VETERN AVIATOR CALLS PITTSFIELD AIRPORT WORK ‘A VIRTUAL DEATH TRAP’ … PITTSFIELD IGNORED ALTERNATIVE FAA REMEMDIES, SEIZING 15 PROPERTIES BY EMINENT DOMAIN AND DESTROYING WETLANDS … THE STOOLEY TELLS HIS GFCU STORY … plus … ‘THE LOVESONG OF N. TRACY CROWE’
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, MONDAY, JULY 23, 2012) — Responding to directives of the International Civil Aviation Organization‘s Runway Safety Area (RSA) regulations, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommended that commercial airports have 1,000 feel of level ground adjoining the end of all runways.
The FAA, however, realized the enormous difficulties that would arise in applying international rules to USA airports. These included controversial eminent domain land grabs and the need to fill in wetlands, woodlands, pastures, fields, and other environmentally sensitive area. As an alternative to adding the 1,000-feet of runway, The FAA recommended alternatives to the RSA directive. These included modifying the distance regulations, limiting payload and range of aircraft, or installing an Engineering Materials Arresting System (EMAS) with an RSA length of at least 600 feet.
The FAA left it up to communities, working with federal authorities, to determine what was best for them. In short, Pittsfield did not have to engage in the runway extension.
Pittsfield Did Not Avail Itself of Alternate Remedies That Would Have Been Far Less Invasive on Pristine Wetland
The city of Pittsfield, however, did not consider the alternatives the FAA offered. Once again, the city knew better. It rushed headlong and prematurely to implement its unilateral decision to complying with the FAA’s 1,000-foot ordinance. The Powers That Be, knowing better than the unwashed masses who pay the taxes that keep the shell game going, decided unilaterally that the Pittsfield airport would “require” the extensions, wildlife and wetlands be damned, to say nothing of Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski.
Pittsfield contracted with airport designer Stantec. The contract specified two 1,000-foot overrun areas at the Pittsfield Municipal Airport, one each at the end of runway 08/26. The city also wanted another 890-foot runway. Because of the location of Barker Road west of the runways, all 2,890 feet would have to lay east of the airport.
This forced the extensions to be built into the pristine wetlands that adjoin the side of the airport.
Protesters against this stupid decision were ignored.
Only in Pittsfield.
The runway — touted heavily by the GOB; its lackeys on a compliant, unquestioning city council; and its house organ, the Boring Broadsheet — would be built. The usual suspects carrying water for the GOB warned of the dire consequences that would follow if Pittsfield did not extend the runways. KB Toys would close. GE would pull out of town. We wouldn’t be able to lure new business to Pittsfield.
The city went ahead with the extensions. KB Toys closed. GE pulled out. We still haven’t lured new business to Pittsfield.
The Killing of Precious Wetlands; The Taking of Precious Farmland
Meanwhile, the lovely Wild Acres wetlands and other beautiful land including farmland has been destroyed. Home have been seized through eminent domain. Residents of South Mountain Road have been put through the wringer with the noise, traffic, and dirt.
The original plan called for the closing of South Mountain Road. This caused an uproar by the public, especially commuters. The revised plan called for South Mountain Road to be relocated, killing more precious wetlands — precisely the type of acreage that makes The Berkshires The Berkshires.
The new plan kept the 1,000-foot extensions and reduced to runway third extension from 890 to 790 feet. A taxiway that would have given departing planes free access to the threshold of Runway 26 was eliminated. Curiously, on May 7, 2009, LaVerne Reid, manager, FAA Airports Division, not only approved the elimination of the parallel taxiway but explicitly sanctioned the full 2,000 feet of earth-filled RSAs plus the 790-foot extension.
Robert Allardyce, a veteran of 46 years of professional aviation with 23,105:38 hours in the air, including 4,254:50 hours of flying 747s, says the project is practically inviting runway disaster.
“Unfortunately, the risk of a runway incursion is not limited to departing aircraft,” says Allardyce. A pilot approaching a landing strip may not notice the runway is occupied, for whatever reason, especially weather such as fog or heavy clouds, which happens frequently in the Berkshires. Also, flights can develop any number of problems such as engine failure, low fuel, onboard fire, or other emergencies. That plane will have to land in a hurry. An airplane landing on top of another has happened before, and it will happen again. Nevertheless, the powers that be in Pittsfield seem to take the situation lightly.”
