport
(See Below for Internet Links For Documents Related To This Story)
DAVID PORTER--The Associated Press
NEWARK, N.J. - A federal agency that handles whistleblower complaints has accused the Federal Aviation Administration of endangering public safety by not changing landing procedures at Newark Liberty International Airport.
In a Nov. 19 letter to White House counsel Gregory Craig, the Office of Special Counsel reported that it found ?a substantial likelihood? that the actions of FAA officials constitute ?gross mismanagement and a substantial and specific danger to public safety?.
The letter stems from a whistleblower complaint filed last year by an air traffic controller that described safety issues with planes landing on intersecting runways at the Newark airport.
Controller Raymond Adams contended that simultaneous arrivals on the runways often led to loss of separation between aircraft and increased the risk of midair collisions and runway incursions.
The Department of Transportation?s Office of the Inspector General agreed with the allegations in a report filed last month, and the FAA said it would make changes to the landing procedures by Oct. 26.
The FAA reported 10 days later that it had done so when it actually hadn?t, according to the OSC letter.
An investigator told the OSC ?the procedures have not been implemented and FAA has not completed critical steps that FAA represented it had accomplished?, Associate Special Counsel William E. Reukauf wrote.
One key change was to have controllers on Long Island stagger arrivals into Newark to relieve pressure on controllers to keep the aircraft out of each other?s way.
Another was to have controllers at Newark and on Long Island use software called Converging Runway Display Aid that creates a computer-generated ?ghost target? to project where flight paths will cross. The CRDA was used temporarily but discontinued, Adams said.
?FAA safety officers wanted to make absolutely sure employees were fully trained on the equipment and parameters and go-around procedures were in place before CRDA was used regularly?, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said Wednesday.
Peters said CRDA and flight staggering would be fully implemented by mid-December.
The FAA has already terminated an approach that used two intersecting runways after the Inspector General?s report found it had ?the potential to create a lack of consistency and unnecessary flight hazards?.
Adams said controllers at Newark began raising issues about the intersecting runways in 2005.
?I?m pleased that the Inspector General and the OSC validated my complaints and I?m encouraged by some of the steps that the FAA has taken, but I?m concerned by the fact that the agency cut corners on the CRDA procedure and now that procedure is not in place?, he said.
OSC Press Statement:
DOT 11/29 Audit:
DOT Ray Adams Letter:
Adams/Congressional Letters RE 11/29 Safety:
Google Blogs Alert for: FAA
REMOVE BOBBY STURGELL FROM THE FAA: Ray Adams - Hero Whistleblower ...
Newark air traffic controller Ray Adams knew instinctively that landing planes on intersecting runways at the same time carried enormous risks, but when the FAA failed to agree, he turned to Eyewitness News to make his case. ...
REMOVE BOBBY STURGELL FROM THE FAA - http://removesturgell.blogspot.com/
PhillyBurbs.com: Report: FAA endangered public at Newark airport
A federal agency that handles whistleblower complaints has accused the Federal Aviation Administration of endangering public safety by not changing landing procedures at Newark Liberty International Airport.
phillyBurbs.com: Burlington County... - http://www.phillyburbs.com/ http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/news_details/article/207/2009/november/25/report-faa-endangered-public-at-newark-airport.html
Google Blogs Alert for: FAA
PhillyBurbs.com: Report: FAA endangered public at Newark airport
A federal agency that handles whistleblower complaints has accused the Federal Aviation Administration of endangering public safety by not changing landing procedures at Newark Liberty International Airport.
phillyBurbs.com: Burlington County... - http://www.phillyburbs.com/
Diamond Pilots: FAA to improve landing operations at Newark ...
By Diamond Pilots
?I?m pleased that the Inspector General and the OSC validated my complaints and I?m encouraged by some of the steps that the FAA has taken?, he told the Associated Press, ?but I?m concerned by the fact that the agency cut corners on the ...
Diamond Pilots - http://diamondpilots.blogspot.com/
Google Blogs Alert for: FAA
Report: FAA dropped ball on Newark airport safety - Philadelphia ...
By traffic report - Google News
Report: FAA dropped ball on Newark airport safetyPhiladelphia InquirerThe report from the Office of Special Counsel stems from a whistleblower complaint filed by an air traffic controller at the airport. ...Widspread US air travel ...
Daily Hot News - http://hotnews.3saru.com/
http://www.philly.com/philly/wires/ap/news/state/new_jersey/20091125_ap_reportfaaendangeredpublicatnewarkairport.html Google News Alert for: FAA
Report: FAA endangered public at Newark airport
19 letter to White House counsel Gregory Craig, the Office of Special Counsel reported that it found ?a substantial likelihood? that the actions of FAA ...
See all stories on this topic
Google News Alert for: Federal Aviation Administration
Report: FAA dropped ball on Newark airport safety
AP NEWARK, NJ - A recently released federal report accuses the Federal Aviation Administration of endangering public safety by not changing landing ...
See all stories on this topic
FAA to improve landing operations at Newark airport 2 years after whistle blower detailed safety risks
By Mike Frassinelli/The Star-Ledger
November 25, 2009, 8:45PM
NEWARK -- The Federal Aviation Administration next month will improve landing patterns at a dangerous runway intersection at Newark Liberty International Airport, nearly two years after a whistle blower detailed safety hazards that led to several near-crashes.
The changes, set for Dec. 14, come after the U.S. Office of Special Counsel wrote in a report to President Obama this month that the FAA allowed the potential safety risks to persist.
AP Photo/Mel Evans
A passenger aircraft waits on a taxiway as another takes off from a farther runway at Newark Liberty International Airport in this 2008 file photo.
Whistle blower Raymond Adams, an air traffic control specialist, had warned about the potential for mid-air collisions.
?The investigation substantiated Mr. Adams? allegations concerning the unsafe operation of the two intersecting runway configurations?, the Office of Special Counsel wrote.
The U.S. transportation department?s Office of Inspector General, which investigated the allegations by Adams, concluded that ?these two runway configurations pose significant safety risks that must be resolved through corrective action?, according to the Office of Special Counsel.
In response to the findings, the FAA agreed the runway configuration was a ?high risk? operation and terminated the configuration until effective safety measures could be developed.
Beginning Dec. 14, software will be implemented to give a better picture of when planes will land at the convergent runways 22 and 11 at Newark Liberty.
Similar to a traffic intersection with a red light, the second plane won?t be cleared to land until the first plane clears, FAA spokesman Jim Peters said.
With the new ?Converging Runway Display Aid? software program, air traffic controllers in Newark will better know the speed, location, altitude and position of the aircraft as it approaches the convergent runways, Peters said.
The software, at a radar facility in Long Island, will show the projected path of the aircraft ? known as a ?ghost path?.
?The controller will use the established procedures to make sure that one aircraft lands safely before the other one comes over the threshold? of the second runway, Peters said.
Adams, 38, a 19-year veteran, had mixed reactions about the FAA?s response to the findings.
?I?m pleased that the Inspector General and the OSC validated my complaints and I?m encouraged by some of the steps that the FAA has taken?, he told the Associated Press, ?but I?m concerned by the fact that the agency cut corners on the (Converging Runway Display Aid) procedure and now that procedure is not in place?.
He has detailed several close calls at Newark Liberty.
Among them: Two jets arriving in January 2008 came too close to each other after a regional air traffic controller gave one of the flight crews a communications frequency for the wrong control tower. The previous month, a Boeing 737 came within 300 feet of colliding with a taxiing jet, whose crew ignored a controller?s command to stop.
