FAA adds Scottsdale Road as newest runway for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

That rumble you’ve heard the last few months while driving down Scottsdale Road does not mean you need a new muffler. It means that each day dozens of commercial jetliners have been descending to about 6000 feet over your head in Scottsdale.

John Polich

John Polich

That’s the ruling of the Federal Aviation Agency, issued without significant public comment or hearings.

The scheme is couched as a way to save the environment, but any dollars saved on fuel flow into the coffers of the airlines, along with what you now must pay for legroom, food, checked bags, and the privilege of discomfort.

Parada del planes

You can watch Scotsdale’s “Parada del Planes” for free here and clicking on Open PublicVue. The system’s 10-minute delay gives you time to swear at a plane above your head while barbecuing in the backyard or playing golf or attending an outdoor concert or opening a window on a cool night. Just use your computer or smartphone to identify the flight and instantly report it. The process is satisfying but it will not in itself restore the quality of life in Scottsdale that you enjoyed only a few months ago unless Phoenix, Scottsdale or other Valley communities successfully use the rising tide of complaints to buttress their case against the federal government.

I grew up on United States Air Force bases, from Texas to Libya, and developed a certain tolerance for jet noise. Indeed, I still claim I cannot speak French because it was taught during sixth period when the fighter squadron returned from training flights. But the aviation highway the FAA has created above Scottsdale Road brings the whole Top Gun show to town — literally. My flight instructor told me that you are not flying too close unless you can see the other pilot smiling at you; perhaps this is something we can look forward to here.

Noise spreads throughout central Scottsdale

When Sky Harbor runway 26 is in use, as it often is, aircraft fly down Scottsdale Road toward my home before banking east within 1.5 miles at 6000 feet above ground. This turn spreads the noise throughout central Scottsdale. Still other traffic crosses overhead for arrival or departure on various runways. In the 35 years I have owned property in Scottsdale, I never encountered this problem until this year. Flights could easily be vectored over the less populated and desert areas of the Valley, rather than over-congested areas that were constructed decades before this sudden change in the flight pattern.

Even the most avid aviation buff would tire of seeing British 289 Heavy, a daily 747-400 flight from London, lumbering directly toward their home before turning about a mile away at perhaps 6000 feet. My partner, Diane Love, was in Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, and finds the concentration of loud, low aircraft over our home deeply troubling.

Scottsdale Airport’s future at risk?

Scottsdale needs to up its game fighting this noise pollution. Its leaders must consider the effect the public uproar about Sky Harbor will have on the future of the Scottsdale Airport. Citizens may well not differentiate between the two — as evidenced by increased noise complaints about the Scottsdale airport. And, voters may not differentiate between local politicians and the federal bureaucracy. The future of the Scottsdale airport as well as elected officials throughout the Valley may be at risk.

Dr. Polich authors the “halfpagetakes” blog. He reported for the Arizona Republic and Channel 12, was research director of The New York Times and marketing director for its regional newspaper group, and later taught communication in the United States and Europe.

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