Kern: SCANA supports Scottsdale’s proposed FAA flight path changes

During the last Scottsdale City Council meeting on May 21, the City Council approved a resolution for Mayor Lane to submit a set of recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Bud Kern

The recommendations are aimed at granting relief to Scottsdale communities who are suffering from new, Sky Harbor NextGen flight paths the FAA, without public notice or input, placed over our communities at the end of 2014.

We must give our city credit for becoming engaged with this issue and taking steps to represent its citizens.

It hired two highly qualified organizations, one a legal firm and the other a technical aviation consulting firm to review, study and arrive at possible solutions that would be feasible for the FAA to implement.

The FAA, had previously, uncharacteristically, presented concepts at workshops held in Phoenix, which would have positive, but small, impacts on relieving air traffic over Scottsdale.

While it stated it had no intentions of implementing any changes, it none the less asked for public comments on the concepts. The deadline for those comments expired May 23.

The concept the FAA presented for Sky Harbor departure traffic, currently on a single channel down the middle of Scottsdale, projected a movement of about 30% of the traffic to the unpopulated mountains to the east of Scottsdale.

While this reduction would be welcome, the concept still leaves 65% of the traffic over Scottsdale that it never had prior to the NextGen flight paths.

Our organization, SCANA, believes the FAA is beholden to restore the environment over Scottsdale to pre-NextGen levels. One reason is based on the lawsuit that the City of Phoenix filed against the FAA, which it won, to gain relief from the NextGen flight paths the FAA placed over western Phoenix communities.

The U.S. Court of appeals ruled that the FAA must “vacate the September 18, 2014 order implementing the new flight departure routes at Sky Harbor International Airport…….”

Since the Phoenix lawsuit was aimed at westbound departures, the FAA says the court decision only applies to those westbound departures. But others say that the court order could be interpreted to apply to ALL departures out of Sky Harbor. Scottsdale has made that same point to the FAA and while it has no plans in place to litigate, it is preserving its options to do so.

With this background, and the issue that the FAA has overburdened Scottsdale with all this traffic, it is hoped the FAA will willingly agree to work with the city and Scottsdale communities to arrive at sensible solutions.

The city is recommending that the flight paths predominately be moved to follow the Salt River to the east before turning north over unpopulated terrain to their navigation points.

SCANA supports this recommendation. SCANA will watch to ensure that anything the FAA might consider will not cause negative route changes at our local airports.

Our local geography to the east of Sky Harbor is unique compared to most major metropolitan centers. We have riverbeds, mountains and vacant terrain reasonably close by where flight paths would not be disruptive to the public. It is common sense that these areas be utilized for flight paths where there is little or no population.

We all support and utilize our airports and airlines, that is not an issue. While airlines might have to travel a few extra miles and add a minute or two to flight times, there needs to be a balance between airline benefits and the impacts to the public they serve.

The FAA has a tough job to balance all the needs and requirements of all the parties. But it can be done, and the FAA must start giving more priority to the public it serves on the ground.

Editor’s Note: Bud Kern is the chairman of Scottsdale Coalition for Noise Abatement.

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