Posts Tagged ‘UC Davis’

NEPA and NextGen: Airports can bridge the gap between industry and the public

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Discussion of NextGen and NEPA issues was a hot topic at the U.C. Davis Noise and Air Quality Symposium earlier this month – not only in “formal” sessions and presentations, but informally over dinners, cocktails, and networking sessions.  Jason Schwartz of the Port of Portland presented a great graphic which summarizes the central role of airports in this discussion:

Courtesy of Jason Schwartz, Port of Portland

Of critical importance – and a potential significant benefit from the perspective of FAA officials tasked with rolling out performance-based navigation (PBN) procedures as quickly as possible – will be the role airports can play in outreach.  I believe this will be the key to maximizing understanding and minimizing controversy (and thus avoiding costly and lengthy environmental processes).

As shown in Jason’s slide, airports are uniquely positioned to understand the technical issues and urgency of industry to implement the procedures as well as the concerns of the community and elected officials to preserve their quality of life.   Airports can bridge this gap by engaging both sides in a constructive discussion and evaluation of environmental impacts (and benefits!) resulting from implementation of PBN.  We have been involved in such discussions at Denver International Airport, which FAA hopes to use as a model for collaborative engagement for its integrated National Airspace and Procedures Plan (otherwise known as the “Metroplex Project”).

The FAA is taking a major step to loosen key bottlenecks in metroplexes, the busy metropolitan areas where multiple airports and competing airspace lead to less-than-efficient operations.  The FAA intends to design integrated airspace and new procedures to de-conflict arrivals and departures in an initiative that will reach 21 such areas by 2016.

Source: FAA 2010

The goal of the Metroplex Project is to implement more efficient operations in metroplex areas. Study teams with representatives of the FAA and the aviation community will provide an expeditious but comprehensive front-end strategic look at each metroplex.  They will analyze operational challenges, assess current and planned airspace and procedures efforts, and explore new opportunities for solutions that are tailored individually to each metroplex. Once a study team has come up with the right changes for its metroplex, a design and implementation team will develop the changes and put them in place.  The first two metroplex areas – North Texas and Washington D.C. – have been identified as prototypes for early analysis.  The FAA has completed the initial concept studies for each and soon will be entering the design phase similar to the recent effort at Denver.  The next five metroplexes identified for study are: Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte, N.C., Northern California, and Southern California.

For a great summary on NextGen Implementation, read this report from FAA.

HMMH will be assisting the FAA to prepare NEPA documents for the upcoming metroplex studies.  I look forward to working with airports – the local experts – to identify important community and local government representatives and strategies for outreach.

As Chad Leqve of Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport pointed out on several occasions during the symposium, the rollout of PBN procedures presents a rare opportunity to achieve meaningful noise reduction over noise-sensitive communities.  We should not squander that opportunity.

Report from UC Davis

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I attended the UC Davis ‘Eco-Aerovision’ Symposium in San Diego this week.  The symposium was created 25 years ago to provide a forum for California airport noise officers to share ideas, challenges, and war stories.  Over the years, the symposium has gone through significant transformation, and is now an annual international gathering of airport staff, community members, operators, land use planners, regulators, manufacturers, and academics to collaborate on a range of environmental topics that stymie airports, including noise, air quality, and climate.

Navigating Sustainability

Navigating Sustainability

I would say that there were two general themes that were reinforced throughout the conference:

  • First, we have been at this (noise challenge) for a long time, and it’s probably fair to say that there’s not much “low hanging fruit” left.  This suggests that the challenges that remain are difficult, and will continue to get even more so.  Several sessions supported this theme, including a discussion of Noise Beyond DNL 65, facilitated by Jessica Steinhilber of ACI-NA and Dan Frazee of San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
  • Second, that addressing noise issues at airport is a very long term prospect.  Two good examples were provided by Flavio Leo of Massport and Mary McCarthy, who talked about the 32-year history of building a new runway at Boston-Logan International Airport, and 14 recent legal challenges to the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Airspace Redesign.  Ultimately, it seems, runways will be built and airspace will be re-designed to suit more efficient air travel (the FAA’s 20-0 track record on significant NEPA challenges was touted by Ted Boling of CEQ during his keynote address).  Our challenge it seems, is to make the process be as transparent, honest, and fair to airport neighbors as possible.

To that end, the FAA’s Office of Aviation Policy, Planning & Environment conducted its final workshop supporting development of a Noise Research Roadmap.  Like the symposium, this day-long session was an honest and far-ranging discussion of research needs to advance our understanding of noise issues and to identify “actionable hypotheses” and research projects that could be conducted to accomplish those goals.

Finally, at the risk of narcissism, I was humbled (and COMPLETELY STUNNED) to receive the 2010 Walt Gillfillan Award for “exemplary work addressing the challenges of reducing the environmental impacts of aviation”.  Many thanks to those who found me deserving of the nomination.