Last year, Adams filed for federal whistle-blower protection, saying an FAA official retaliated against him for raising concerns about flight patterns.
?There?s a culture in the FAA of retaliation against the whistle-blowers?, he said at the time. ?The FAA higher-ups, from the administrator down, refuse to do anything about it?.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
Deficient Air Traffic Procedures At Newark Liberty International Airport And Their Impacts On Aircraft Safety
Prepared by Raymond Adams, National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA)
for The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Aviation Subcommittee
April 19, 2009
Table of Contents
Issues Addressed by this Document???????2
About the Author??????????????2
Issue ? Runway 22 Right Dispersal Headings??.....3
Theoretical and Practical Application???..3
Issue ? Runway 22 Left / Runway 11 Simultaneous Arrivals???7
Theoretical and Practical Application???.7
Issue ? Runway 29 Overhead Approach......12
Theoretical and Practical Application???12
Attachment 1 ? Letter from the New Jersey Congressional Delegation to NOW-FORMER Acting FAA Administrator Bobby Sturgell
Attachment 2 ? Chart of the Liberty One Departure
Attachment 3 ? Chart of the Newark Seven Departure
Attachment 4 ? Press Release: City of Elizabeth Files Suit Against FAA
Attachment 5 ? Newark Airport Diagram
Attachment 6 ? Graphic depiction of the Runway 22 Left and Runway 11 simultaneous arrivals
Attachment 7 ? Graphic depiction of the Runway 29 Overhead Procedure
Attachment 8 ? Chart of the Teterboro VOR DME-A approach
Issues Addressed by this Document
This document addresses three deficient air traffic procedures in use at Newark Liberty Airport, New Jersey. In their current form, these procedures diminish the primary mission of the Federal Aviation Administration - Protecting the public from aviation related accidents that may result in loss of human life and destruction of property. Each of the three procedures has its own inherent dangers. Some may cause confusion on the flight deck, in the air traffic control tower or both. Others place aircraft in direct conflict with other aircraft, leaving little room for error. Nonetheless, all of them contain unacceptable risks that can be corrected without tremendous cost to the agency. This paper describes the benefits, risks and potential solutions related to the following procedures:
Runway 22 Right? Dispersal Heading Procedure
Runway 22 Left ? Runway 11? Simultaneous Approaches
Runway 29 Overhead Approach? Procedure
About the Author
I am a nineteen-year veteran air traffic controller who has spent the past seven years at Newark Liberty Airport actively controlling air traffic. Previously, I worked for six years at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, New York as a front line controller working both radar and non-radar functions. During my tour of duty with the United States Navy, I worked at Naval Air Station Bermuda, Bermuda Island, U.K. as a radar controller, tower controller and supervisor, and at Naval Air Engineering Center, Lakehurst, New Jersey as a tower controller, special test operations controller and supervisor. I am presently the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, Newark Tower Vice President, the New Jersey Legislative Coordinator and have been designated the union Safety Representative. I have held three Certified Tower Operator (CTO) certificates, two En-route Radar Controller certifications, an Oceanic Non-Radar certification and a Terminal Radar Approach Controller (TRACON) certification. I completed the U.S. Navy?s Terminal Procedures training (TERPS) where I learned the development of instrument approach procedures. For approximately one year, I performed the Quality Assurance Specialist duties at Newark Tower with duties including the investigation of operational errors and deviations, pilot deviations and performing Quality Assurance Reviews (QAR).
Issue: Runway 22 Right Dispersal Headings
A new departure procedure was implemented by FAA in December 2007 for aircraft departing on Runway 22 Right at Newark Airport. This ?dispersal heading procedure? was developed as part of the New York/New Jersey Airspace Redesign Plan. The procedure?s intent is to reduce the separation between successive departures from Runway 22 Right from the standard three miles to one mile, theoretically reducing departure delays at Newark. FAA Order 7110.65S 5-8-3 specifies the reduction of standard separation is legal when successive departures diverge by fifteen degrees or more immediately upon departure. This rule applies to aircraft that do not require additional spacing due to wake turbulence such as Boeing 757 and all aircraft designated ?heavy? by FAA regulations. The procedure contains three divergent headings of 215, 239 and 263 degrees. These are generally either straight out from the runway or turns to the right. In contrast, the original departure procedure, the Newark (Seven) Departure initially turns left to a heading of 190 degrees. That procedure has been in effect, in relatively unchanged form, at Newark Airport for over ten years.
Theoretical and Practical Application
In theory, the reduction of departure spacing by using the diverging headings should reduce departure delays. In reality, the physical limitations of the aircraft utilizing Newark Airport do not allow for one mile spacing to be achieved. Factors such as length of departure roll, time to accelerate to rotation velocity and delay in making the initial turn diminish the benefit. Ultimately, separation between aircraft ends up closer to two-and-one-half miles. Additionally, since this procedure cannot be applied in wake turbulence situations, the average reduction of spacing across the entire departure bank is even smaller.
Limiting the practical application even further is the fact that two of the three headings are unusable when Morristown Airport, located about eight miles Northwest of Newark Airport is departing aircraft from Runway 23. The Morristown departure causes a conflict with the aircraft departing Newark on the 239 and 263 headings and the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) departure controller cannot accommodate both at the same time. This in turn causes a ?stop? on those headings. The Newark Tower Local controller is then forced to re-route the aircraft waiting to depart onto the 215 degree heading. The additional commands cause confusion and delay that may reduce airport efficiency by causing successive departure separation to exceed three miles between aircraft. The additional workload also diverts the controller?s attention from other safety priorities.
Safety Hazards Associated with the Procedure
The rapid implementation of the new procedure caused many problems for both pilots and air traffic controllers at Newark. The FAA instituted the change in December of 2007 with little notice to the users and little input controllers who would be responsible for the safe application of the new headings. The Newark Tower air traffic controllers attempted to assist with the development and implementation of the control position operational procedures but were effectively removed from the process when FAA management began altering the controllers duties ?on the fly? during live usage of the procedures.
Inadequate notice to pilots:
A memo was sent out to the airlines stating the changes would take effect on December 12th and that pilots should expect verbal changes to their departure instructions. Newark controllers were given a verbal brief by their supervisors and ordered to sign a paper stating they understood the changes. An announcement was added to the Automated Terminal Information System that is broadcast to pilots stating ?dispersal heading procedures are in effect?. It turned out that these methods of notification were inadequate and created confusion among pilots and controllers alike.
Initial lack of a charted procedure caused confusion and frequency congestion:
Controllers were instructed to issue each aircraft the heading at the Clearance Delivery position approximately thirty minutes prior to departure. The aircraft were issued strictly a heading without any other instructions on what to do after departure, leaving them without guidance on joining their filed flight plan. Conversely, when departing via the Newark Seven departure procedure, the pilots are directed by the procedural notes how to proceed to join their route of flight. When issued the heading without a procedural chart, pilots became confused and began asking questions of controllers both on the ground and when airborne. The increased conversation on the frequency made the pilots? and controllers? jobs more difficult by diverting their attention from other safety priorities, raising the risk of incident.
