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Tempe Flight Paths

Protecting Tempe Neighborhoods

Aircraft departing Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport follow a designated path over Tempe – designed to protect residents from excessive noise. They increase their altitude as they follow the Salt River bed and fly all the way to the 101 freeway, before turning.

The airlines follow this flight path because of a 1994 intergovernmental agreement between Phoenix and Tempe. This agreement prohibits all residential developments in a high-noise corridor (currently 1.2 square miles in size) and  prevents airliners from turning sooner and flying lower over neighborhoods around the Airport.


On May 16, 2023 the Phoenix Aviation Department sent this statement in response to questions about the results of the Tempe election on the Tempe Entertainment District:

The Phoenix Aviation Department has been consistent that it has no objection to a sports arena, restaurants, shops, and other compatible uses related to the Tempe Entertainment District. However, the residential units included in the project, along with other similar multi-family housing projects recently approved by Tempe, violate a 1994 agreement between our cities which protects residents from living in a high-noise area under Sky Harbor’s flight path. 

The outcome of the election does not change Tempe’s obligations contained in the 1994 agreement.  As neighboring cities that mutually benefit from Sky Harbor, Phoenix understood that Tempe was open to a reasonable compromise that would serve to protect the airport, the communities around the airport, and allow these developments to proceed.  That compromise was, at Tempe’s request, reduced to a simple document that would have amended the IGA to allow current projects to proceed, while also restating Tempe’s commitment to prohibit future residential development within the high noise area. 

We hope Tempe will now take the necessary actions to resolve this dispute.  Phoenix remains open to a solution that honors the integrity of the 1994 agreement between our two cities and continues to protect the Airport and the residents who live near it.


The following was posted prior to the Tempe election:

When this flight path was established, Tempe agreed not to allow residential directly under it. Now, Tempe leaders are planning to break that agreement and allow nearly 2,000 residential units for projects such as the Modera Rio Salado and the Tempe Entertainment District. The City of Phoenix Aviation Department, which owns and operates Phoenix Sky Harbor, has asked Tempe to agree that even if these residential units are built, no additional units will be allowed in this 65 DNL (65 decibel day/night level) noise area. Tempe leaders have not agreed to this reasonable compromise.

PHX Facts

  • Arriving flight tracks are expected to fly over the proposed development as close as 400 feet from aircraft wheels to rooftops
  • Residents in the proposed developments can expect flights arriving and departing over their homes as frequently as every 60 seconds during the day.
  • The entire development is contained within the high impact noise contour.
  • Proposed mitigation tools such as sound insulation do not make the proposed land use compatible with airport operations.


How can Phoenix Sky Harbor continue to defend this flight path to the FAA and the airlines if Tempe begins allowing residential units directly underneath it? Watch this video to see what could be flying over your neighborhood.

Phoenix has been reaching out to Tempe to find a solution. If you would like to be a part of that discussion and receive updates, please join our mailing list.

Additional details and timeline of events are available at