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RESOLUTION: SAFETY AT MSP

As initiated at the Annual Meeting, May 19. 2005, and released by the Board of Directors July 9, 2005.

Action: The South Metro Airport Action Council (SMAAC) calls for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) to:

I. Indefinitely suspend planning for further expansion at MSP;

II. Establish an immediate and thorough review of all MSP ground traffic systems, procedures, training, and emergency facilities compared to the peak numbers of gates in use, the related traffic patterns, and the variations in, and transitions of, ground traffic corresponding to all modes of runway use and changes in flight operations;

III. Set a maximum flight operations rate of no more than 45 operations per runway per hour and an overall (airport) maximum of 100 operations per hour corresponding to former, safer rates for ground operations;

IV. Cooperate fully and independently with investigations of the three recent incidents at MSP;

V. Remove airlines being investigated from all MAC Committees, Boards, organizations, or other positions of influence on safety or operational rates, and consult with these airlines exclusively through sworn testimony and formal hearings until the investigations have been completed
.

Situation Summary:
I. The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) authorized staff planning for the “2020 Plan” involving terminal changes and additional gates at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) one week after two Northwest Airlines ( NWA) planes collided near the terminal. Using the Lindbergh Terminal as a connection hub exclusively for Northwest Airlines (NWA) and its marketing partners and regional affiliates cannot reasonably be planned without the results of the National Transportation Safety Board investigation of such a serious accident.

II. Expanding the Lindbergh Terminal in 2003 facilitated increased NWA hub activities, from a 70-plane block to about 100 planes meeting at MSP twice daily. Combined with changes in air traffic control proceduresthat concentrated operations at ever higher rates on the main (parallel) runways, additional NWA gates increased ground traffic significantly around the Lindbergh Terminal even though ongoing construction projects limited maneuvering space and frequently changed routes and procedures.

III. While it is questionable if currently planned projects, such as the new runway, can be used to relieve MSP flight congestion, any expansion adds ground traffic even though space at MSP is severely limited. NWA is already planning a further rate increase with the opening of Runway 17-35, and reports by MAC staff indicate the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) is favorable, but evaluating the feasibility (cost) pending budget requests and authorizations. Managing MSP airspace for multiple runways is planned by, among other measures, coordination of 140 to 150 operations per hour during extended daily peaks.


IV. Higher runway use rates require that aircraft are operated more strenuously. A NWA DC-10 recently lost a 200-pound part just after take-off. The DC-9 involved in the recent collision had a history of maintenance issues. Another airliner was forced to return to MSP after a large part fell off during take-off.

The Airbus crash in New York (November 2001) involved the failure of a once-repaired part under hard use due to turbulence from the jet just ahead. Today, airliners are highly instrumented, have complex and varied systems, and use high-tech parts -- from tiny electronic components to large composite structural members and skins. Aircraft maintenance is very complex and certification of mechanics and facilities is certainly needed. Also, more facilities are needed because of more airliners flying more often to more places. More, and more dispersed, facilities are difficult and expensive to support, and they are more difficult to inspect and certify.

V. Since airline de-regulation, the larger airlines, their suppliers, and their employees, contract or in-house, increased their attention to lobbying. The major (or “legacy”) airlines gained market share at, increased flights to, and now dominate the few large hubs as a result of Federal subsidies, FAA budget decisions, and changes in Federal safety rules and standards. NWA even argued against building a fire station and training facility. That these same entities participate as usual in airport safety, construction, and operational decisions at MSP during specific accident investigations is unacceptable.

 

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