Procedure causes airborne conflicts with LaGuardia Airport arrivals:
On the very first morning of the implementation, immediately after the first few aircraft using the new headings were cleared off the field, the New York TRACON controllers stated that the aircraft could not initially climb to 5000 feet as planned. The Newark departures conflicted with LaGuardia Airport arrival traffic at 4000 feet just a few miles south of Newark Airport. Controllers were instructed to issue an altitude restriction of 2500 feet to the departing aircraft. This restriction is also used on the Newark Seven Departure when the same arrivals are in conflict. When asked to make a permanent change to the new procedure, the FAA management stated it could not be officially changed because the 2500 foot restriction violates the environmental impact study done for the airspace redesign. Currently, controllers are still required to verbally issue the altitude restriction to each departing aircraft.
Pilots making wrong turns on departure due to unorthodox headings:
Within the first weeks of use, the controllers at Newark noticed pilots making wrong turns when departing the airport. The pilots began asking questions of the controllers to clarify the unpublished changes. One common question relates to the heading assignments of 215, 239 or 263 degrees. With the exception of the 215 heading which is only slightly unorthodox, the other two headings would not normally be issued by a controller. Air traffic controllers generally issue headings in ten degree increments such as ?180? degrees or ?240? degrees. Such a specific heading as 239 caused pilots to question whether there was a miscommunication or hear-back error. This confusion required the controller to reissue the heading, increasing frequency congestion and diverting his attention from other duties. When asked if the headings could be changed, FAA management stated that the specific heading must be issued as to not violate the environment impact study.
FAA buckles to pressure and charts the procedure, but does so inadequately:
In July of 2008, after being pressured by Congressional meetings and media exposure initiated by the controllers at Newark, the FAA published the Liberty One Departure . The new procedure depicted the headings and provided pilots advance information of the departure instructions. The individual headings were now given the code names ?Parkway Climb?, ?Turnpike Climb? and ?Bud Climb?. Unfortunately, this publication did not solve the problem of the wrong turns by pilots on departure. This publication did solve the problem of interception of the flight planned route after departure.
Procedure creates a wake turbulence hazard to small aircraft at Linden Airport:
The 239 heading of the procedure creates an incidental hazard for the small aircraft that use Linden Airport which is located about four miles southwest of Newark Airport. Many aircraft that utilize this heading are ?heavy? designated aircraft. These are aircraft with a gross takeoff weight of greater than 255,000 pounds. Due to their weight and wing configuration, these aircraft generate powerful wake vortices from the edges of the wings. These vortices are powerful enough to cause a small aircraft to lose attitude control and potentially crash. The FAA has studied these wake vortices and found they generally sink from the wingtips at a few hundred feet per minute vertically and slowly spread outward. They usually become neutrally buoyant around 1000 feet below where they began and then eventually dissipate .
The airspace around Linden Airport is uncontrolled below 1200 feet to the north of the field and 800 feet to the east. Small aircraft fly the VFR pattern routinely and the field is a base of operations for many news helicopters in the New York City area. These aircraft are very susceptible to the wake of larger aircraft.
The hazard occurs during the hot summer months when the high temperatures limit the climb rate of the heavy aircraft departing Newark. Most of these aircraft are destined for Europe or Asia and are loaded close to their maximum departure weights. These aircraft scarcely top the uncontrolled airspace shelf at 1200 feet as they fly over Linden. The wake vortices sink directly into the flight pattern at the airport, possibly destabilizing the small aircraft.
Return to using the Newark Seven Departure but with reduced successive departure separation:
The primary solution is to discontinue the use of the Liberty One and revert to the Newark Seven Departure . The efficiency of the departure operation can be improved by obtaining a waiver to reduce successive departure separation to two-and-a-half miles. This would not affect the application of required wake turbulence separation, but would reduce separation on over half of the departure bank without the resultant confusion and complexity of the Liberty One. The spacing reduction would be more consistent than is accomplished by the Liberty One without the additional confusion and limitations.
This simple change eliminates environmental concerns and may mitigate current lawsuits against FAA:
Reverting to the Newark Seven with the reduced separation removes any environmental concern as it has been thoroughly tested and is compliant with existing regulation. The Newark Seven disperses much of the jet engine noise over industrial areas and the Arthur Kill waterway between Staten Island and New Jersey. Reverting to the Newark Seven may eliminate the recently filed lawsuit against the FAA by the City of Elizabeth, New Jersey . The cost savings could be substantial for both the FAA and the City.
Shift some short-haul flights to depart Runway 29 during heavy departure hours:
Shifting some of the short-haul flights to Runway 29 during the heavier departure hours would reduce pressure on the primary departure runway and allow for additional departure slots per hour. This operation is weather and departure fix dependent and is not a complete solution in itself, but used strategically it will help reduce departure delays. The current fleet mix of Continental Airlines and its subsidiaries consists of some Q400 twin turboprops and Embraer 135/145 regional jets aircraft that are generally capable of departing Runway 29. Also, some of the Boeing 737 model aircraft are also capable depending on destination. Considering that Continental Airlines ramp is for the most part located on the north end of the field, there is easy access to Runway 29. There is some impact on Morristown Airport departures when using this configuration, but the aircraft delays there would be small compared with the delays at Newark if this runway is not fully utilized. When in use, the Liberty One Departure precludes the use of Runway 29 departures due to airspace limitations and conflicts with the Runway 22 Right westerly dispersal headings.
Allow controllers to use visual separation between successive departures during good weather:
Another option is to authorize Newark Tower controllers to use visual separation on subsequent departures during periods of high ceilings and visibility. This effectively allows the Local Controller to clear each aircraft for takeoff when the previous one lifts off. Visual separation can be established by the controller as he can see both aircraft and maintain the separation until radar control is established. Also, the pilot of the aircraft waiting to depart can visually observe the previous aircraft airborne and accept the responsibility of maintaining visual separation. FAA order 7110.65S allows visual separation to be used by aircraft in-trail on final approach and applying visual separation on successive departures is potentially safer as the preceding aircraft is generally accelerating away from the following aircraft.
The solutions proposed here will enhance the safety and efficiency of the air traffic operation at Newark Airport by maximizing the use of the runways at Newark without introducing additional confusing procedures or adding to the pilots? or controllers? workloads. They will eliminate the noise impact on the residential communities in Elizabeth and Linden and possibly eliminate lawsuits and their costs to the government. They will also protect the general aviation pilots who use Linden Airport from the dangerous effects of wake turbulence and help reduce aircraft accidents.
Issue: Runway 22 Left / Runway 11 Simultaneous Arrivals
Newark Airport contains three runways . Two of them are parallel and run from Northeast to Southwest along the eastern side of the airfield (Runways 22 Right and Left). The third runway is aligned roughly East-West (Runway 11) and intersects the parallel runways on the northeast corner of the field. The eastern most parallel runway (22 Left) is the primary landing runway in this configuration while the other parallel (22 Right) is the primary departure runway. The crossing runway (11) is used for ?overflow? arrivals to enhance arrival capacity during busy periods . This procedure was primarily devised for use with propeller driven or turboprop aircraft operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). In the past few years, the FAA has expanded the use of Runway 11 to turbojet aircraft operating under Instrument Flight Rules and many times utilizing the Instrument Landing System (ILS) approach.
Theoretical and Practical Application
Theoretically, the efficient use of all possible runways at an airport will maximize the airport?s capacity. While the use of Runway 11 for landing traffic while operating on the Southwest flow does increase the arrival capacity of the airport, the current procedure for conducting the simultaneous landings is workload intensive and creates safety hazards.
