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Phoenix, FAA propose plans to lessen aircraft noise

Posted at 11:50 AM, Nov 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-30 13:50:57-05

The city of Phoenix and the Federation Aviation Administration said Thursday they have come up with a plan aimed at resolving a flap over noisy takeoffs and landings that followed changes in flight procedures at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport three years ago.

The sides filed a joint petition asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, to give the go-ahead for the plan devised to lessen noise over neighborhoods without outright cancellation of the FAA's September 2014 changes to Sky Harbor's flight routes and procedures.

Under the plan, the FAA would reach out to residents while temporarily resuming the previous departure routes. In a second step, the FAA would develop satellite-based procedures for those original routes, seeking community feedback throughout the process.

The Federal Aviation Administration started revising flight paths and procedures around the United States in fall 2014 under its air traffic control modernization plan known as "NextGen." The new procedures use more precise, satellite-based navigation that saves time, increases the number of planes airports can service, and reduces fuel burn and emissions. 

Noise complaints quickly exploded from San Diego to Charlotte, North Carolina, to New York as flights were concentrated at lower altitudes, in narrower paths and on more frequent schedules. The new paths often reduce the number of people overall that are exposed to noise, but the people who get noise get it far more consistently.

In Phoenix, redrawn flights over vintage neighborhoods affected some 2,500 homes overall, prompting historic districts and the city to file a court challenge aimed at forcing the FAA to reverse the changes.

The U.S. appellate court in Washington on Aug. 29 agreed with their assessment that the FAA had been "arbitrary and capricious" in revising the flight procedures.