Seven Hints for Citizens at the FAA LAS Airspace Meetings

Triptych = LAS ground map, existing ATC structure, NextGen conceptual design
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FAA to Hold Workshops for Las Vegas Metroplex Project

Community Involvement — Las Vegas

FAA presentation of NextGen airspace reconfigured

Will explain all the Benefits

Seven suggestions as to how you can best impact the Outcome

“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will hold three public workshops on April 9, 10 and 11 in and around Las Vegas about proposed airspace improvements over the metropolitan area.

The FAA has drafted preliminary designs for new satellite-based routes for the Las Vegas area. The upcoming workshops will feature informational videos and poster boards that show existing and proposed routes and explain the inefficiencies in the current system. FAA representatives [NOTE: in some Freudian typographical error, one of the FAA statements[1] countered the notion that they will be listening to you-notices says meetings already held.] will be available to answer questions, and people can submit written comments at the workshops and online for 30 days afterward.”

So reads the FAA’s widely publicized announcements (which has been repeated by multiple news stories). And the representatives will follow well crafted scripts about all of the positive attributes of the proposed redesign of the Metroplex airspace. Below is a summary of those points.

In preparation for the April 9, 10 and 11 meetings, here are some suggestions about participation in these information events:

FIRST, the FAA has a technical, not a political, view of noise. An avalanche of FORM LETTERS is not likely to alter their technical position. Some poor assistants will be tasked to count them and the FAA’s typical response will be buried in a footnote.

SECOND, while you may feel that the FAA’s 65 DNL standard is inappropriate, such a policy change is not within the authority of this review. The officials in attendance are involved in implementation. The folks who can change standards will not be in attendance.

THIRD, your best approach is to deal with the FAA on technical grounds. The FAA experts are more impressed with professionals in noise measurement (acoustics), land use, air traffic architecture, ATC procedures, aircraft performance, flight routings’ efficiency and SAFETY. The most powerful approach to trying to impact the FAA’s final decision is to propose safe, efficient alternatives which also benefit your community. The design of the LAS airspace architecture involves balancing SAFETY, EFFICIENCY and the environment. A proposed alternative should try to recognize and optimize those goals.

FOURTH, individual, well-considered comments are useful, but a consolidated position is the most powerful voice in these proceedings. Noise transfer tends to be a zero sum game; Community A is ecstatic and Community B is furious. Such split decisions allow the FAA to move forward with its preferred option. “No one can agree; so the original proposal obviously is fairest since all are equally opposed” will be the opening line of the FAA final record of decision. Working among communities, especially those who know the particular nature of their specific residential areas, commercial developments, noise sensitive areas (i.e. schools), noise proof uses (i.e. major transportation corridors), etc. can identify geography in your areas which can accommodate the overhead air traffic and those to be avoided. Some consolidated position is MOST LIKELY to have the greatest impact.

FIFTH, the FAA representatives are there to outreach. To them, that means that they are there to explain what the proposal is. LET THEM DO THAT; after a while you may become annoyed at the length of their soliloquys. They will finish and then likely ask “any questions”; your patient attention will magnify the degree to which they indeed listen.

It is quite likely that the FAA representatives will speak in jargon and use many abbreviations. Actually asking him or her what “ARTCC” means will reinforce that they are technical experts, a form of subtle flattery.   

There will be several different stations at each meeting; some of the staff presenting are likely to be expert in the science of Air Traffic Control. While others will be more involved in less obtuse aspects of the operations. The second category is more likely to listen to your inputs. Take the opportunity to converse with her of him.


SIXTH, NextGen provides many environmental benefits on a macro basis; however, on a micro basis, as this chart shows, RNP tends to concentrate noise along the precise routes created by this navigational upgrade. The FAA’s traditional noise measurements have not fully captured, to the satisfaction of the population living underneath these tracks, the impact along these corridors. The charts provided by the FAA at these LAS meetings will likely include segments, like the above right diagram, which depict this convergence.

ASK THE FAA PRESENTERS FOR THE PRECISE LONGITUDE AND LATITUDE OF THESE DENSE SEGMENTS [something like the yellow boxes]. The posters may not include such detail, but you are entitled to know exactly where these “boxes” will be located. Plot these RNP tracks on a map and assess the impact on these neighborhoods.

If there are noise sensitive areas under these RNP tracks, definition of the specific conflicts and assessment of alternative corridors, by an AT expert, should be completed and submitted to the FAA.


SEVENTH:  Do not assume that the FAA knows what you know. Bring your own maps of noise sensitive areas in your communities. The FAA knows the air better than the ground. Their proposed ATC designs primarily optimize the routes and procedures controlled by the FAA professionals. They will try to identify what points to avoid, but they will not know your neighborhood as well as you do. Be judicious in your marking of your map. Not every inch of the neighborhood should be claimed as incompatible uses. Try to cite the FAA criteria to support your position.






The Las Vegas airspace is complex and dense; McCarran is a major hub; it is surrounded by several active GA airports; a major military air base is proximate; it has topographical limitations; plus its variable wind rose means that the routings need to be changed to match the new take off/landing direction.

As these three videos explain in careful detail, new technology is more precise and that permits more efficient airspace architecture. NextGen, as it is known , adds Optimized Profile Descent, Required Navigation Performance and Time Based Flow Management, all three of which add to the safety, efficiency and “greenness” of the system. All of this good information will be repeated

How Air Traffic Control Works in Las Vegas Metroplex

Air Traffic Modernization: Reducing Complexity

Air Traffic Modernization in Las Vegas Metroplex

The FAA has had a surprisingly difficult time applying the benefits of NextGen on a local basis. Some of its existing policies have been strained by the exigencies of this new technology. That history suggests that (a) the FAA may be more sensitive to the local concerns , but that (b) until those policies are revised (a slow process), the options in the LAS community process may be constrained.

If you want to maximize the impact on this FAA process, click on this link for someone who has found a win/win situation in a comparable situation.

[1] The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) held three public information workshops in April 2017 in the Henderson, Las Vegas and North Las Vegas communities.


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