Safety Hazards Associated with the Procedure
The current procedure creates a collision hazard:
Under this configuration, the aircraft aligned for Runway 22 Left and Runway 11 are effectively pointed at each-other. The intercept angle of the two runways is 110 degrees and is outside the FAA established parameters for simultaneous use of instrument approaches. The two runways are fed traffic by two separate controllers at the New York TRACON who are responsible for two different sectors of airspace. The two controllers are generally not aware of each other?s traffic and there is minimal coordination between them regarding the Newark arrivals. In fact, the controller directing aircraft to Runway 11 is also directing aircraft to land at Teterboro Airport.
The tower controller is forced to create separation:
The TRACON controllers initiate each aircraft?s approach without regard for the other on the intersecting runway. Separation of the aircraft is not considered and the aircraft are transferred to the Tower controller for sequencing and separation. The Tower controller then must take action to stagger the aircraft to effectuate a safe landing sequence. This is usually accomplished by altering the speeds of the aircraft on final approach since the Tower controller has no authority to vector the aircraft off the approaches to establish a sequence.
The tower controller has limited time to act:
Aircraft landing Runway 11 are hypothetically required to be transferred to the Tower controller eight miles from the runway. Many times, frequency congestion, controller workload or other factors prevent the Tower controller from speaking with the aircraft until it is inside of the eight mile mark. These aircraft are generally traveling approximately three miles per minute when initially switched over and are approximately three minutes from the landing threshold. Since an aircraft?s speed on final can only be adjusted within the performance characteristics of the aircraft and the pilot?s ability, there is limited time for the Tower controller to act. Ultimately, drastic speed changes are sometimes required to make the procedure work and if the action is not initiated early, the likelihood of a successful sequence is reduced. Also, the Tower controller must consider the effect of the speed adjustments on other aircraft on the same final approach course.
FAA?s runway separation regulation does not correct airborne conflicts:
FAA Order 7110.65S 3-10-4 dictates the separation requirements for aircraft landing on intersecting runways. These paragraphs address the appropriate runway separation that controllers must adhere to but do not address what happens if the arriving aircraft cannot successfully land. The operation currently permits aircraft to be equidistant from their point of intersection as long as the appropriate runway separation will exist upon landing. This is a dangerous position for these aircraft in the event of a missed approach/go-around. The potential exists for the uncontrolled intersection of both aircraft?s flight paths, heightening the risk of collision.
Go-around/Missed Approach airspaces overlap:
Each aircraft, whether operating on an instrument approach or a visual approach, is entitled to an aborted landing procedure if the pilot cannot complete a successful approach or the controller must initiate a go-around.
Go-arounds are common and can be caused by weather, aircraft configuration, traffic or other factors that affect the pilot?s ability to safely land the aircraft. Due to airport configuration, aircraft aborting a landing on Runway 11 must traverse the flight path of the aircraft landing Runway 22 Left. Also, due to the displaced threshold on Runway 22 Left, aircraft landing there are airborne while crossing the path of the Runway 11 go-around/missed approach aircraft creating an uncontrolled airborne intersection. The danger is even greater if both aircraft must abort their approaches, as now both aircraft are on unpredictable flight paths. The controller has limited influence over this situation.
Controller?s ability to separate these aircraft is limited, even applying visual rules:
FAA management argues that the controller can apply visual separation in these circumstances to ensure safety. Although the controller can technically satisfy the regulatory requirements for application of visual separation, he is limited in his ability to do so. Pilots executing a go-around or missed approach maneuver are at a critical phase of flight . The pilot?s ability to maneuver the aircraft is limited by aircraft configuration, pilot ability and workload. These factors, along with the limitations of controller-pilot radio communication, create barricades to effective separation of aircraft in these situations.
Actions by controllers and pilots are not instantaneous, but are subject to lags:
Actions by pilots and controllers are subject to time lags. In the event of a near touchdown missed approach initiated by a pilot, he must throttle the engines, climb and reconfigure the aircraft for flight. This can delay his notification to the controller of his intent to abort. The tower frequency at Newark Tower is notoriously congested and due to the technological limitation of ATC communication, only one person may speak at a time. The result of two or more people keying the microphone simultaneously is a heterodyne, a loud squeal that obscures the communication for all recipients. The pilot must wait for an opening to get his call in to the controller. The controller must then receive the call, process the information and then assess the situation and make a decision on the course of action that will ensure separation. This process can take five to ten seconds or longer. The controller must then relay that instruction to the pilot, which can take anywhere from five to ten seconds as the controller is subject to the same frequency limitation as the pilot was previously. The pilot must then process the instruction, read it back and comply, all of which consume time.
These systemic lags can delay a separation action by thirty seconds or more. Considering the speed of the aircraft aborting is probably upwards of 140 knots or almost two-and-a-half miles per minute, the aircraft may traverse the entire 6800 foot length of Runway 11 before the separation instruction takes effect. The instruction may not be sufficient to prevent a collision. In the worst cases, the instruction may not be conveyed at all and the intersection of flight paths will be completely uncontrolled.
In order to improve the safety of the operation while maintaining the extra capacity the use of Runway 11 brings to Newark Airport, some changes must be made to the method by which the aircraft are sequenced and separated.
The two final approach paths must be staggered to minimize direct conflicts:
Since the root of the problem lies in the fact that the aircraft attempting to land on the intersecting runways are many times equidistant from the intersection point, a planned landing sequence ?stagger? should be instituted early in the aircraft?s final approaches. Currently, the Tower controller attempts to create a stagger by instructing pilots to make drastic speed adjustments or other unstable maneuvers on final descent, a critical point in the flight. The pilot and controller are both very busy managing their respective tasks and the additional workload for each increases the risk of error. By using existing tools embedded in the ARTS radar system in use at the New York TRACON, the adjustments pilots? are required to make to create a workable sequence to the runways (turns, speed adjustments) can be much smaller and primarily accomplished prior to final descent. This change to the operation would allow pilots more stabilized approaches with less risk of error and reduced probabilities of missed approaches/go-arounds.
The Converging Runway Display Aid (CRDA) is currently installed and with some minor adjustments, should be usable at New York TRACON for Newark arrivals:
The Converging Runway Display Aid (CRDA) is a technology that provides the Final Approach Controllers feeding each runway ?ghost? targets that mirror aircraft on the intersecting final approach course. The computer calculates each aircraft?s vector (direction and speed) and provides each radar controller targets with the associated speed necessary to establish the required stagger. The controllers vector the aircraft to superimpose its radar target onto the ghost target and adjust the aircraft?s speed to match. Once on the target, the radar controller can transfer communication to the Tower controller who can effect small speed adjustments to maintain the spacing. The CRDA installed at the New York TRACON, Newark Sector, has a software flaw that makes it unusable, but with the necessary correction it should be as reliable as the systems currently used in the approach controls that serve Philadelphia and Washington Dulles airports.
The TRACON controllers are best equipped and most able to fully utilize the CRDA:
TRACON controllers, due to the area under their control and their superior radar displays, have a wider view of the existing air traffic in the vicinity of Newark and Teterboro airports. TRACON controllers are responsible for large regions of airspace and generally set their radar scopes to view a thirty to sixty mile radius around Newark allowing them to make smaller angle and speed adjustments to the arriving aircraft?s vectors when aligning them with the ghost targets.
In contrast, the Newark Tower controller?s area of control is approximately eight miles around the airport. Tower controllers at Newark generally set their radar scope range to approximately a twelve mile radius allowing the Tower controller to maintain precision separation between successive arrivals on the final approach, maximizing the airport?s arrival capacity.
