Phoenix Sues the FAA Over Flight Paths – What Does This Mean for the Future?

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phoenix sues faa
A US Airways plane taking off from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Photo by RedLegsFan21

Phoenix vs. FAA

Earlier this week, one of the country’s largest cities filed a lawsuit against the FAA regarding noise stemming from new flight paths. That city is none other than Phoenix.

On Monday, the city filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit to have their complaints heard. Apparently thousands of citizens have complained about noise from the new flight paths. In a CNN article, a Phoenix resident who lives 8 miles from the airport said he couldn’t hear noise before and now it is constant.

That same CNN article quotes the city, “The FAA’s actions have caused the community extreme discomfort, with many unable to sleep at night or pursue normal daily activities.” Those are quite strong words. Unable to sleep at night? Wow.

So why did the FAA change the flight paths over Phoenix? According to USA Today it is part of their NextGen program for safety and efficiency. Apparently the new flight paths are not only safer, but they also help the airlines save on fuel as well.

While the city and the FAA have been negotiating for quite some time, the city now feels they have no choice but to resort to their last option which is to take the FAA to court. It should be pretty interesting to see how this turns out.


This brings some interesting questions to mind. Who has the power to determine which paths planes fly on?Obviously we know the FAA does, but can a city have an impact on that. After all, if the FAA’s actions impact the quality of life for citizens of Phoenix, then should they not have some recourse?

I also wonder about the previous flight paths. Were they over less populated areas or were other citizens being affected in the same way? There are a lot of questions here that I can’t answer, but I think this lawsuit could have a huge impact, given that this isn’t the first time cities have fought the FAA over flight paths. (Perhaps we need another editorial from RD.)

Here in Las Vegas I can remember several times where citizens have complained and pressured the FAA over flight paths. Since the airport is in the middle of the city, a change in flight paths has an effect on populated areas no matter what they do. Here in Las Vegas I think the FAA finally got it right, but I’m sure other cities would love to challenge the FAA’s authority.


It will be interesting to see how this plays out. As someone who used to live under a flight path, I can definitely understand the issues noise and airplanes flying overhead can cause. In addition to disrupting sleep and other patterns, it does increase pollution and decrease property value.

What do you think? Will the Phoenix win out or does the FAA and thus the federal government have the ultimate authority? Should the FAA change flight paths that have worked without issue for years simply to save on fuel and increase efficiency? Let me know in the comments!

Shawn Coomer
Since 2007 Shawn Coomer has been circling the globe with his family for pennies on the dollar. He uses that first-hand knowledge and experience to teach others how to achieve their travel dreams for the least amount of money possible.

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  1. I live a few blocks northwest of downtown Phoenix in a historic neighborhood just 5 miles from the airport. Moved in last August and never heard any flight noise although I could watch the planes as they approach from the west. Then they changed the flight path, and the noise is seriously disruptive at times, often on Friday and Saturday nights. One after another the planes go right over our house, rattling the windows with just minutes between them. It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does it is awful. Directly to the west of the airport there is a great deal of industrial buildings and land; not a lot of residential. The change means now flights fly right over the oldest (and arguably some of the nicest) residential neighborhoods in Phoenix affecting our lives and property values. I hope we win.

  2. The changes are pretty big, now several flight paths take planes go directly over the valley whereas before there was one path like that add most of the rest of the maneuvering was done on the outskirts. and final was set miles out for a longer overall approach in both time and distance.

    Results so far?

    -Some people hear less noise
    -Many people, esp closer to the airport, hear more.
    -There may be limited fuel savings as approaches (esp. landing to the east) are a few minutes shorter

    My guess is most of the complaints come from Scottsdale residents. 2 of the new paths go directly over the suburb and, well, they like to complain about things in general.


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