Friday, May 15, 2015

South Peoria residents raise concerns over low-flying planes: Glendale Municipal Airport (KGEU), Arizona

Pine district resident Virginia Muller almost breaks down in tears when she talks about the low-flying planes she sees every day at her home in Country Meadows. Her home is in a subdivision west of 103rd Avenue north of Northern Avenue. Across the way is Glen Harbor Business Park, an industrial area.

Muller’s issue is, “the flight school, the student pilots, or wherever they’re from, are flying in circles in touch and goes; they’re going anywhere they want. They’re doing NASCAR passes up against the development, flying over Northern, over houses, banking over houses. They’re coming straight out, flying over the houses, and using us as a flight path, when they’re supposed to use the river (New River).

The flights Muller is referring to are taking off and landing at Glendale Municipal Airport, which is south of Glendale Avenue along the 103rd Avenue alignment, but named Glen Harbor Boulevard on city maps. The airport originally was situated in the triangle of 75th, Grand and Olive avenues. In 1986, the airport opened at its present location.

Before the airport opened, however, there were news reports in print in 1984, which listed neighborhood concerns.

Muller said takeoffs and landings are supposed to be east of 103rd. She said her neighborhood homes and the condos behind her were in place before the airport was built.

She said, “This is a nice place to live, but I can’t even go in my back yard because of the noise. I just don’t want to see anybody getting hurt.

Twice in the last week, two planes lost altitude taking off; looks like the instructor took over and lifted the plane. That’s what scares me.

“I guarantee they’re foreign pilots. They’re not Americans and they don’t care.”

Muller said she has been dealing with the issue of low-flying planes since February, “every day since they started doing this. I’ve been dealing with Mr. Fix (Airport administrator Walter Fix) at the airport. I’ve got call logs for months.

“It’s in the pattern is all he’s telling me.”

Fix acknowledged he has had several conversations with Muller, sometimes twice a day. He has visited the neighborhood.

Muller said, “He’s been in the neighborhood, and they’re turning in the lane over 104th (Avenue). They’re using these two big palm trees as their guidepost to the airport, the Coca Cola plant as their turn point. They’re coming out of the airport, banking at the Coca Cola plant. So, they either fly over Northern or come further over my house. We’re getting all the noise from them powering up. They come by every two to three minutes.”

According to the FAA, they’re not doing anything illegal, Muller said.

“But it’s every day,” she said. “It starts at 7:30 in the morning and they go until noon or 1, and then in the opposite direction. And they’re doing night landings, come down 105th. This is seven days a week.

“Here comes the next one. This one’s further in the development, so he’s turning halfway over the industrial park. If they’d just keep south of here, it wouldn’t be so bad.”

Muller is not the only resident complaining. Lucy Lopez agreed that the planes are coming too far west of 103rd, and she believes they are flying too low, too close to the rooftops in Country Meadows.

Neighbor James Durr, who has lived in Country Meadows since 1986, joined the list of unhappy residents.

He said, “This neighborhood had many professional people living here at that time - plenty of lawyers, plenty of help working with the airport. This neighborhood has changed considerably. People skilled in those problems are long gone.”

Durr said he talked with Fix May 11 at the airport regarding “very low-flying aircraft not totally in control; lost altitude, immediately recovered. I assume that’s when the instructor took over.”

Durr said he understands the airport’s position; it needs revenues. However, he does not believe airport administration doesn’t have some control over the students or flight schools.

“Mr. Fix said to attend the next meeting with the flight schools and try to get some help,” Durr said. “He’s in a terrible situation. But something has to be done.

“The flight schools, that’s the problem. The airport needs the revenue, needs to maintain its control tower, and they get federal money for that. It depends on those takeoffs and landings. You have to have enough of them to maintain your control tower.”

Still, Durr maintains, “as long as nothing comes down, nothing happens.”

He said it only takes about 60 gallons of gasoline to raise hell if a plane hits a house. His career as an assistant base fire chief at Yuma Marine Corps Air Station in the late 1950s educated him about what it takes to ignite a fire with disastrous results.

By phone last week, Fix said he immediately began talking with the flight academies, both at the Glendale Airport and Deer Valley Airport in particular.

“I also talked to the air traffic control manager, who has been here 16 years, who is very familiar with the cycle of events,” Fix said. “The last two or three months, our number of takeoffs and landings is up 30 percent. There’s a couple reasons, other than good weather, airports Valley-wide have increased traffic numbers. The other thing, a couple of the Valley airports, some two runways, some under construction, so a lot of the flight academies move around the Valley, (it) gets congested.

“Another reason – the economy has picked up. We were just under 9,000 takeoffs and landings last month, and the last time we had that number was when we had a based flight school here that went away to another airport. So, the flight academies are the primary airport users at these general aviation airports. The private pilots that have their hangars or tie downs at Glendale Airport (and)  account for about 10 percent of our takeoffs and landings. All the rest are academies and flight schools, and transients make up the bulk of our takeoffs and landings.

“We get monthly data from the control tower, a breakdown of numbers by day or hour, whether visual or whatever.”

Fix said there is a new tool in the airport kit. On the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport website are “public view” portals.

Fix said, “It is the most amazing thing. You can watch every single aircraft flight in the Valley. Click and drag right over your house. You can see which airline, the plane number, the elevation. Click on a day and time.”

Although it does not bring Muller and her neighbors a solution, it is a tool they can use to document where and when the errant flights are taking place.

Next up: New regulations from the FAA in the works.

Original article can be found here:

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