Feb. 19--The Federal Aviation Administration Wednesday announced that it won't restrict new takeoff technology to only some of the runways at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to placate homeowners angry about the prospect of more flights over their homes.
The FAA said partial use of the technology, which was backed by the Metropolitan Airports Commission, would pose "unacceptable safety risks."
For now, the agency's decision means it won't move forward with its plan to use the technology on any runways at MSP. But it doesn't end the controversy. The FAA indicated it may use the technology on all runways there in the future.
The FAA plan caused an uproar last year when homeowners in parts of Edina and south Minneapolis learned that more flights could be concentrated over their neighborhoods. In response, the MAC in late 2012 recommended rolling out the new system for only some runways and avoiding runways that routed departures over those communities. The FAA reacted by postponing action on its plan to study the MAC proposal.
In rejecting a partial use of the technology, the FAA Wednesday said it would pursue a "community outreach plan" in the future if it goes ahead with plans to use the technology on all runways.
The FAA says the satellite technology, being phased in throughout the nation, is intended to improve safety and save airlines fuel by routing planes on more precise flight patterns. But the strategy would potentially create winners and losers in the airport noise battles, concentrating more flights over some homes and moving flights away from others.
Reacting to the agency's decision, Airports Commissioner Rick King said, "I would have hoped that partial would have worked, but safety considerations are paramount."
He said the agency expressed concern that using the technology on some runways but not others would add to the workload and stress of air traffic controllers whose work involves rotating from runway to runway.
King said the FAA decision will delay the arrival of the technology to all MSP runways, but probably not prevent it. Airport officials welcomed the FAA's vow to work with local communities on any future plan to use the new system on all runways. But finding an acceptable strategy could prove elusive.
"It's always a tough issue because the airplanes are going to fly over somebody's house," said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan. "There are areas to the south and east where we can minimize," citing river valleys as an example. "But to the west there really is not a path that isn't going to impact somebody."
While departures will be handled for now under current air traffic control procedures, the FAA will use the new technology for routing arrivals, which wasn't controversial.
Pat Doyle -- 612-673-4504
Copyright 2014 - Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
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