Ahwatukee residents who have complained for three years about excessive commercial airline flights creating almost intolerable noise might be able to look forward to some relief soon.
Just over three years after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changed the flight paths at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport without notifying the community, the city and the FAA announced “a path to resolution.”
Residents in the far west regions of Ahwatukee have complained that the flight path changes have resulted in noisy conditions almost around the clock. One woman said she spent more than $10,000 on sound-suppressant windows and still had to put up with the noise.
In August. the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of Phoenix and the historic neighborhoods that contended FAA approval of the new flight routes in 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 and ordered that the FAA to “vacate” the routes and procedures.
Because the FAA said outright canceling of the changes would increase airport delays and compromise safety, the city negotiated a plan that would mitigate noise.
The agreement will require court approval and must pass safety and environmental reviews.
The plan has two steps.
The FAA and the city would engage in community outreach while creating temporary departure procedures to the west that are similar to the pre-2014 routes. These procedures are to start in April.
The FAA would then develop new satellite-based procedures for the western departures and consider feedback on procedures throughout the city.
U.S. Sen. John McCain hailed the agreement, stating, “I’m especially pleased to see that the FAA will redraw its flight paths through a process that ensures Phoenix residents have an opportunity to make their voices heard.
“Since these changes went into effect, I’ve received hundreds of letters and phone calls from people living in the Valley regarding the increase in overhead noise.”
Mayor Greg Stanton said, “This agreement will make sure that those most impacted by noise as a result of the 2014 changes will get quicker relief. It also means that in considering future changes, the FAA will abide by the law and follow the public process that our residents deserve.”
City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said the FAA had been “negligent in their approach to this process and the results showed it.
“We have tons of folks in my district who are being unnecessarily bombarded with aircraft noise day and night, ruining their quality of life, and the courts agreed,” he added. “I hope – and will work to ensure – that, this time around, the FAA engages our neighborhoods and communities productively, and in good faith.”