Sky Harbor at Night

On Sept. 18, 2014 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) implemented changes in flight paths to and from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport as part of its effort to streamline departures and arrivals using NextGen satellite-based navigation.  NextGen is the FAA’s extensive air traffic management modernization program that through satellite-based navigation (RNAV) and digital communication systems is intended to increase operational efficiencies, remove human risk factors from airspace management and reduce environmental impacts such as emissions and noise.  However, with the implementation of NextGen, the FAA made significant changes (and resulting quality of life changes) without properly notifying the public or allowing the public to provide input in the airspace redesign process. The new routes condensed and lowered flight corridors over thousands of homes, historic districts, natural preserves and parks.

Many communities across the country, including Phoenix, have been greatly affected by the flight path changes. Staff is monitoring other regions that have also been negatively affected by RNAV implementation. The FAA recently initiated public meetings in communities such as Boston, Charlotte, Washington, DC and South Central Florida, to consider interim airspace changes based on community concerns.


Flight Path Maps Before and After September 18, 2014


RNAV Compliance

NextGen purports that aircraft will follow the published routes at a compliance rate of 95%. In practice at PHX (and many other airports) the overall compliance rate is approximately 50% and in some cases as low as 5%. This lack of compliance results from the FAA approving airlines to deviate from the published route to gain better fuel savings through a more direct path. Since the routes being flown don’t match up with the published routes, there is no way to predict where noise or other impacts may occur in the community.

The Impact of NextGen on Airports and Communities

Additional FAA Information

Explanation of NextGen and additional information on the FAA website.

Performance Based Navigation: Read about Performance Based Navigation (PBN) on the FAA website.

The FAA is conducting research to better understand the potential impacts of aviation noise on communities located near airports.  Additional information.

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