Airport capacity will increase as in-trail restrictions on Runway 11 can be reduced:
By establishing the stagger and eliminating the increased workload of last minute separation actions by the Tower controller, the existing fifteen mile in-trail restriction on Runway 11 arrivals can be reduced to seven miles. This equates to an additional six to eight planes per peak hour for a peak arrival period capacity gain of approximately twelve to sixteen-percent (12-16%) .
The increase in capacity will reduce arrival delays into Newark during peak periods:
The increased capacity due to the procedural change and ensuing reduction of in-trail requirements will reduce the number and duration of arrival delays incurred during peak times when Newark Airport is operating on the Southwest flow. Due to seasonal wind patterns, the Southwest flow (Runway 22 Left arrival) is the primary operation during the summer months. This is precisely the time of year when Newark experiences its peak delay periods.
The airlines will experience cost and on time benefits:
The reduction of delays will benefit the financial health of the airlines utilizing Newark, especially Continental Airlines. By improving on time performance and reducing holding pattern fuel burn, the cost of operating aircraft out of Newark will be reduced. Additionally, many carriers use Newark as their gateway to connect with trans-Atlantic and trans-polar flights that are significant revenue generators for the companies. There is a two-fold benefit here; the connecting flights arrive on time and allow passengers to make their connections to the overseas flight, and the long-haul aircraft arrive on time and are available for those passengers.
Ultimately, the flying public benefits by having flights arrive on time. Passengers arrive at their destinations without extensive ground or in-flight delay and are able to make connections more easily, potentially mitigating some of the stress that has been associated with air travel over the past few years.
The solutions proposed here will enhance the safety and capacity at Newark Airport while operating on the Southwest flow. The existing operation requires tremendous effort and skill by the Tower controller to overcome its procedural deficiencies, reducing his attention to his main duty ? safety. These changes are relatively minor and can be accomplished without cost to the agency.
Issue: Runway 29 Overhead Approach Procedure
The Runway 29 Overhead Approach Procedure is designed to take advantage of the shorter, crossing runway (Runway 29) when Newark Airport is operating on the Northeast flow (Runway 4 Right arrivals). The aircraft for Runway 4 Right approach from the southwest, descending on final for the runway while the Runway 29 arrivals approach from the west travelling eastbound and fly directly over the approaching Runway 4 Right traffic. The eastbound aircraft for then descends and enters a left traffic pattern for Runway 29 prior to the Hudson River. The Local controller then sequences the Runway 29 arrival to fit with the Runway 4 Right arrivals so both aircraft land with the appropriate separation. The Runway 29 aircraft are required to execute visual approaches on this procedure.
Theoretical and Practical Application
The visual approach , in many circumstances, is valuable tool for the air traffic controller. It allows him to reduce separation standards and in some cases relieves him of the burden of providing wake turbulence separation between aircraft. It also reduces workload on approach controllers by removing the obligation of placing an aircraft on an instrument approach to an airport. This frees the controller to work on other safety issues and provide additional services.
In this particular case, the use of the visual approach without published course guidance, approach minima and a valid missed approach/go-around procedure creates unnecessary safety hazards. This complex approach, in the very congested and complex airspace of the New York metropolitan area is not the proper setting for the unregulated use of visual procedures.
This unpublished approach procedure was designed to be used by aircraft operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). Aircraft operating under VFR are not required to be separated by the stringent standards associated with Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flights. The current procedure has not been amended to consider the change in users from VFR to IFR flights.
Safety Hazards Associated with the Procedure
There is no published procedure to establish course guidance:
The current structure of the procedure allows for the Runway 29 arrival to approach the airport from almost any angle and any point in space that is west of Newark. The lack of consistency creates unique problems for the Tower Local and Class Bravo Airspace (CBA) controllers. The random appearance of flights at various points requires the controllers to react quickly to resolve any conflict with other aircraft under their control.
The pilots are instructed by the Tower controller to aim for a point at the airport over the Runway 4 ?numbers?, the large painted digits at the approach end of the runway. This may seem like a reasonable visual target, but in reality pilots may vary by more than a mile either south or north of the correct position. This inaccuracy causes a potential collision hazard with the aircraft either on the Runway 4 Right approach or with aircraft departing Runway 4 Left. In some rare cases, pilots have deviated by as much as three miles south of the required point while simultaneously descending on the approach. These deviations are serious and place the aircraft directly in the final approach path of the primary runway. Generally, these are cases where a pilot is unfamiliar with Newark Airport and specifically this uncharted approach, causing him to become disoriented.
The approach relies too heavily on visual separation:
When the aircraft approach Newark from the west, the TRACON controller does not provide any radar separation with the Runway 4 Right arrival aircraft. It is incumbent upon the Tower controller to establish either pilot-to-pilot visual separation or he provide the visual separation . Unfortunately, in this configuration and with the workload the controller already has, it is difficult and time consuming to establish either form of visual separation. Many variables such as the aircraft?s profile, weather, controller workload or other factors may prevent the establishment of visual separation. Without the aid of visual separation, the controller is required to maintain the standard three miles lateral separation or 1000 feet vertically. When a controller cannot establish visual separation, he must quickly ensure separation between the aircraft. Unfortunately, the Tower controller is not authorized to climb the inbound aircraft because he does not control the airspace above 2000 feet and he is limited in where he can vector the aircraft by the Teterboro and Morristown arrivals. He is effectively placed in an untenable situation that will likely result in a loss of separation.
There is no built-in separation for contingent events:
Since the approach is not charted, there are no explicit directions for pilots to follow in the event of a contingency. These types of events, such as loss of communications, wrong frequency assignments, loss of radar and any other abnormal event that disrupts the standard operation introduce uncertainty. A controller encountering these situations may not be able to provide separation services to the inbound aircraft raising the potential for a catastrophic event.
Lack of effective transfer of communications and control:
There is guidance for the TRACON controller to transfer control and communications to the Tower controller at eight miles from the airport. Prior to transfer, aircraft are verbally instructed to maintain 2000 feet. At times, pilots cannot visually acquire the airport prior to the eight mile mark and cannot be cleared for the visual approach. In these events, it is common for the TRACON controller to retain control of the aircraft until the pilot can proceed visually to the airport. Unfortunately, when the Tower controller finally receives control and communications, he does not have adequate time to establish the necessary visual or radar separation.
Pilots must fly an unorthodox, unstabilized approach, increasing the risk of missed approaches/go-arounds:
The approach to Runway 29 in this configuration requires the aircraft to fly overhead the field from west to east, making a descending left 180 degree turn to align with the landing runway. Many times, it is necessary for the Tower controller to instruct the pilot to make a shortened approach to sequence with the landing traffic on Runway 4 Right. This maneuver does not allow the pilot to properly stabilize the aircraft for landing and increases the potential for go-arounds. This is especially significant during the autumn when the prevailing wind shifts to the northwest and strong gusts are prevalent.
The routine descent profile is outside normal approach procedure parameters:
The routine application of this procedure allows pilots approximately four miles to descend from 2000 feet to touchdown in a banking left turn with a descent rate of approximately 500 feet per mile. Conversely, the optimum descent rate per mile on final approach is 318 feet per mile with a maximum of 400 feet per mile . This steep descent profile combined with the banked approach adds complexity to the pilot?s approach to the runway.
There is no protected missed approach/go-around (aborted landings) airspace:
Because this is an unpublished visual approach procedure, there is no designated missed approach procedure or protected upwind airspace to safeguard the aircraft if it cannot land. The current procedure does not provide positive separation of aircraft on the upwind leg after an aborted landing.
