Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in favor of the city of Phoenix in a suit charging that the Federal Aviation Administration violated federal law when implementing new flight paths in September 2014. The case arose from FAA’s implementation of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) as a part NextGen. The sudden change in flight paths resulted in a wave of public outrage as Phoenix residents who had never experienced overflights were subject to steady noise due to the concentrated flight paths.
The order indicates that the agency will need to return to the routes in place prior to September 2014 until it conducts a new environmental process, according to a statement issued by Sky Harbor International.
The court agreed with the city’s argument that FAA approval of the new flight routes in September 2014 was “arbitrary and capricious” and violated the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Department of Transportation Act. Attorneys for the city are studying the decision to understand the process moving forward regarding what changes will be made and when, according to the Sky Harbor announcement.
This case, in conjunction with the passage of recent legislation introduced by Senators McCain and Flake, sends a strong message to the FAA that both airports and their surrounding communities must be consulted prior to major airspace changes. However, neither this case, nor the legislation should prevent airports from being proactive in reaching out to the FAA when facing Metroplex or local PBN