SCANA (Scottsdale Coalition for Airplane Noise Abatement) is a volunteer organization formed in 2017 by residents in the Northeast Valley of Scottsdale, who noticed that the frequency and volume of airplane traffic over their tranquil homes had exploded overnight. SCANA volunteer membership represents a large area covering ~15,000 homes and approximately 50,000 residents.
Research revealed that indeed things had changed. In late 2014 the FAA had implemented its new satellite GPS system, "NextGen", for guiding arriving and departing aircraft to/from Sky Harbor International Airport. Where air traffic was formerly safely dispersed over predominately unpopulated areas many miles wide, arriving and departing planes were now compressed and moved into narrow and undeviating "highways" directly over densely populated Scottsdale communities and schools. The FAA arbitrarily exposed our communities to catastrophic danger in the event of an aviation mishap.
The reason? The airlines might save a minuscule amount of money in fuel savings and a few seconds shorter flight times. However, the NextGen system can provide its navigational and technological benefits regardless of where the flight paths are located. The question SCANA is always asked is: why did the FAA move the flight paths from unpopulated terrain to over heavily populated residential communities? The FAA answer: efficiency and safety. However, logic by any means, would say that commercial airliners in full thrust take off mode are not safer to ground residents when they take off over highly populated communities and schools than when they take off over unpopulated terrain. The FAA cannot intellectually say the new routes are safer, even though it unfailing continues to make that claim. Clearly, either the FAA dropped the ball, or the FAA's safety measurement process is catastrophically flawed. While the technological navigational systems may be better, that doesn't decrease the risk of an aircraft mechanical failure. The FAA refuses to meet with organizations such as SCANA and elected officials to discuss these issues. It clearly is a government agency that sees itself as unaccountable to anyone.
The City of Phoenix (who owns Sky Harbor Airport) and a number of Historic Districts in Phoenix tried to work with the FAA to alleviate the same issues over western Phoenix. As usual, the FAA refused to admit a problem or address the issues. Consequently, the City of Phoenix and the Historic Neighborhoods filed suit against the FAA in the Federal Appeals Court. Much to the shock of the FAA, it lost and was ordered by the Court to return flight paths to their near previous locations to restore the neighborhoods ground safety and quiet skies. While the FAA claims that moving flight paths within NextGen would compromise safety and the national aviation grid, nine (9) westbound Sky Harbor flight paths were moved expeditiously and safely with no disruptions to the aviation network. Since the litigants were only concerned with westbound departures, the FAA was able to negotiate a memo of understanding that only included those westbound paths. If the FAA refuses to consider changes to the NextGen paths over Scottsdale, the Court ruling will be a basis for future legal actions seeking relief for eastbound departures which were implemented in the exact same time and manner as the westbound departure routes.. The Court declared that all the flight paths implemented at Sky Harbor were illegally implemented and arbitrary and capricious. And indeed, due to the FAA's refusal to address Scottsdale's issues, the City of Scottsdale has recently filed a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals seeking relief from the FAA's arbitrary flight path changes.
SCANA has and is continuing to work with the City of Scottsdale, Maricopa County, Arizona's U.S. Senators and Representatives, residents, national coalitions and others to seek resolution with the FAA. We are not alone. Other cities across the Nation have suffered the same abuse from the FAA. The City of Scottsdale and SCANA submitted proposals to the FAA to direct three flight paths away from Scottsdale communities and to unpopulated terrain (see these on the home page). On January 10, 2020, the FAA stated it was not going to consider any proposals or changes to NextGen flight paths and considered the issue closed. Consequently, the only action left for the City was to pursue relief from the Court by filing a lawsuit against the FAA on March 10, 2020. After a protracted legal process, on June 24, 2022 the U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the Scottsdale lawsuit claiming the City didn't have standing and suffered no injuries. Another case where the Courts refuse to hear the merits of these cases.
SCANA and all the residents impacted by the FAA's callousness thank the City of Scottsdale for standing up for it's citizens and taking action to try to restore the historic safety and lifestyle that everyone enjoyed. And while the Court case is over and that avenue for resolution closed, efforts are still under way to address the FAA's NextGen flight paths. Ongoing meetings and discussions with the FAA will still be pursued and it is hoped the FAA will consider mitigation when it reviews the Phoenix airspace in future studies. Also, SCANA will be joining and working with National Quiet Skies organizations that are gaining strength to oppose the FAA's actions at a national level. Stay tuned and come back to this website for updates and current information.