Phoenix Sky Harbor
International Airport

FAQ's

Sky Harbor at Night

Why were the flight paths changed?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controls flight paths in and out of Sky Harbor. On September 18, 2014 the FAA implemented satellite based flight paths at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport using NextGen technology. The FAA’s stated goal was to improve safety, increase efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of aircraft flying to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. See additional information on Next Gen.

Was NextGen rolled out here prematurely? Shouldn't the FAA have been coordinating the new flight paths with the Metroplex process? 
NextGen is expected to be a continuous process of optimization that can result in the air traffic technology, flight paths and procedures to be adjusted several times. For Sky Harbor the first major process was the implementation of the RNAV flight paths on September 18, 2014. This also included other minor modifications to the flight procedures at other Valley airports. At the FAA's direction, the RNAV implementation could have occurred through the Metroplex initiative or from a FAA local facility sponsored initiative. In Phoenix, the FAA chose to implement the RNAV paths as a part of a local FAA facility sponsored initiative. The next major process is the Phoenix Metroplex study that will look at additional optimization of airspace within a 200 mile radius of Sky Harbor, including other Valley airports and Tucson.

Where were the flight paths before Sept. 18, 2014 and where are they now?
Maps are now posted on FAA Flight Path Changes, which show each procedure before and after changes were implemented on September 18, 2014.

Why wasn't the community notified before these changes took place?
The FAA conducted no community outreach prior to implementation and as stated in the City's Legal Protest. The FAA did not conduct proper notification, consultation or analysis with the City of Phoenix.

Did any City of Phoenix staff know about these flight paths before they were changed?
At least one Phoenix Aviation Department staff member attended some meetings where implementation of new procedures was discussed. At the request of the City Manager, an outside law firm is conducting an investigation to determine the level of involvement of City staff in the flight path changes. Two weeks before implementation, Phoenix Aviation management learned during a briefing by staff that new flight paths using Next Gen technology would be implemented September 18, 2014. Aviation management spoke with local FAA officials who indicated that they expected little to no impact on the community.

What is the City doing about this now?
The City of Phoenix is advocating on behalf of the community in a number of ways. Visit Updates/Reports for details.

Even if FAA ultimately does have public outreach meetings, what good is that really going to do? 
The FAA has the sole authority to develop and implement flight paths into, from, and between airports. However, the FAA has a responsibility to conduct public outreach and to consider the input they receive. That of course doesn’t mean they have to agree with or comply with all public input, but they are required to consider the input. It may feel as though attending meetings and providing input does not have an impact. However, community input has been of tremendous value for the City of Phoenix as we work to address these issues. It has put Phoenix on the national stage, and has drawn the highest levels of interest across the country.

Are air freight companies holding up any voluntary flight path changes?
No

How much has the city spent on dealing with the new flight paths issue so far?
Nearly $300,000 as of mid-July, 2015

How is the city of Phoenix paying for those legal costs?
Airlines pay to operate at Sky Harbor. The costs incurred due to the RNAV issue will be applied to the airlines’ rates and charges that they pay the airport.

Does the legal case have a real chance or is it being pursued for another reason? Why should the public support it? No one has ever won a case like this.
Airport and city hall administrators, as well as former congressman Ed Pastor tried numerous non-litigious avenues to no avail. So the Phoenix Mayor and Council directed the city manager to proceed with legal action. The City believes that there is merit to the case.

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