Missed approaches/Go-arounds directly conflict with Teterboro Runway 6 arrivals:
When an aborted landing occurs, the aircraft is almost immediately endangered by other aircraft landing at Teterboro Airport and also by subsequent aircraft inbound to Newark Airport on the Overhead Runway 29 procedure. Teterboro Airport?s ILS Runway 6 final approach course lies approximately four miles off the departure end of Newark Runway 29. The aircraft on the Teterboro approach and regularly at 2000 feet and will begin descent on the ILS glide path shortly. The aircraft aborting on Runway 29 is on a converging course with those aircraft and is required to climb to a minimum altitude of 1600 feet due to obstacles in the vicinity. As the required separation between these aircraft is three miles laterally or 1000 feet vertically, there is virtually no option for the Newark Tower controller to keep the aircraft safely separated. Additionally, visual separation cannot be applied in this circumstance as it is prohibited by FAA Order 7110.65S 7-2-1 . The result is an almost instant loss of separation, endangering the aircraft involved.
FAA is instructing controllers to misapply VFR separation rules:
FAA management at Newark has instructed controllers to attempt to retain the aircraft aborting the approach in the ?VFR pattern? thus supposedly alleviating the controller of the responsibility of providing the necessary radar separation. This technique was previously used during a period when the primary users of this approach were turboprop aircraft operating under Visual Flight Rules (VFR). While this was a legal application of the rules with those aircraft, it is illegal for use with the Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flights that currently utilize the approach. Keeping the IFR aircraft in the visual pattern also places them below the 1600 foot MVA and in violation of FAA regulations.
Also, when conflicting with the Teterboro arrivals, VFR aircraft are not subject to the three mile or 1000 feet separation requirement.
Missed approaches/Go-arounds conflict with other aircraft inbound on this approach:
Aircraft aborting landings on Runway 29 during this operation not only potentially conflict with aircraft on the Teterboro ILS Runway 6 approach, but also with other aircraft conducting the Overhead 29 approach to Newark. There is generally a 25 mile in-trail restriction on aircraft conducting the Overhead Runway 29 approach. This is necessary because an aircraft aborting on Runway 29 is in conflict with the succeeding aircraft on the same approach. These two aircraft are on reciprocal courses and cannot be separated effectively.
Properly chart and publish the procedure:
Properly charting and publishing the procedure will standardize its use, ensuring consistency among pilots flying the approach into Newark and reducing confusion. This consistency will allow controllers to handle these aircraft more easily, thus increasing safety and efficiency. Publication of an official approach procedure will also mandate the establishment of acceptable weather minima under which the approach can be conducted. Currently, the operation?s weather minima are subjective and set by the operational supervisor on duty. FAA should develop a charted visual or similar procedure that provides instrument course guidance throughout and a specified point where the pilot must proceed visually or be resequenced.
Provide instrument course guidance:
The current application of the procedure does not dictate a track that aircraft must fly to safely proceed on the approach for Runway 29. Creating a required path to fly will reduce the uncertainty associated with the current operation and mitigate the hazards caused by aircraft drifting north or south of the expected fly-over point on the airfield (i.e. the runway numbers). Course guidance on the track can be provided by a number of navigational aids in the area and can be overlaid with newer technologies like GPS or RNAV for use with NextGen systems. The course guidance should not exclude older existing technologies such as VOR in order to maintain maximum flexibility of use.
Recommendation: In order to provide clearance from the Teterboro ILS Runway 6, Newark Runway 4 Right arrivals and Runway 29 aborted landing airspace, the inbound leg should start at approximately 240 degrees and 10 to 12 miles from the fly-over point.
Build-in vertical separation at conflict points:
The establishment of a track will define the points of conflict and altitude restrictions can be included to ensure separation between aircraft. This addition will reduce the likelihood of separation loss in contingency situations as well as reduce controller workload.
Create a defined transfer of control point:
A defined course and set altitude restrictions will allow for a set transfer point from the TRACON to the Tower. The clarification of the transfer point and definition of each controller?s responsibilities will reduce operational deviations and errors. Transfer errors will be reduced as pilots will expect transfer at a standard point and the frequencies will be included in the chart.
Recommendation: The transfer point should be a point where the pilot is separated from traffic, has acquired visual contact with the airport and can proceed on track.
Reduce the rate of descent on the final segment of the approach:
The new track should include the downwind and base legs of the approach to provide pilots a landing pattern that ensures obstacle clearance and a reasonable descent profile. By establishing a downwind leg length of three miles from the fly-over point to the base leg turn, the effective final segment length is approximately seven miles. This increase in length allows for the fly-over altitude to be raised to approximately 2600 feet and reduces the rate of descent to approximately 370 feet/mile from 500 feet/mile, bringing it within FAA regulation parameters. This change should provide for a more stabilized approach and reduce incidences of aborted landings. Also, the increase in fly-over altitude provides the necessary 1000 feet vertical separation between the inbound and aborting aircraft.
Tower controllers sequencing the Runway 29 arrivals with the Runway 4 Right arrivals may find the task easier with a set pattern as the time from fly-over to touchdown will be more consistent. Currently, the pattern flown by pilots during this operation varies widely and can disrupt the timing of the controller?s sequence. If necessary, controllers may still alter the pattern slightly to accommodate sequencing without greatly compromising the final descent profile. Speed adjustments would also be effective in adjusting the sequence.
Create aborted landing protected zone:
IFR aircraft aborting landings on Runway 29 must climb to at least 1600 feet in order to comply with the minimum vectoring altitude (MVA) in the vicinity of Newark. To ensure separation of the aircraft with the Teterboro ILS 6 traffic, an altitude restriction of 2600 feet must be established on the ILS 6 until the aircraft are laterally separated or the other applicable radar separation can be applied (i.e. divergence).
Alternatively, Teterboro can discontinue the use of the ILS 6 and instead utilize the VOR-DME Runway 6 which does not conflict with Runway 29. Since the Overhead Runway 29 approach is not used during periods of poor weather, the use of the non-precision VOR-DME approach at Teterboro should not present a problem.
Recommendation: Teterboro should use the VOR-DME Runway 6 during the usage of this procedure.
The changes will increase efficiency and reduce delays by reducing mile-in-trail restrictions:
By eliminating the traffic conflicts between the successive aircraft on the approach, the 25 mile-in-trail restriction can be reduced to 7 to 10 miles, more than doubling the hourly landing capacity on Runway 29. This reduction will add an additional four to six arrivals per hour and increase peak arrival period capacity by approximately 8-12% when operating on the northeast flow. This will provide some relief of arrival delays into Newark when the delays are a result of volume and airport configuration.
The airlines will experience cost and on time benefits:
The reduction of delays will benefit the financial health of the airlines utilizing Newark, especially Continental Airlines. By improving on time performance, reducing holding pattern fuel burn and diverted flights, the cost of operating aircraft out of Newark will be reduced. Additionally, many carriers use Newark as their gateway to connect with trans-Atlantic and trans-polar flights that are significant revenue generators for the companies. There is a two-fold benefit here; the connecting flights arrive on time and allow passengers to make their connections to the overseas flight, and the long-haul aircraft arrive on time and are available for those passengers.
Ultimately, the public benefits by having flights arrive on time. Passengers arrive at their destinations without extensive ground or in-flight delay and are able to make connections more easily, potentially mitigating some of the stress that has been associated with air travel over the past few years.
