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DOT Inspector General Report on the FAA's Metroplex (NextGen) Program

posted Jan 3, 2020, 10:11 AM by MoCo Quiet Skies   [ updated Feb 29, 2020, 12:16 PM ]
The 8/27/19 DOT Inspector General’s report on the FAA's implementation of the Metroplex (NextGen) program. It basically describes FAA failures and the small and difficult-to-quantify benefits the program “theoretically” (pg. 36) generates.

As you know, our communities suffer greatly for these questionable benefits. After reading the FAA’s response letter (at the end of the report, pp 36-37), it seems the FAA is pointing to community concerns about noise as the primary reason for Agency failures.

The report and FAA response are worth reading in their entirety, but here are some highlights and questions that we are directing to our Congressional delegation:
  • The updated estimate of NextGen benefits nationwide is half of previous estimates ($31.1M instead of $61.6M) with completed Metroplex sites having achieved “significantly” lower benefits than expected. There is no consensus between the FAA and industry about actual benefits achieved.
  • The FAA is publishing conflicting information about the benefits of PBN (Performance-Based Navigation) which is another term for satellite-based navigation.
  • The FAA is blaming delays in the roll-out of Metroplex projects on community concerns about aircraft noise. The report goes so far as to state that “noise concerns have become a major obstacle to successful [NextGen] implementation” (pg. 12). In response to noise complaints, the FAA changed its approach to the last five Metroplex locations to allow public input during the initial design process. This is great to read, and hopefully the FAA will make a genuine effort to incorporate that input. However, the report is silent about FAA efforts to address existing noise concerns from completed metroplex projects, such as the D.C. Metroplex - likely because there haven’t been any.
We are engaging our members of Congress with questions such as:
  • Is it acceptable that the estimated return on the $35.6 Billion NextGen program will be less than 0.1% ($31.1M/$35.6B)?
  • Who will call out the FAA on the illogical claim that community noise concerns have compromised efficiency benefits, yet the FAA does not have current benefit estimates for completed projects nor has it made any meaningful adjustments to the new procedures communities are complaining about?
  • Since the FAA wrote in their response that it has devoted resources to making adjustments at every metroplex project and that procedures are now being designed to address new noise exposure, how can we use this to motivate the FAA to make adjustments at DCA? We don't see how the FAA can defend a change in approach for future projects while neglecting to address the harm caused by completed projects.
Click Here to Read the 8/27/19 DOT Inspector General Report on the FAA's NextGen Program