Just over three years after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changed the flight paths at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport without notifying the community, there is a path to resolution. On August 29 of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the City of Phoenix and the historic neighborhoods on the suit filed in June 2015.

“This agreement will make sure that those most impacted by noise as a result of the 2014 changes will get quicker relief,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “It also means that in considering future changes, the FAA will abide by the law and follow the public process that our residents deserve.”

In the Court’s written opinion, it agreed with the City and Historic Neighborhoods’ argument that FAA approval of the new flight routes in September 2014 violated the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Department of Transportation Act.

The Court found that there was not adequate public outreach before the changes of 2014. The judgment ordered that the FAA “vacate” the September routes and procedures. Following this ruling, the FAA, the City of Phoenix and the filing historic neighborhood associations have jointly developed a plan to move forward.  According to the FAA, an outright canceling of the September 2014 procedures would increase airport delays and compromise safety.  As a result, all sides negotiated a plan that would mitigate noise, without the above concerns. The agreement is dependent upon the Court granting a joint petition filed by all parties, as well as conducting certain safety and environmental reviews for the proposed plan.

The plan has two steps:

  • Step One: The FAA, with support from the City, would engage in community outreach while creating temporary departure procedures to the west, approximating the pre-2014 routes. These procedures are planned to be used starting in April 2018.
  • Step Two: After Step One is complete, the FAA would develop new satellite-based procedures for the western departures and consider feedback on procedures throughout the Phoenix area. They would engage in community outreach throughout this process.

If the Court approves the Petition for Rehearing filed today, the above steps would begin, with the first anticipated community meetings in February 2018.  The documents are available on skyharbor.com/flightpaths.  Please see the attached quotes from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and members of the Phoenix City Council.