Resident input collected at FAA’s Scottsdale meeting

While historic neighborhoods in Phoenix are excited about the changes the Federal Aviation Administration has proposed, Scottsdale residents are hesitant about the future departure paths and other issues relating to flight procedures.

(file photo)

The FAA and the city of Phoenix held a public meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8, at Horizon High School to discuss temporary departure paths and their two-step plan for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The meeting was one of three scheduled around the Valley.

The workshops are to inform people of new plans in response to the court order, but the FAA’s, communications manager Ian Gregor, isn’t stopping there.

“The city and FAA realized that a number of concerns came from Scottsdale that were unrelated to the rest of the departures, we thought it was appropriate to have a workshop in this area,” said Mr. Gregor. “Even though the purpose of the workshop is to talk about the short-term changes, we are also going to take feedback about anything.”

At these open house style meetings people had the chance to see the newly proposed paths and how they might affect them. They also could talk to the FAA about the proposed changes to the westward flight paths out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Scottsdale resident Wanda Borin’s experience consisted of FAA officials showing sympathy towards her and her husband, she says, and were told to complete the comment cards, which added to her feeling of dissatisfaction.

“What is frustrating is that this is the fifth largest city, but these plans really seem like a junior high person put them together,” said Ms. Borin. “It’s just not in the best interest of the residents.”

The meeting provided computers where residents were allowed to enter their home address and generate the noise impact for the proposed procedures.

“We saw that we are living in a vortex,” she said. “It is a detriment to the whole residential area and to us.”

In September 2014, the FAA implemented new departure procedures for Phoenix Sky Harbor. During the summer of 2015, petitioners opposed the FAA’s approval of certain departure procedures in the U.S. Court of Appeals. After a lawsuit was filed, the court ruled in favor of the city and affected residents.

The petitioners and the FAA are now working together to resolve the issue. The two parties have agreed on a two-step plan that ensures Phoenix Sky Harbor aircraft operations continue on safe and efficient paths.

Mr. Gregor insists the workshops are a hit with the public with a positive reaction to the new paths.

“We had a big turn out on Tuesday, doubled the number on Wednesday, and so far tonight we have had more than yesterday,” said Mr. Gregor.

Mr. Gregor refused to answer questions pertaining to the lack of community involvement when the paths were changed in 2014.

“We are here to talk about a path forward,” said Mr. Gregor.

Chris Guckenberger moved to Arizona at the beginning of 2018. She bought a house in McDowell Mountain Ranch without any warnings from the city or her Realtor about the flight paths and how it would affect her new life.

“We would have never bought there if we’d known,” said Ms. Guckenberger.

The first step in the FAA’s two-step plan is to reveal three temporary westward departure procedures. This would only alter the initial departure procedures, requiring aircrafts to return to the older procedures and turning after 43rd Avenue. Step one could be in place as early as March.

In step two, the FAA would develop new and permanent departure routes to replace the temporary routes in the first step. The three community outreach meetings are part of the second step.

The FAA considers a significance noise level of an aircraft to be at 65 decibels for a day and night average, according to Jazmine Haynes, an aviation representative from the city of Phoenix.

“We did a noise mitigation program and relocated residents so they weren’t subjected to that but 65 decibels is considered a reasonable amount of noise for a residential land use,” said Ms. Haynes.

Editor’s Note: Emily Garcia is a student journalist at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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