It was two years ago today that FAA flipped on the switch for a new set of RNAV procedures in and out of Phoenix. Noise complaints jumped: from 469 the year before to more than 13,000 in 8-months. A group who unexpectedly became activists emerged, seeking to restore health and liveability in places like Laveen, and in the historic residential neighborhoods trending to the northwest of the airport, such as along Grand Avenue.
According to the documents used to justify the changes, the changes would help the airlines to save a few million dollars each year, because flights would make their turns lower and closer to the airport. When profitable corporations save money, it appears as increased corporate profits; CEOs get bonuses, shareholders smile too. But, who pays for this, and what are the impacts, the costs? Indisputably, more people are losing sleep, more conversations are being broken, and more schoolchildren are being distracted. If a true cost-benefit analysis had been done, the benefits to the airlines would NOT justify the costs imposed on the communities.
Here’s something to ponder: if you spend just a few minutes crunching the numbers, you can establish that if every person living in the Phoenix area paid a $1 annual head tax, that tax could be given to the two hub airlines at KPHX (Southwest and American) to PAY THEM to revert to the older routes. Flights would resume using the natural noise mitigation corridor that was used for decades, the Salt River lineation east and west of the parallel runways. Airline profits might actually INCREASE (since the head tax total likely exceeds the fuel cost for reverting the departures), and flightcrews might even get a bit more money in their paychecks (if they add a minute or two to their logged flight-time). Most importantly, substantial relief would be realized by hundreds of thousands of citizens.
Of course, even a trivial head tax such as this should not be needed. What is needed is a federal agency that works for the People, too, not just for the aviation industry; a federal agency that truly weighs the costs and the benefits, to protect as many people as possible from the real adverse impacts caused by repetitive airline flights near major hubs.
Any Progress Two Years Later?
Essentially, no progress. Many are trying, but FAA continues to act bureaucratically incapable of doing anything.
Of course, when weather has blown through Phoenix, FAA immediately alters the flights paths … so, the agency has shown they CAN implement change quickly, as needed. But, despite the flood of complaints and the news stories and even lawsuits, FAA just bungles along, providing no help toward a remedy. One of the most memorable examples of bungling: when Regional Administrator Glen Martin paused in disbelief, while reading an official statement to impacted residents; even he could not stomach the lies.
If there is a silver-lining in this mess it is the activists. From day one, people cared. They spoke up, they asked questions, they attended hearings, they worked to protect their homes and their families. An extraordinary number of the best citizens in Phoenix refused to ignore the changes, and refused to accept lame non-answers by elected officials and FAA representatives. They became educated and worked together to educate others. And, they set clear examples for others across the nation to follow, when other communities are impacted by FAA’s fraudulent NextGen debacle.