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Arizona Representatives discuss FAA legislation and lawsuit with community members

November 11, 2015
In The News

Arizona Representatives laid out their plan to take legislative and legal action to deal with the increased airplane noise that has affected downtowners for more than a year at a community meeting on Tuesday.

Downtown Phoenix communities have been locked in a battle with the FAA over airplane noise in residential areas ever since the FAA implemented flight path changes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as a part of their NextGen programs in 2014.

On Nov. 5, Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., introduced legislation known as the “FAA Community Accountability Act,” which he described as a bill which would both give local communities a say in the FAA’s flight paths and hold the FAA to environmental review processes for new paths.

He explained his motivation as promoting accountability, where the FAA — described by Gallego as an “industry-lead government organization” — would be made responsible for the possible community impacts of airplane noise.

He further stated that the biggest reason that the FAA isn’t responsive to community concerns or actions is that the FAA acts in the interests of airlines, not people.

“We bailed every American airline out besides Southwest,” Gallego said. “We don’t owe them anything.”

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., also attended the meeting, and expressed her support for the bill.

“I see this as building an accountability to the community and to the people who live in these areas underneath the flight patterns,” Kirkpatrick said. “People want to have a process where they can be heard, and after all that’s the foundation of democracy.”

Kirkpatrick also showed support for the technological advances that led to these flight path alterations, but said that a technological advancement should be implemented only in respect to the people it impacts.

“There should always be a method for people’s voices to be heard,” she said. “Now, we know that technology changes. Aviation technology will change, but the people should be a part of that process.”

The meeting also touched on details of a lawsuit filed against the FAA.

After the initial changes, there was notable resistance among downtown residents and city representatives which culminated in the filing of two lawsuits: one by the city of Phoenix and the other by the neighborhoods affected by the new flight-routing.

Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said at the meeting that the FAA had moved for and was granted a request to consolidate the two separate suits into one.

“That action was expected and has very little impact,” he said.

The FAA also moved to dismiss the consolidated case based on what Goddard described as “deceptive practice.”

Goddard said that the claim on the part of the FAA is that they either made their decision regarding the changes before the date listed by the suit, or that they haven’t made them yet — an argument which Goddard qualifies as contradictory.

“That is the sort of deceptive behavior that I believe comes back to haunt you, so what we are trying to do is essentially say face up to what you did, and follow federal law,” he said.

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