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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 28, 2006 4:19 PM. The previous post in this blog was Why do we never get an answer.... The next post in this blog is Turn on your funk motor. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, December 28, 2006

The smell of rat

You gotta love the City of Portland and the Port of Portland. They pick today -- December 28, late afternoon -- to announce that they're going to extend the north runway at the airport. The supposed reason is that they need to make repairs to the south runway, and they need to extend the north before they shut down the south to fix it. But one suspects that once the north runway is extended, aircraft takeoff and landing patterns may be permanently changed from what they are today.

Anyhow, the Port has spent big bucks on a flash animation presentation, and they say they want your input. But there's no information in the slick come-on about noise changes, and given the timing of today's announcement, one has to wonder how sincere they are about wanting our input.

Comments (23)

From the Flash show...

There are 376 take-offs and 377 landings at PDX daily. Where does the extra plane go?

The baggage handlers steal it.

Maybe that extra plane fell in a sinkhole. They'll use that as another reason to shut down the runway...

That Flash presentation is not exactly clear in its information. At first, it sounds like they'll shut down the runway for no more than a few months for joint repairs. Elsewhere, it sounds like repairs will be far more extensive and will take anywhere from seven months to four years to complete.

It doesn't discuss the potential impact on air traffic and travelers while one runway is under construction. And, as Jack noted, it doesn't reveal any sort of information on noise impact, even though it appears that those studies have already been completed and "informal community outreaches" have occurred. Also, it's not clear if they're studying the noise from construction, or the noise from the shift in air traffic.

As long as the appearance of public involvement is maintained, the Port does whatever it dang well pleases, unless a court tells it otherwise. If you don't like it, go smoke your charrette.

I suppose the timing could be seen as suspicious because of the holidays, but it isn't necessarily so. To many people (myself included) this is just another workin' Thursday. I'm not convinced anything devious was going on.

Also, it looks to me like they can't possibly "rehabilitate" the middle part of the south runway at all without closing it entirely. If that's true, the north runway is going to be in heavy use in the summers of 2012 and 2013 whether or not it gets extended. An extension will apparently mean more profitable (or less unprofitable) operations for some airlines and routes during that time, and will probably have some impact on which routes continue to be served from PDX over those years. An extension seems like a good idea to me.

(I'd say it's a better investment than the tram, but what isn't?)

I think the extension will help the noise problem, since the north runway is closer to the river, where noise bothers fewer people. Personally, I would not like it if non-stop flights to Tokyo and Frankfurt couldn't operate for lack of a long enough runway, nor would I feel good about pushing the safety margins using the shorter runway for those heavy flights. Still, to the point of this post, I wouldn't mind having public input to the process.

There are 376 take-offs and 377 landings at PDX daily. Where does the extra plane go?

At last an explanation of what happened to those planes that were never actually flown into the Twin Towers. Those poor bastards aboard were brought to PDX, murdered by Cheney's Secret Service detail, and buried. Not Cleveland, folks: Portland.

Where does the extra plane go?

Well, if the numbers are to be believed, it doesn't go anywhere. It stays here.

So the other option is to either land planes on a runway that's too short, or stop commerce?

I guess I'm clueless... why is it bad they're going to improve the airport infrastructure?

Are these people still getting property tax dollars?
The Nickle

Planes are sometimes towed out near the weather station and left overnight as they are cleaned and maintained for the next day.

I actually knew someone who used to work on the ground crew at PDX. Several times I was allowed to go into areas that were off limits to non-airport personal. One evening I rode in the cockpit of an American plane while it was being towed out to the weather station. It was kind of cool sitting in the co-pilots seat of a 747.

Well, if the numbers are to be believed, it doesn't go anywhere. It stays here.

Right, but every day there's a surplus of one plane. That means in an average year there are 365 more landings than take-offs. That means 365 more planes on the ground at PDX. Where do they all go? The slough? Long term parking? Are they gonna sell them at the new Ikea?

.... That means 365 more planes on the ground at PDX. Where do they all go?

They've been in the queue waiting to be repaired at the PDC-funded aircraft maintanance facility.

"They've been in the queue waiting to be repaired at the PDC-funded aircraft maintanance facility."

You mean the Oregon Investment Council funded aircraft facility?

What's so bad about extending the runway?