The solutions proposed here will enhance the safety and capacity at Newark Airport while operating on the Northeast flow. The existing operation is subject to three main uncontrolled conflict points and a number of uncertainties that can cause confusion with pilots and controllers. By positively controlling the conflicts and creating inherent separation, the operation becomes more certain and less workload intensive. The publication of the procedure with instrument course guidance puts pilots and controllers ?on the same page? allowing each to know what to expect from the other. Safety and efficiency are enhanced and capacity is increased, making this a win-win situation for all parties involved.
It is the primary duty of the Federal Aviation Administration to protect the lives of the passengers who fly through the National Airspace System each day. The deficiencies in each of these procedures jeopardize that mission. Yearly at Newark Airport there are approximately 450,000 takeoffs and landings of aircraft carrying tens of millions of passengers expecting to arrive safely to their destinations. Each day that passes while operating under the existing procedures raises the risk of a catastrophic event and loss of life.
The changes proposed in this document can be accomplished relatively quickly and inexpensively. Each recommendation is born from years of experience with these procedures at Newark and also from the cumulative of experience I have gained during my nineteen years as an air traffic controller. I believe that the safety and capacity of Newark Airport can be improved by these simple changes. I sincerely hope these, or similar changes will be made in the near future.
I am willing to provide verbal briefings and answer any questions that arise from the issues presented here. My contact information is provided below.
Thank you for the opportunity to present these issues to you,
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
Vice President, Newark Liberty Airport
STATEMENT OF ARLENE B. FELDMAN, REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE EASTERN REGION, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION BEFORE THE AVIATION SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE COMMITTEE ON AIR TRAFFIC DEPARTURES AT NEWARK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NOVEMBER 4, 1999
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Lipinski, and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to appear here this morning to discuss with the Members of this Subcommittee and other interested Members of the Congress the Federal Aviation Administration?s (?FAA?) air traffic control of departing aircraft at Newark International Airport. I am Arlene Feldman, the Regional Administrator of the FAA for the Eastern Region. With me today is Mr. Franklin Hatfield, the manager of the air traffic division in the Eastern Region.
Almost four years ago to the day, I appeared before this Subcommittee with former Administrator David Hinson when he came before you to discuss the FAA?s record of decision of the environmental impact statement on the Expanded East Coast Plan (?EECP?) for air traffic management. I am pleased to have the opportunity to update the Subcommittee on recent developments in air traffic management, and in particular, with regard to departures from Newark International Airport (?Newark?).
Let me begin with a brief review of the history. In the early 1980?s, the FAA saw that it would be impossible for the then existing air traffic routes over the East Coast to handle the growing demand for airline travel. The advent of deregulation in 1978 brought explosive growth in air traffic. The biggest bottleneck in the East Coast system was the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. Needless to say, the bottlenecks at New York-New Jersey had a ripple effect throughout the entire National air traffic system. The EECP was developed to change the aircraft routes and air traffic procedures in a way that would permit each of the major New York-New Jersey airports to more efficiently handle air traffic. This was a very ambitious plan at that time; one of the most far reaching changes the FAA ever made to the air traffic system.
With the implementation of the EECP we saw dramatic effects in the airspace system ? delays were reduced, airlines were able to plan their flights more efficiently and controllers found that the new air traffic procedures let them handle more traffic without compromising safety. However, the EECP also produced unavoidable consequences. These new air traffic routes began to take aircraft over parts of New Jersey, which, until 1987, had not experienced the air traffic associated with these new routes. As a result, communities throughout Northern New Jersey began to experience increases in noise levels they found unacceptable.
Newark International Airport has three runways: one east-west runway (11-29) and two parallel north-south runways, 22 left and right (?22 L/R?). Staten Island is south of the airport and there are communities, such as the City of Elizabeth, which are southwest. Since 1952, aircraft departing runway 22 have turned south to avoid over-flying the city of Elizabeth. Since 1961, departures from Newark off runway 22 L/R have climbed to approximately 500 feet, at which point the aircraft make a left turn, heading 190 degrees. This departure route avoids over-flying the densely populated areas of Elizabeth. This route passes over an industrial area located between the City of Elizabeth and a waterway, known as the Arthur Kill, and then over the northwest corner of Staten Island. As air traffic operations at Newark have increased, residents of New York and New Jersey have been requesting a change to air traffic procedures to reduce noise in their communities.
Pursuant to the Aviation Safety Capacity Expansion Act of 1990, the FAA undertook an environmental impact statement (?EIS?) to assess the effects of changes in aircraft flight patterns at altitudes of 3,000 feet above ground level, caused by the implementation of the EECP over New Jersey. After an extensive and lengthy process of study, including opportunities for public comment for approximately 500 days and a public hearing on Staten Island, the FAA took final action on the EIS by issuing a Record of Decision (?ROD?) on October 31, 1995. The FAA decided to continue the procedures of the EECP, but adopted a measure to reduce noise for residents of New Jersey. This mitigation measure, called the Solberg Mitigation Proposal, was implemented in April 1996 and continues to be used for departures at Newark.
Even with the adoption of the EECP with the Solberg Mitigation Proposal, we know that citizens in communities in New Jersey and New York continue to experience levels of noise that they find unacceptable. In the Record of Decision, the FAA recognized the complexity of the airspace in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area and the need for a comprehensive solution. When I was here in 1995, I stated that even with the decisions made with the EECP, we in the Eastern Region would continue to work with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (?Port Authority?) and the local communities to explore alternatives to reduce noise and revise air traffic procedures and routes. In addition to the Solberg Mitigation Proposal, in the Record of Decision the FAA committed to undertake a follow-on regional study to address the metropolitan New York area.
Let me reiterate that Administrator Garvey and all of us in the Eastern Region are dedicated to working with the Port Authority to find a fair and balanced approach to address the issue of aircraft noise. But let me also state that noise abatement is a shared responsibility. The Port Authority has primary responsibility for abatement actions in the area surrounding Newark airport, whereas our primary role is to assure the safety and efficiency of air traffic operations. In that regard, at the request of the Port Authority, we have taken some measures to test ways to alleviate aircraft noise.
In 1996, based on a request from the Port Authority, a test over a four month period in 1993, and an environmental assessment, the FAA revised the standard instrument departure procedures for runway 22L/R to implement a second turn to the right to a heading of 220 degrees at 2.3 nautical miles.
In 1998, again at the request of the Port Authority, the FAA tested a change in the current standard instrument departure. Working with the Port Authority, we recognized that just south of Newark Airport and the City of Elizabeth, there is a heavy industrial area over which we could direct aircraft. This would require a variation in the heading from 220 degrees to 260 degrees. We conducted a test of the 260-degree heading (?260 test?) from March until September 1998, followed by an environmental assessment. At the onset of the preparation of this environmental assessment, a variety of public agencies and other interested parties were notified of the proposed action and alternatives, and comments were requested.
Earlier this week, we released the conclusions of the environmental assessment. As a result of the analyses conducted and continued operational evaluation of the departure routing, it was determined that there was no significant environmental benefit derived from the alternative routing to 260 degrees. We have discontinued the environmental assessment because of the lack of operational benefit that would be derived by modifying the Newark procedure in the current overall configuration of airspace in the region.
