FAA - Know the Enemy

This is part of our ongoing report and investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration's NextGen airflight highway which is raining down sound and pollution misery on communities in California and across the country.  Jeffrey Lewis worked for the FAA as an air traffic controller before being forced into early retirement for whistleblowing. He has made it his mission to continue to hold the FAA accountable and to assist and share information with others fighting against the FAA. 

For the past 25-years, FAA (and the airline industry it serves) has been transitioning Air Traffic Control (ATC) toward more reliance on satellite navigation. Back in 2003, Congress passed the Century of Aviation Reauthorization Act which directed FAA to create a bunch of new acronyms, including NGATS JPDO. ‘Next Generation Air Transportation System Joint Program Development Office’. Then, in 2006, they slicked up that acronym, creating the NextGen brand-name. Ever since, FAA and industry (a term that includes airlines, airport authorities, and aviation manufacturers and lobbyists) have been collaborating to ensure their NextGen efforts are properly spun, to maximize benefit to both the regulator (as in, more funding for ever-expanding FAA powers) and industry (as in, fewer environmental restrictions and more subsidies, to facilitate higher airline profits). 

The NextGen branding enables massive and deliberate disinformation, effectively, a propaganda campaign. The alleged "benefits" are grossly oversold, while the costs are cautiously not discussed; accountability is carefully and entirely obscured. The net result is a slick manipulation of information, used to extract more money from Congress, while also confusing and frustrating increasingly sleep-deprived citizens.

This is not supposed to happen. Who would have thought that this situation would in fact be happening in this nation, where local control and quality of life have always been a point of pride, woven into our deepest values? Sadly, FAA is a captured federal regulator, abusing its sovereign authority (which even the courts routinely defer to) to enable industry profits at citizen expense.  

How Bad Is NextGen?

Here are a few of the over 600 comments collected from the ongoing petition against FAA's NextGen impacts:

-  The airplane noise is relentless at all hours!

- NextGen is ruining lives of people on the ground across the country. It is torture, and it has to stop.

- Lived in my relatively quiet house for 30 years - then, a little over a year ago, my peaceful existence was interrupted by a very loud plane cruising overhead, and then another one, and another one . . . day after day after day, seven days a week.

- NextGen is a failure and it's ruining my neighborhood.

- We are tired of the constant disruption to our once quiet community. We aren't able to leave our windows open at night in the summer. It has wrecked our quality of life!

- Intolerable.

The Hard Shell on a Nut Can Be Problematic 

Sometimes a nutcracker works fine, other times we either throw out the nut or we end up obliterating it with a hammer. So, how do we crack this NextGen Nut? Here are six suggestions:

1.  Become informed: Learn the details of what is happening. Engage with FAA and your local airport authority. Ask hard questions, and press on until you get real answers. With a clear understanding and hard data, you will immunize yourself from the distortion and disinformation FAA/industry want and need you to absorb.

2.  Know NextGen: In the big picture, NextGen is being used to completely dismantle and discard decades-old noise mitigation agreements, at all airports across the nation. By design, flights are being turned lower and closer to the airport runways. Automated systems are now doing the work; pilots and controllers are becoming observers who only monitor the automation. The precisely defined routes are causing intensive repetitive flight impacts, both in noise and in air pollutants.

3.  Understand the Culture of Your Adversary: The impactful NextGen routes and procedures are being created by the FAA for industry. For both airline and air cargo operators, nearly all phases of all flights are controlled by ATC; as such, FAA should be held accountable for these growing impacts. The controllers who tell the pilots when to turn, change altitudes, or adjust speeds are only doing their jobs. The more planes they work, the higher their pay band grows; thus, there is an incentive to grow traffic, and a disincentive to advocate for moderation. Follow the money and you will see: FAA is solely about enabling aviation expansion; safety and environment are mentioned only as needed or when industry benefits.

4.  Know What to Expect from Other Players: Airport authorities are not neutral; they, too, lean toward growth, to generate airport revenues needed to cover bond debt. Most elected officials also reliably favor aviation growth; although they often act concerned, their focus on reelection and their need for campaign donations often cause them to serve money.

5.  Define Your Limits: Do not be the passive frog that eventually dies as the water is slowly heated. Keep a clear focus on what you and your family need, for health and quality-of-life. Be the activist who pushes back when FAA/industry cross your line.

6.  Raise Your Voice (over the airplane noise): Use social media (and, even better, face-to-face neighbor discussion and activities) to defend your home, your environment, and your community. Advocate for meaningful local control, and against FAA's arbitrary impositions.

Another Comment from the Petition:

Here is one more comment (from the Boston area) that precisely summarizes NextGen:   

"This creation is nothing short of a money grab by airlines, facilitated by false data, provided by the FAA. Communities in designated sacrifice zones pay with their health, well-being, and decreased property values, all over the country. No significant impactí is the farce they label it with, as millions of people are punished while others benefit; prior burdens were shared. Now the sacrifice zones bear all of the burden of airports traffic. The arrogance and stupidity is blatant. It must stop!"

About the author: 

I am a former FAA air traffic controller. Without getting into too much detail, my FAA career years were spent proudly working ATC, mostly in Oregon and in the Bay Area. But, along with that job-pride I harbored a strong leaning toward justice and truth, a heavy burden we whistleblowers carry. I spoke up about serious safety breaches (including an actual midair collision between a helicopter and a small plane, at the Reid-Hillview airport in San Jose!). I questioned authority, spoke truth to power. This eventually cost me my job: I was forced to retire at earliest eligibility (age 50, for ATCs). 

Perhaps this makes me sort of a NextGen Nut. While fighting against FAA's efforts to force my early retirement, and in the subsequent decade, I have intensively studied aviation impacts and FAA's culture. In 2012, I created the aiREFORM.com website. My goal was simple: I wanted to share what I learned during my career, and what I continue to learn researching aviation impacts and FAA culture. I want to ensure people are empowered with clear knowledge and facts, so that agency and industry abuses of power can be checked. 

to view Jeffrey's site: www.aireform.com

tto stay informed go to the Quiet Skies for West Adams FB page or become a part of the Quiet Skies Action Network

by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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Established in August of 2008 by writerartist Dianne V. Lawrence, The Neighborhood News covers the events, people, history, politics and historic architecture of communities throughout the Mid-City and West Adams area in Los Angeles Council District 10.

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