The FAA continues to work towards implementation of its NextGen flight patterns, an effort to improve efficiency in its so-called “Metroplexes.” While the FAA considers implementation of NextGen at Metroplexes to be in varying stages of completion, the agency continues to face significant resistance from community groups in the form of political and legislative pressure and litigation across the country. In general, residents have complained that the changes in flight patterns have considerably increased aircraft overflight noise in their communities without warning.
For example, in Washington, DC, one of the first Metroplexes to be considered complete, community groups have sued the FAA alleging that the federal environmental approval was obtained without sufficient public involvement, and the Governor of Maryland has formally requested that the FAA revert to pre-NextGen flight patterns. The U.S. Court of Appeals recently heard arguments in a case brought by the City of Phoenix, alleging that the FAA improperly failed to account for historical considerations or provide opportunities for community input before announcing its change in flight patterns. A similar lawsuit is pending in Southern California. Howard County, Maryland, has weighed whether to sue the FAA, and residents of Boulder, Colorado, have complained about changes to the flight patterns at Denver International Airport some 35 miles away.
For its part, the FAA is making attempts to engage the public following some of its high-profile struggles. In the two Metroplexes currently in the design phase (Cleveland-Detroit and Denver), the FAA has made a concerted effort to reach out to the public, promising to exceed the requirements that would ordinarily apply under NEPA or the National Historic Preservation Act. These initiatives include holding a series of community meetings, soliciting a wide variety of public comments, and reviewing those comments prior to issuing a final decision on implementation.