Sky Harbor at Night

May 15, 2018: The City of Phoenix, the Historic Neighborhood Petitioners and the Federal Aviation Administration jointly submitted this Status Report.

May 23, 2018: The FAA has posted an update dated May 24, 2018 announcing the implementation of nine replacement Area Navigation (RNAV) data-sf-ec-immutable="" Standard Instrument Departure (SID) procedures for aircraft that depart to the west at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, completing Step One of a two-step plan set forth in the agreement between the City of Phoenix, historic neighborhood associations and the FAA.

March 2, 2018: Two Flight Paths Have Returned to Pre-September 2014 Approximate Route
Effective March 29, 2018 the FAA has essentially reverted back to two former routes for aircraft that depart Sky Harbor to the west and either continue west or turn north. The routes are the first step in implementing an agreement between the FAA, City of Phoenix and historic neighborhoods northwest of downtown Phoenix, after the City and the neighborhoods sued the FAA over flight path changes. The new routes approximate the paths that were flown prior to September 2014. The FAA is conducting the environmental process on the route that departs Sky Harbor to the west and turns south. That process should be complete before May 24.

March 2, 2018: The FAA has posted an update on the process of returning westerly departures to approximately the same as they were before September 2014.

Feb. 7, 2018: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an amendment to its original opinion in the flight paths case. This amendment is in response to a joint request filed November 2017 from the City, Historic Neighborhoods and FAA to implement an agreement by all parties.

  • The Court granted the request to delay the date on which the case would be sent back to the FAA to June 15, 2018. (It was originally scheduled to happen as soon as the court ruled on a petition for rehearing). All parties requested a delay so that a jointly-developed plan could be pursued. This plan includes Step 1) returning westerly departures to essentially the same as they were pre-September 2014 and Step 2) taking public comments on all changes that were made in September 2014 so that feedback can be considered as the FAA finalizes procedures in the Phoenix area.
  • The Court also granted the request to limit the scope of the Court’s opinion to only the September 2014 westerly departure paths, the most impactful changes. (The original scope included every change made September 2014)
  • Feedback on ALL changes implemented in 2014 is being collected through February 16 on line and in person this week at three public workshops. Per the joint agreement, all of this feedback will be considered by FAA moving forward as the FAA finalizes changes in the Phoenix area.

The Court’s orders are available here:

We expect more information from the Court by June 15, 2018.

Jan. 18, 2018: Get information on when and where community workshops regarding FAA flight path changes are scheduled.

Nov. 30, 2017: The City of Phoenix and Historic Neighborhoods have negotiated an agreement with the FAA and filed a joint petition to engage in outreach with affected communities while temporarily returning flight paths to their original routes before developing new flight path procedures. Read the  Aviation Department press release on the agreement.

Expected timeline moving forward:

  • Petition for Rehearing with a joint agreement was filed on November 30, 2017
  • Expected response from the Court within 30 days 
  • January-February 2018: FAA conducts technical design and environmental reviews
  • Three community meetings to be completed by 2/28/18
  • January 8-February 21: Sky Harbor north runway closed for repairs
  • March 2018: FAA completes environmental review and considers public comments from February outreach 
  • April 1, 2018: FAA implements Step One regarding west departures
  • After April 1, 2018, all parties will ask the Court to amend its opinion and allow the FAA to begin Step 2
  • May 2018 FAA is expected to begin work on Step 2  

Nov. 13, 2017: The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the FAA’s second motion to extend the deadline to file petitions for rehearing to November 30, 2017.

Oct. 12, 2017: In response to the Federal Aviation Administration extension request filed Oct. 6, the Court has extended the petition deadline to Nov. 16, 2017.

Oct. 11, 2017: In response to the Federal Aviation Administration extension request filed Oct. 6, the City has filed a letter agreeing to not oppose the extension.

Oct. 6, 2017: The Federal Aviation Administration filed a motion with US Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. for a 30-day extension. During this period, the City has agreed to meet with FAA to explore options to provide noise relief, maintain airspace safety, and ensure proper study of flight path impacts

Aug. 29, 2017 -  The US Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. has ruled in favor of the City of Phoenix in its lawsuit and historic neighborhoods’ lawsuit against the FAA over flight path changes. Read the decision  order and the decision details.

March 17, 2017 – The US Court of Appeals in Washington DC heard oral arguments on the City of Phoenix lawsuit and historic neighborhoods’ lawsuit against the FAA over flight path changes.


Listen to an audio file downloaded from the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit of the oral arguments in the lawsuit against the FAA by the city of Phoenix and historic neighborhoods.

City Lawsuit Timeline and Documents

On June 1, 2015 the City of Phoenix announced that it is filing a lawsuit against the FAA over flight path changes.

This is the petition the City of Phoenix filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit.

This after the Phoenix City Manager received this letter from FAA Regional Administrator Glen Martin and responded with this letter.

On July 10, 2015 Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher sent this letter to FAA Regional Administrator, Glen Martin in response to this letter sent on June 24, 2015.

