Friday, January 23, 2015

Federal Aviation Administration: Phoenix Sky Harbor (KPHX) flight paths cannot be reverted

New flight departure paths out of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport that are drawing noise complaints from Valley residents cannot be reverted back to the original routes, the Federal Aviation Administration said this week.

But the administration is looking at possible adjustments to the new paths, according to the letter sent Thursday by FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher.

Many residents, along with the Phoenix City Council, have demanded that the FAA go back to the original flight paths, but Huerta's responded Thursday and said the request wasn't that simple. Arrival and departure procedures are interdependent, the letter said, and alterations would start a "domino effect."

"Making changes is not as simple as turning one procedure off and turning another one on, and designing and developing possible adjustments will not be a simple or quick process," he said.

Any adjustments are also subject to safety analyses and environmental reviews, the letter stated.

Phoenix City Council members Laura Pastor and Michael Nowakowski issued a joint statement Friday afternoon stating the city should now consider filing a lawsuit and a historic preservation complaint.

"The decision not to return to the original flight paths demonstrates a blatant disregard for our communities' quality of life, residents' pride in home ownership and our revitalization efforts to the downtown area," the statement said.

The response came a day after Mayor Greg Stanton and U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., met with Huerta and other FAA officials in Washington, D.C., Wednesday to push for changes concerning the new routes.

Gallego said the meeting was held to tell the FAA that the current flight paths aren't acceptable and to move the administration to change, even if the paths aren't reverted.

"There has to be some mitigation," he said.

Phoenix city representatives will be part of a Performance Based Navigation Working Group that will meet next month to look at the flight paths, Huerta's letter said.

The FAA changed its flight paths for planes leaving from the airport in September as part of the nationwide plan for airway safety and efficiency. Studies conducted by the administration determined there would be no significant impact on neighborhoods.

But residents in affected areas — especially near Grand Avenue — immediately began complaining about increased noise.

Nearly 200 people attended two public outreach meetings the city held this week to document resident concerns on the new routes, according to Aviation Department Spokeswoman Julie Rodriguez. Residents were heated at times during a Thursday meeting at Metro Tech High School, shouting complaints during a overview presentation.

Facilitators at the meeting collected ideas for where noise monitors should be placed during the city's temporary noise monitoring program. Monitors will be placed throughout the affected area to monitor noise during periods of one to two hours or three to four days, said Rob Adams, who represented the aviation planning firm Landrum and Brown at the meeting.

Comments collected at the meetings will be compiled into a report for the FAA, Rodriguez said. The last meeting will be held today at 10 a.m. at the Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave.

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