Allardyce says the configuration of the runway plan violates the FAA’s top priority, which is to reduce the risk of runway incursions. He quotes FAA design policy: “Avoid layouts that will result in aircraft taxiing or backtracking on runways. Anytime an aircraft uses a runway for purposes other than landing or takeoff, the chances of a runway incursion increase.”
Allardyce says Pittsfield will have such a situation on its hands when the airport project is finished, which is expected to be in about five months, according to airport manager Mark Germanowski. Poor design and greater use invite an accident, Allardyce warns.
Allardyce then addressed the state Department of Environmental Affairs approval (Oct. 9, 2009). Laurie Burt, DEA commissioner, signed off on the project, claiming “the project constitutes an overriding public interest.” Nonsense, Allardyce says: “The elimination of the parallel taxiway creates a virtual death trap, one that echoes the Tenerife calamity.”
Could Tenerife Happen in Pittsfield? Airport Design Makes It More Likely Than Ever
Some of you may remember the Tenerife disaster. THE PLANET certainly does. We were working the telegraph desk for the Syracuse Post-Standard when the AP-UPI wire machine began ringing their bells on March 27, 1977.
A KLM Boeing 747, Flight 4805, was in position, ready to take off on Tenerife, on of the Canary Islands owned by Spain. Pan Am Flight 1736 had been cleared to taxi on the active runway. Runway visibility, while within legal limits, was limited. Neither the KLM pilot or the Pan Am pilot could see the other’s aircraft. Hearing a radio message from the tower, the KLM pilot mistakenly believed he had been cleared for takeoff. Despite warnings from his flight engineer, the pilot released his brakes and applied takeoff thrust. A few meters down the runway, the Pan Am 747 suddenly appeared out of the fog. It was too late to stop. The two fully fueled airliners collided and exploded in a huge ball of fire. The death toll reached 587.
Back to the Pittsfield airport.
Without the parallel taxiway, which was eliminated, an airplane departing Pittsfield will be required to leave the tarmac, taxi to the original entry point at the former threshold of runway 26, turn right (eastward), and taxi 1,790 feet on the active runway to the new threshold.
During periods of marginal visibility, of which the Berkshires has its share, consider the following scenario:
Assumption: Runway visibility is 1,500 feet. That’s better than the legal minimum of 1/4 mile (1,320 feet).
Assumption: While the departing pilot is completing his or her last-minute checklist, another airplane heads for the runway. As did the first pilot, the second pilot had plenty of visibility to locate the active runway and turn onto it. However, upon turning onto the runway, the two planes are separated by 1,790 feet. With visibility at 1,500 feet, neither pilot can see the other.
The situation is complicated by the lack of a control tower. As the DEP openly noted, “[Unlike Tenerife,] Pittsfield airport has no air traffic control tower. Pilots operate at the field by observation and communication with other planes on a common radio frequency. Pilots will have no reason to always know about other flights, that is, until a departing plane suddenly appears out of the fog — shades of the runway incursion at Tenerife.
Unnecessary Pittsfield Airport Design Invites Disaster
Could the situation, this “virtual death trap” that will invite disaster, have been prevented. Yes, says Allardyce: “Pittsfield could have adopted the alternatives to the 1,000-foot runway extensions allowed by the FAA. However, the alternative are at this point moot. We are about to create a virtual incubator for runway incursions, and our local pilots seem to be unified in celebrating a victory. Go figure.”
There is, however, at least one aspect of how we got here that needs to be understood. The insight rests in an explanation offered at a public meeting by Stantec’s Randall Christensen. Christensen told the audience that filling in the wetlands would provide a “once and for all time fix [for the RSA requirement] that would require no maintenance.” In other words, our airport authority would not be obliged to pass otherwise routine maintenance costs of non-standard EMAS along to the users. The goal, then, was for long-term, low-cost operations. Therefore, the RSAs appear to be more a matter of economic benefits to the airport users than considering what would benefit the overall public.