At the same time that we began conducting the 260 test, in April 1998, Administrator Garvey announced the National Airspace Redesign project. As the Administrator testified before you last month, the National Airspace Redesign will be part of the FAA?s efforts to improve air traffic management. The goals of the redesign project are: to maintain and improve system safety; improve the efficiency of the air traffic management and reduce delays; increase system flexibility and predictability; and seek to reduce adverse environmental effects on communities in and around our Nation?s airports. While we expect that the complete redesign will take approximately eight years, we anticipate that tangible benefits are expected in the eastern portion of the United States within five years. The most congested and complicated airspace is what we in the FAA refer to as the Eastern Triangle. This consists of most of the airspace east of the Mississippi River. The redesign project will also include analysis of the enroute air traffic control centers that feed traffic into this area. Because this airspace poses the most challenges, it is the initial focus of our redesign.
The New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Airspace Redesign Project will encompass the New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia metropolitan areas and will also include air traffic affecting Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania. There are over 8,000 flights a day into and out of the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, more than any other major metropolitan area in the U.S., accommodating 300,000 passengers and 10,000 tons of cargo. One of our stated goals is to enhance the environment to the degree consistent with safety and efficiency, both with noise abatement and improvements in air quality. Within this context, we intend to fully examine possible revisions to departure patterns at Newark, including an ocean routing concept for day and night traffic, as well as the straight-out departure concept.
As Administrator Garvey told you in her last appearance, in the Eastern Region, we have already begun our community workshops in locations throughout the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area. These workshops are designed to provide a forum for early public involvement prior to any airspace redesign project initiatives. We are eager to solicit public comments and suggestions with respect to airspace redesign initiatives. These workshops are not limited to environmental concerns, but are open to a full range of community ideas. All comments will be compiled and reviewed by the FAA during the redesign process. Once design alternatives have been formulated, we will initiate a formal National Environmental Policy Act (?NEPA?) process. During the NEPA process, we will revisit the communities and hold public meetings or hearings to solicit further environmental concerns and input.
We are sensitive to the concerns of the citizens living in and around Newark International Airport. We will continue to work in partnership with the Port Authority, community leaders and with you, the Members of Congress, to reach a balanced and fair approach to the issues at Newark. Throughout the redesign project, we will look for every opportunity to reduce the affects of unwanted aircraft noise for the citizens of New Jersey and New York. Indeed, as we move forward with our redesign project, we will take intermediate steps, consistent with NEPA, that may develop during the process provided that they will not adversely affect the safe and efficient management of air traffic to Newark, or to the neighboring airports.
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
New Jersey Legislative Coordinator
President Newark Airport
Safety Representative - Newark Airport
Risky runways at Newark Airport
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
More: Bio, 7online.com News Team, Twitter
NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- Just when you thought it was safe to fly again, an Eyewitness News investigation uncovers dangerous flight procedures at Newark Airport. They are procedures that some say increase the risk of a crash.
A whistleblower?s actions have lead to a startling new government report about near collisions. The air traffic controller knew the landing procedures were unsafe, and he wasn?t going to stop fighting to get them changed even if it risked his career.
He believed there were lives at stake. It appears now that he was right.
Newark air traffic controller Ray Adams knew instinctively that landing planes on intersecting runways at the same time carried enormous risks, but when the FAA failed to agree, he turned to Eyewitness News to make his case.
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?All we?re asking for is the FAA to assist us in doing our jobs?, he said. ?It?s our mandate to keep airplanes from colliding?.
The two separate landing procedures continued at Newark, as did the close calls.
?I?d say it was real close?, air traffic controller Phil Wagner said. ?The closest I?ve ever seen?.
Wagner will never forget the day he nearly witnessed two commercial jets collide as they prepared to land on intersecting runways at Newark. Strong winds forced one of the planes to abort its landing, sending it directly into the path of a passenger filled jet landing on the other runway.
?They are heading right for each other at that point?, Wagner said.
Fearing the worst, Adams refused to give up. He says the FAA, more focused on capacity than safety, tried to silence him.
?They tried to silence me a couple of different ways?, he said. ?They made the environment hostile at the control tower for me. They removed me from the building for awhile?.
He is finally finding vindication in a just-released Department of Transportation Inspector General investigation. It confirms that the landing on intersecting runways at Newark airport can create ?unnecessary flight hazards?. The Inspector General also faults the FAA for being ?slow to respond?.
?The FAA was very slow to respond to Ray Adams, who has been dogged to prevent catastrophe that could have killed hundreds, if not thousands?, said New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith.
In response to the Inspector General report, the FAA stopped the one landing procedure immediately.. On the other runway, landings are now staggered, but the Office of Special Counsel, which also investigated the matter, blasted the FAA for not going far enough and for allowing ?a potential danger to the flying public to persist?.
Adams isn?t surprised.
?I?ve learned that change isn?t easy to make in the FAA?, he said.
The FAA says besides staggering planes on approach, and it also plans to add an automated system that will help air traffic controllers separate planes operating on intersecting runways. The agency plans to start that up on December 14th.
If you have a tip about this or any other issue you?d like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at
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November 24, 2009 NBC Jay Leno Show
Here is something to be thankful for today - be thankful that Sarah Palin is lazy and stupid and nothing at all like Prime Minister Yulia Tymochenko of the Ukraine. If Palin had half the energy, smarts and political cunning of Tymochenko, we wouldn't be mocking her, we would be genuflecting to her.
Everywhere the H1N1 flu has established itself, it has been something of a political football, here in the United States we have seen quite a lot of it with the right wing alternately shouting that the vaccine is really something it isn't; or bitching that the administration is failing because virus incubating in chicken eggs only grows so fast...but in the Ukraine, Tymochenko took it to new heights, inflating fears of an ongoing epidemic to close her gap in the polls as she runs for the presidency. One of her campaign aides told a reporter from Foreign Policy:"We had to create a phantom and then have a white knight riding in to save the day."
Since October, Ukraine has been in the grips of a full-blown panic over swine flu, complete with?quarantines,?school closures, runs on pharmacies. The Ukrainian health system, already badly dilapidated, was?caught off guard?and almost?400 people?died of the flu in just three weeks.
Tymoshenko flew into action, organizing a delivery of the antiviral drug Tamiflu -- and the requisite press conference -- at the Kiev airport in the early morning hours of Nov. 2. She quarantined nine regions of the country, closed all schools and univeristies, and?petitioned?the president for $125 million in emergency funds to fight what seemed to be "the plague of the 21st-century plague," as one Ukrainian put it. Incidentally, she also banned all mass gatherings and political rallies -- after she had already had hers.
Although the World Health Organization?concluded?that "the numbers of severe cases do not appear to be excessive when compared to the experience of other countries," the call for calm was drowned out by Tymoshenko's drumbeat of action. Pharmacies ran out of surgical masks and medicines as panicked Ukrainians dangerously hoarded supplies.
The World Health Organization has looked at the stats and determined that the Ukraine was not affected worse than other areas that have seen outbreaks, but so what? It worked. Steadily she has closed the gap between herself and her opponent, Viktor Yanukovich, who was disgraced by the Orange Revolution that brought Tymochenko to prominence. It is worth noting that before she manufactured the panic over the flu, her approval rating was at only 14% and Yanukovich was double that. The self-styled and promoted heroine of the Revolution had seen her image tarnished by backbiting and squabbling with her one-time ally President Victor Yuschenko and by pandering to Russia on energy deals.
But thanks to a flu panic she manufactured herself, she is poised to be elected president.
And we are thankful today - and every day - that Sarah Palin is too self-absorbed and unaware to look out the window and watch what Tymochenko is up to and take some notes.
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