Kern: Let’s hold the FAA accountable at the workshop meetings

On Sept. 18, 2014 the greater Phoenix area’s peaceful and quiet outdoor culture was stolen by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Bud Kern

Without public notice or input, the FAA implemented its new NextGen aviation system at Sky Harbor International Airport. In doing so, it moved the historical, decades long commercial flight routes to new paths over heavily populated communities in the metropolitan area.

With satellite navigation, not only were the old, more dispersed paths moved to new routes, every plane now flew the exact same path over the same communities with traffic occurring every two minutes during busy flight times.

Any potential aviation mishap will now occur over schools, homes and public areas rather than less populated or vacant land. These communities had not moved to the FAA, the FAA moved to them.

Communities west of the airport were hardest hit. They, along with the City of Phoenix sued the FAA after a period of discussion and negotiation failed. The FAA refused to admit there was any issue or that it had done anything wrong. The U.S. Court of Appeals disagreed.

It ruled that the FAA was “arbitrary and capricious” in implementing NextGen at Sky Harbor Airport and directed the FAA to remand the entire NextGen process at the airport.

The FAA negotiated with the parties to mitigate the ruling by moving nine westbound flight paths back to, or near, their original locations.

With all parties consenting to this solution, the court agreed to the compromise. But that left the rest of the metro area out of luck with obtaining the court’s direct relief from new east bound flight paths that the FAA implemented in the exact same manner as the westerly paths that the court declared illegal.

In 2017, SCANA (Scottsdale Coalition for Airplane Noise Abatement) was formed by residents of the northeast Valley who were constantly being pummeled by three of NextGen’s concentrated flight routes.

SCANA began contacting the City of Scottsdale and elected representatives to put pressure on the FAA to redirect the flight paths to nearby unpopulated terrain where they predominately flew before NextGen.

The city has contracted with a law firm and aviation consultants to develop options to present to the FAA. To date, the FAA refuses to acknowledge an issue, stating “… NextGen routes are safer and more efficient…”. It is agreed that NextGen technology is a positive improvement for navigational processes. But it is not geographically dependent; it can be utilized on any route in any location.

On April 22-24 the FAA will hold public workshop meetings mandated by the court to finalize the implementation of the westbound route changes and to receive input on issues elsewhere in the metro area.

Impacted residents need to attend these workshops (complete info at https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/nextgen_near_you/community_involvement/phx/) to tell the FAA directly how it has compromised their safety and peaceful home environment.

The FAA will also provide a comment form on its website from April 24 to May 23. This may be the last chance for residents to interact with the FAA directly to voice their concerns.

More information on the entire flight path issue can be viewed on the SCANA website at airplanenoise.org.

Editor’s Note: Bud Kern is chair of Scottsdale Coalition for Airport Noise Abatement.

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