To gain enough land for the runway extensions, Pittsfield took 15 properties by eminent domain. the 15 properties have been permanently removed from the tax rolls. The loss of property taxes has been spread out among Pittsfield remaining property owners. Taxpayers will be paying, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, for the low-cost operation given those who use the airport — the corporate interests, the rock stars and rappers, and the other Veddy Rich and Famous.
“Along with the idea of a safe airport,” says Allardyce, “the notion of an ‘overriding public interest’ seems to have been stood on its head.
THE PLANET THANKS VETERAN PILOT BOB ALLARDYCE FOR HIS EXPERTISE IN PUTTING TOGETHER THIS ARTICLE.
THE STOOLEY TELLS US HIS GREYLOCK STORY
The Greylock Federal Credit Union ad was too much for THE STOOLEY to resist. The ad reads: “70,000 stories everyday.” It then reads at the bottom: “”Tell us your Greylock story! Go to www.greylock.org and tell us how the Credit Union has made your life easier or better.”
THE STOOLEY sent us his story:
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The credit union has made my life a breeze, ever since summer of 2010, when your board had to fire (or were they allowed to resign?) your busted president, Angelo Stracuzzi, and Ang’s best buddy, Cliff Nilan, who served as company treasurer and board member.
You may recall when the news broke of Angelo’s arrest on four charges from events stemming from Biddeford, Maine, July 2005, when he was held on two charges each of prostitution of a minor and assault. These assaults, police said, involved two boys, ages 13 and 15. Anyway, when Angelo didn’t have to report to probation, as anyone else would have, because of his buddy Cliffy, it made it easy to decide to pull my money out of the Credit Union.
I could not be associated with an moth-eaten outfit like that. If we take the Greylock board at its word, it had no knowledge of Angelo’s behavior. Why do I want to keep my money with an institution whose board is so out of touch? The other possibility is that the board knew, which I believe it did.
So thank you for employing these two “men.” It made my banking choices easy. I’m now proudly doing banking at the Pittsfield Co-Op and Berkshire Bank.
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We thank THE STOOLEY for expressing his colorful views. THE PLANET remains open to your views. Send them along. We’d love to have your two cents.
THE LOVE SONG OF N. TRACY CROWE
N. Tracy Crowe, new deputy superintendent of the Pittsfield Public Schools, one thing bugs THE PLANET about you. The “N. Tracy” business. We’re sorry, but ever since didacting “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in college, we have been suspicious of people who use a first initial, a middle name, and a last name. The affectation is a warning sign. It sometimes indicates, with a proportion exceeding what you would get by mere chance, a pompous, self-important, person who lacks confidence. We don’t know if that applied to you, N. Tracy, but if it does, we can say you are the last person the woeful schools need at this stage in history.
The second red flag we have is with your contract: Specific terms have not been made public. We don’t know how much you’re getting or what fringe benefits the school committee and Jake had to cough up. We suspect no one was in there pitching for the taxpayer, except perhaps committee member Dan Elias, who was the only one who voted against your contract, saying “We have to look out for taxpayers, and this contract does not look our for taxpayers. [This pact] will have a domino effect, and the ramification of this contract will be costly in the long term.”
In the FY13 budget, N. Tracy’s position was pegged for $107,000. THE PLANET hears she squeezed taxpayers for $120,000, plus a benefits package that has been mysteriously hidden.
The third thing we don’t like, N. Tracy, is your resume, where you say you were assistant principal in the Marblehead Public Schools from “Sep 2012-present.” The abbreviation for September is “Sept.,” not “Sep”. We read you were a curriculum and tech specialist involved in standardized testing and a scorer for MCAS. This tells us you may be a public education hack, feeding well and long off the trough.
We don’t know this, of course, but this being the Pittsfield Public Schools — whose principals live in dread fear of true reform — you have to win us over. Someone like you, N. Tracy, doesn’t get hired unless you have agreed to “play ball.”
Tell us we’re wrong.
ON A STAIRWELL WE SAT, A REPORT CARD IN HAND. AN INK ERASER TURNED 70 JUST LIKE THAT, AND 100 REIGNED IN THE LAND. CAN YOU DECIPHER?
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE”
LOVE TO ALL.