Also on July 30, 2015 the City of Phoenix filed this opposition to the  FAA's motion to delay preparing the administrative record until the motion to dismiss is resolved.

On July 30, 2015 the City of Phoenix filed this response to the FAA’s July 17 motion to dismiss the City’s Petition for Review of FAA flight path changes.

On August 10, 2015 the FAA filed two legal documents, one contained additional arguments in support of the FAA’s motion to dismiss the City’s lawsuit and another included arguments supporting the FAA’s motion to delay compiling all of the required records until the motion to dismiss is resolved. The City of Phoenix previously filed two documents link 1 and link 2 in response to the FAA’s two original motions. The FAA's reply filings are the last filings on this issue permitted under the Court rules; the Court will now rule on the FAA's motion to dismiss or request additional information.

A petition for review is a formal request to a U.S. Court of Appeals to review the legality of an agency’s administrative decision. The petition for review is a special form of litigation that Congress requires for challenges to the legality of most FAA decisions.  A petition for review seeks a declaration from the Court that an agency’s decision is invalid. In the City of Phoenix legal challenge, the City filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seeking a declaration from the Court that FAA’s implementation of RNAV routes and procedures in the Phoenix airspace violated federal law.

On September 2, 2015, the FAA filed a a motion to consolidate the two cases filed by the City of Phoenix and by the Phoenix neighborhoods into one case. Neither the neighborhoods nor the City of Phoenix are objecting to the FAA’s motion. Consolidation could cause a delay in the court’s ruling on the pending motion to dismiss filed by the FAA against the city’s case

On September 17, 2015, the FAA filed a motion to dismiss the Phoenix neighborhoods’ petition for review and stay filing of the administrative record; this motion mirrors the FAA’s motion to dismiss the City’s petition for review. In the upcoming few weeks, the Phoenix neighborhoods will respond to the FAA motion and FAA will have the opportunity to reply. Once this briefing is complete in mid-October, the Court will decide whether to grant the FAA’s motion. While it is up to the Court, the City expects that it will consider the FAA’s motions to dismiss the City and neighborhood cases at the same time.

On October 2, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the FAA's motion to stay deadline for filing the certified index to the record, and suspended the deadline for filing the certified index pending further order of the court

On December 4, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decided to defer a decision regarding the FAA’s motions to dismiss the petitions for review filed by the City of Phoenix and the coalition of neighborhoods in Phoenix. Instead, the Court directed that the City, neighborhoods and FAA brief all of the issues in the case, so that the Court can make a decision regarding the entirety of the case.  As a result, the case will proceed with FAA’s filing of the administrative record and briefing by the parties in the upcoming months.

On December 9, 2015, the US Court of Appeals, DC Circuit issued an order laying out a briefing schedule for the court case against the FAA. This schedule was revised on Jan. 13, 2016. Here are the main milestones for the order:

  • Certified Index to the Record December 23, 2015

This is FAA’s index of all of the materials that were before FAA before it made its flight track decisions that were appealed by the City of Phoenix on June 1, 2015. 

  • Petitioners' Brief March 18, 2016

This is the main brief that will be filed by the City of Phoenix identifying the FAA’s violations of law in its implementation of the flight tracks.

  • Respondents' Brief April 18, 2016

This is FAA’s response to the City’s brief.

  • Petitioners' Reply Brief May 2, 2016

The City has a chance to file a short reply to the FAA’s brief.

  • Deferred Appendix May 9, 2016

After all of the parties’ briefs are in, a deferred appendix collects all of the materials from the administrative record that are cited in the brief, for the use of the Court.

  • Final Briefs May 23, 2016

After the deferred appendix is filed, the parties file final versions of the briefs above that contains page citations to the deferred appendix, for the use of the Court.


Lawsuit Consolidation

On Monday, November 9, the D.C. Court of Appeals granted a motion by the Federal Aviation Administration to consolidate the challenge to the Phoenix-area flight tracks brought by a group of Phoenix neighborhoods and individuals with the earlier lawsuit filed by the City of Phoenix.  This consolidation order was expected, because neither the City nor the neighborhood petitioners opposed FAA’s motion to consolidate.  FAA’s motions to dismiss the City’s and neighborhood groups’ are still pending, with a decision by the Court expected in the next couple of months.  Assuming the Court denies the FAA's motions to dismiss, the consolidation order means that the parties will brief the merits of the case and argue it to the Court at the same time. 

Neighborhood Lawsuit

On July 31, concerned leaders of several historic Phoenix neighborhoods announced the filing of a Petition for Review.

On October 7, residents of FQ Story, Willo, Encanto-Palmcroft, Roosevelt, and Woodland historic districts in Phoenix filed a Legal Protest regarding continued use of arrival and departure routes at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

On Thursday, October 8, 2015, the Story Preservation Association and other neighborhoods that challenged FAA’s flight tracks in court filed a response to FAA’s motion to dismiss. FAA’s motion claimed that both the City of Phoenix and Neighborhoods’ petitions for review in the D.C. Circuit were too late (because they were filed more than 60 days after the September 2014 implementation) and too early (because FAA was still talking about possible mitigation). The Neighborhoods’ response to FAA’s motion was consistent with the response the City filed earlier, showing that the court could and should hear the case.

