Reps. Gallego and Sinema urge FAA to increase community involvement in flight path discussions
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Reps. Ruben Gallego and Kyrsten Sinema wrote to Acting Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Daniel Elwell regarding the FAA’s plans for community outreach in connection with the restoration of pre-2014 flight paths at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX) and the subsequent development of new routes for aircraft departing Phoenix.
These changes are occurring pursuant to an agreement reached by the agency with the City of Phoenix and Phoenix neighborhood associations after a judge ruled that the FAA had violated federal law by failing to appropriately consult with local residents or elected officials before implementing new departure procedures at PHX in 2014. Unfortunately, under its current plan, the FAA only intends to hold three public meetings to solicit community comments and none are scheduled in either the historic neighborhoods that brought the lawsuit or in the area of the city – Central City South – that is expected to be exposed to the highest levels of aircraft noise after the old routes are reinstituted. In response, Reps. Gallego and Sinema are urging the FAA to conduct more extensive local outreach, especially in those communities most affected by the flight path changes.
“I’m extremely concerned that the FAA is repeating its past mistakes in Phoenix,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego. “Until a federal judge intervened, the agency was completely indifferent to the concerns of local residents. Now, with new flight paths in the works, the outreach that the FAA is planning is totally inadequate. At a bare minimum, the FAA needs to hold additional public meetings in the historic neighborhoods and Central City South, both of which experienced tremendous changes in aircraft noise when the new routes were implemented in 2014.”
“It’s wrong for Washington to make decisions about Arizona without listening to Arizonans,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. “FAA must fix its mistakes by asking for and listening to input from the communities surrounding Sky Harbor. Phoenix families must be heard before the FAA moves forward.”
The full text of the letter is below.
Dear Acting Administrator Elwell:
We welcomed the recent decision in the lawsuit brought by the City of Phoenix and Phoenix neighborhood associations against the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which validated our long-held contention that the FAA acted improperly when it altered flight paths departing Sky Harbor International Airport without first soliciting input from the affected communities. Unfortunately, in implementing the agreement subsequently reached by the parties to this case, we fear that the FAA may be duplicating its past mistakes by failing to conduct adequate outreach to Phoenix-area residents.
As you know, the FAA intends to restore the pre-September 2014 departure procedures in Phoenix and will then consider new flight paths based on feedback from the public. To date, three events billed as “FAA Airspace Workshops” have been announced to collect public comments. Unfortunately, no such hearings are currently planned in either the historic districts that joined the suit against the FAA or in Central City South, the collection of neighborhoods that experienced the highest levels of aircraft noise prior to the changes in 2014.
Again, at that time, the FAA acted without consulting with members of the affected communities or local elected officials and – before the federal court intervened – stubbornly refused to take meaningful steps to address their concerns. We strongly believe that this record of indifference must not be replicated. To that end, we urge you to schedule additional meetings in Phoenix’s historic neighborhoods and Central City South as well as other communities likely to experience significant changes in aircraft noise as a result of the return to the preexisting departure procedures. In addition, we strongly request that you consult closely with local elected officials and municipal staff in determining the timing, location, and format of these workshops.
Thank you for your attention to this request. We look forward to working with you to reduce the harmful impact of aircraft noise on Phoenix-area residents.
Member of Congress
Member of Congress