FAA scraps plan to automate takeoffs at MSP, cites safety concerns

The Federal Aviation Administration is currently in the process of automating takeoff and landing routes at airports throughout the country.

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It's akin to driving with cruise control. The possibility for human error is reduced as pilots follow the same standardized paths. (The so-called Area Navigation [RNAV] routes also save fuel.)

"Today the pilots are manually flying from point to point," MSP spokesman Patrick Hogan told us. "Wheres under the new system they would fan out less and fly closer together."

But implementation of the plan at MSP has been scrapped, for now, because of noise concerns that in turn created safety concerns.

When the plan was first being considered back in 2012, MSP-area residents in Edina and Minneapolis told the Metropolitan Airports Commission they were worried about a possible increase in the number of flights over their neighborhoods. So, as a compromise, the MAC proposed to implement the plan only on select runways. The idea was to route as much traffic as possible over less populated areas to the south and east of the airport.

But the FAA put the kibosh on that proposal earlier this week, citing safety concerns.

"You could run into issues on the ground and in the air if you have this working on some runways and not others," Hogan said. "To communicate with pilots, 'Now you're using this runway and the procedure is in place, and now you're on another runway without it,' there was too much room for error and too many risks."

In a letter to the MAC, an FAA officials pledges that if and when the plan is reconsidered at some point down the road, "we would welcome the opportunity to work with you and the MSP Noise Oversight Committee on a community outreach plan."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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