Background Information

On April 16, 2015 the Phoenix City Council met in a Special Policy Session to discuss the status of a Performance Based Navigation (PBN) working group convened by the FAA. While retired Congressman Ed Pastor represented the City of Phoenix with staff support from the Aviation Department, most of the PBN working group members were FAA staff. At the group's third meeting, the FAA presented its preferred options to the City, which, in the view of Phoenix and Arizona leaders, did not solve the community's noise issue. The Phoenix City Council voted to discontinue participation in the PBN working group, once again request that the FAA return to the pre-September 18, 2014 flight paths using RNAV technology and aggressively pursue the following six-point strategy to advocate on behalf of the community:

  1. Community Engagement & Empowerment
  2. Outreach to Airlines
  3. Continue Coalition of Other Cities & Industry
  4. Lobby Airlines, Agencies, and Congress to require FAA to do the right thing
  5. Submit Metroplex Response
  6. Enhance Noise Program at Sky Harbor

The special City Council session followed an April 14, 2015 letter from the FAA Regional Administrator to the Phoenix City Manager detailing the draft proposed options that the FAA presented to the City of Phoenix.

On April 24, 2015 the Phoenix City Manager sent a response to the FAA Regional Administrator.

Also on April 24, 2015 the City of Phoenix Aviation Department followed up with additional details.

On May 8, 2015 the PHX Aviation Director sent the Phoenix City Manager an update on progress related to the six point strategy.

On May 19, 2015 Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, Council members Kate Gallego, Laura Pastor and Michael Nowakowski and city officials met with executives from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the airlines to discuss aircraft noise affecting the Phoenix area. Details on the progress made in that meeting are available in this press release.

On May 22, 2015 the PHX Aviation Director sent an update on progress made on behalf of the community.

The six point strategy approved by the Phoenix City Council comes after a series of communications and other actions by City leaders and members of Congress, which are listed below in date order.

  • On Nov. 14, 2014 the FAA Regional Administrator sent a letter following up on the same public meeting.
  • On Dec. 3, 2014 the PHX Aviation Director sent a response to the FAA Regional Administrator
  • On Dec. 12, 2014 the State Historic Preservation Office sent a letter to the FAA rescinding its concurrence with the flight path changes.
  • On Dec. 22, 2014 the PHX Aviation Director formally requested all FAA documents related to the flight path changes
  • On Dec. 23, 2014 Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher, formally requested that the FAA immediately cease the use of the new flight path and utilize departure and arrival flight paths that were in effect prior to Sept. 18, 2014.
  • On Jan. 12, 2015 the State Historic Preservation Office sent a letter requesting support from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in Washington D.C.
  • On Jan. 23, 2015 FAA Administrator Michael Huerta sent a response to the PHX City Manager
  • On Jan. 29, 2015 the FAA sent a reply to the State Historic Preservation Office.
  • On Feb. 10, 2015 the Phoenix City Manager sent a letter to the FAA Administrator on the City's participation in the PBN working group.
  • Legal Protest: On February 17, 2015 the city of Phoenix filed a legal protest with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
    • On April 7, 2015, the city of Phoenix sent a supplement to the Legal Protest.
  • On February 6, 2015, airline industry organizations sent this letter to the FAA Administrator.
  • The FAA Administrator replied to airline industry organizations with this letter.
  • On March 9, 2015 The FAA notified the PHX Aviation Director of an estimated completion date of Sept. 3, 2015 for the Dec 22 public records request.
  • Memo from the City Manager: On March 19, 2015 the Phoenix City Manager sent this memo to the Mayor and City Council advising them of an internal investigation.
  • On April 6, 2015 the PHX Aviation Director requested expedited treatment for portions of the City's Dec 22 public records request.

Internal City Investigation

Statement from Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher June 23, 2015

It has been a challenging nine months since the FAA moved the flight paths over area residents without any public input process. The attached report is a result of our commitment to the community to be open and transparent about this issue during this time. The findings in this report are disappointing. A small number of aviation employees unfortunately failed to appropriately communicate the situation as it was happening which has now resulted in discipline and personnel changes. Moving forward, the City Council has approved more capacity within the Aviation Department with stronger resources for community and noise related issues. Nothing in the investigation negates the fact that the FAA did not conduct necessary analysis, public scoping, nor contact any airport or city executives before changing the flight paths. The city will continue to advocate for the residents affected by the FAA’s actions.

Follow-up Report

Temporary Noise Monitoring Results

Based on input collected in community meetings, the Phoenix Aviation department conducted temporary noise monitoring at 37 locations.  Download results.

City of Phoenix Internal Investigation Exhibits

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