Communications with the FAA
The City of Phoenix Aviation Department has been invited by the FAA to attend technical working group meetings, starting in 2022, on potential airspace changes in the region. The FAA has committed to keeping the community informed of any proposed airspace changes in the Phoenix metropolitan area and providing adequate opportunity for public comment and input. The City of Phoenix Aviation Department will keep the community informed of any updates that we receive. The FAA is not reopening the agreement that it reached with Phoenix after the City and a group of historic neighborhoods won a lawsuit against the FAA. Any future airspace changes will be subject to extensive environmental review and public outreach.
On June 23, 2021 Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher sent a letter to the Western Regional Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) expressing concerns about discussions with the FAA. On Aug. 25, 2021 the Regional Administrator sent a response.
In 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. These changes took place with no input from or notice to the community. After the FAA refused to reconsider the new procedures, the City of Phoenix and several historic neighborhoods west of Sky Harbor took legal action. In 2017, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the City and historic neighborhoods on every one of their claims.
All aspects of the City of Phoenix and historic neighborhoods’ lawsuit against the FAA were finalized in 2020 and an implementation agreement was fully performed. Flight paths west of Sky Harbor had permanently returned to pre-2014 routes. In addition, input was received from concerned residents in other parts of the Phoenix area, including residents east and northeast of the Airport. Upon completion of the implementation agreement in 2020, the FAA assured the City of Phoenix and the community that any further airspace changes in or around Phoenix would be treated as new actions, subject to a new outreach and environmental analysis process.
The City of Scottsdale is now suing the FAA over east side flight paths. As a result of that lawsuit, the FAA has informed Sky Harbor management that it is considering reopening the implementation agreement that resulted from the City of Phoenix and historic Neighborhoods’ lawsuit. This reopening could ultimately result in changes to flight paths east/northeast of Sky Harbor.
The City of Phoenix and historic neighborhoods west of Sky Harbor are not only concerned about any further changes to the airspace around Phoenix, there are also concerns that any reopening of the agreement could create a domino effect, and affect other aspects of the Phoenix airspace.
A reopening of the agreement would also violate the settlement of the lawsuit that Phoenix won against the FAA. As a result, if the FAA chooses to reopen the implementation agreement, Phoenix would once again have no other choice but to take legal action against the FAA.
It is important to note that regardless of what action the FAA chooses to take, any potential changes would be subject to extensive environmental review and public outreach. Should the FAA decide to make additional changes to airspace, this process is expected to take several months, and the City of Phoenix and Sky Harbor will keep the community informed of the process.