Chris, there need not be an excess of one plane per day. First, the numbers given are averages so who knows how the actual tally goes. Second, there could be rounding. You could get 376 and 377 by rounding the numbers 376.49 and 376.51. That means you could be "gaining" 7 planes per year. That would be pretty easy to do if 7 cargo planes took off on December 31st of one year and didn't come back until at least January 1st. The second year would automatically gain 7 airplanes for rounding purposes, even if the planes originally started at the Portland Airport.

So I looked at the flash presentation but don't understand your grievance, Jack. Traffic will be sent slightly north and concentrated on the north runway, but the planes will be making the same east-west approaches and takeoffs as they do for the south runway. What's the problem -- or, perhaps more precisely, what's the difference? The traffic is pushed slightly to the north. Is your gripe the fact of the traffic at all?

No -- my gripe is that no one's being told what is going to happen with the traffic patterns, and probably won't be until the "decision" is "made." And actually, it doesn't take a genius to see that the decision has already been made.

Read the post. It's about public involvement, or fake public involvement, to be more precise. Typical Portland.

I wonder if the concerns you have might come out in the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review. You haven't said explicitly what would bother you about the traffic patterns, but I'd guess it is the noise. If I'm not mistaken, noise pollution of that type would be covered in the environmental review.
But even besides that, it seems like in a diversion of traffic to the north runway, it's Vancouver which is more likley to take it in the shorts. People in (especially) western Vancouver are already pretty crabby about the flight patterns for the north runway, so I can only imagine they'll be even more upset about the bigger planes using those flight patterns. And somehow I don't think the Port of Portland will be all that open to listening to the complaints of Vancouver residents.
Actually, you can see the flight patterns for both East and West approaches at these two websites:

Noting how the flights get up and down, I can't imagine that switching from one runway to another will make much of a difference, given the scale difference between the distance separating the two runways and their relation to the metro area. The flight patterns for the two runways are basically identical, since they merge shortly after takeoff and diverge slightly before landing; there's not a radical difference between the flight paths for the two runways and, if anything, Vancouver will get it worse than Portland.

Plugged Nickle, Bill Wyatt mentioned at a talk this summer that the Port doesn't receive any public funds for its operations. He also discussed the regional economic implications of being forced to change or limit flight patterns due to noise complaints--the Port has been very involved in discouraging residential development in places (read Vancouver & Linnton) where it could eventually corrode the Port's functions. He convinced me, at least, of the economic importance.

I feel for people who are negatively affected by a change in the flight path, but it gets harder to sympathize when more and more homes are built direclty in an established flight path--and people who buy them complain. It's a bit like the Pearl neighbors complaining about the train whistle.

the Port doesn't receive any public funds for its operations

Please. What, the airlines donate all that money to the Port voluntarily? Look it up -- when the government requires someone to pay money, that's called a tax, and taxes are public funds.

BTW, be careful if Wyatt offers you a cup of Kool-Aid.

the Port has been very involved in discouraging residential development in places (read Vancouver

And the folks in Vancouver give a rat's... what the Port of Portland thinks?

Thanks, Jack, for helping to spread the word about our project Web site for the North Runway extension. The project has been a focus of several public meetings over the past year, and the subject of Columbian and Oregonian articles, but we’re always looking for ways to reach new audiences.

The suggestion to include more detailed information about noise impacts is a good one: the project Web site went live in September, but preliminary noise studies won’t be complete until later in January. These preliminary studies will be shared at public meetings in January and February, and we’re asking to attend neighborhood or other small-group meetings with people who are interested in the project.

In the meantime, we’re trying to inform and talk to as many people as possible. And we’ve received some pretty good suggestions so far: public comments and concerns helped shape our preliminary noise study. Later this spring, we’ll begin a formal environmental review -- either an Environmental Assessment or an Environmental Impact Statement -- that will have its own public involvement component.

If you or your readers have questions or would like to learn more about the project, we’re always available. You can contact us at 503-460-4073 or

And thanks to everyone for their comments. A few things, however: noise closer to the river does impact people in Vancouver, and our preliminary noise studies have attempted to quantify if the extension would have any noticeable effect on neighborhoods across the Columbia. Auggie is correct that aircraft will follow the same departure procedure no matter which runway is used at take-off. And Jud captures why there are uneven numbers in the plane counts. But you, Jack, will still have to answer to the baggage handlers.

The Citizen Noise Advisory Committee will continue discussing the proposed extension at its next meeting Thursday, January 9, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at PDX. Everyone is invited.

Typo in my last post: the CNAC meeting is on Thursday, January 11, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., at PDX.


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