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About half of Sky Harbor flights don’t follow the FAA flight path

PHOENIX — It has been two years in the making, but neither side has conceded or gotten exactly what it wants yet.

In October of 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration first started changing its flight patterns in an effort to reduce fuel and to improve safety.

The problem was that it didn’t really tell anybody that it was going to change its flight patterns, and especially didn’t notify the public. This outraged many living around Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.

“This began two years ago, and they published new flight paths that they decided to fly without going out to the public to get feedback about what the environmental impact would be on the people in the neighborhood surrounding the airport and we measure every single flight that goes over this area,” said Deborah Ostreicher, the city’s assistant aviation director.

The community started sharing their concerns, the mayor of Phoenix Greg Stanton urged the FAA to undo the flight changes, city manager Ed Zuercher said he lost faith in the FAA and Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake even pleaded with the FAA to try and make changes.

The city of Phoenix eventually sued the FAA, demanding that the flight paths be reverted to old routes, a suit that is still going on.

According to Ostreicher, the planes don’t even follow the flight paths like they are supposed to.

“We take thousands of noise complaints and we can also see where the planes are going, and we can see that about 50 percent of the time they aren’t going exactly where they said they would be going,” Ostreicher said.

The Phoenix Business Journal reported that the Next Gen program implemented by the FAA should have compliance at 95 percent, but at times, compliance is as small as five percent on the near 1,200 flights that Sky Harbor sees every day.

“The city of Phoenix and the Phoenix Aviation Department, we run what happens here on the ground generally, rebuilding the roadways, we keep the runways clean for the airlines to run,” Ostreicher said. “What happens up in the sky and on those airplanes is all between the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration.”

As much as a problem citizens in Phoenix think the planes flying over their neighborhoods is, they aren’t alone.

“This is a nationwide problem,” Ostreicher said. “This is going on in communities all over the country and it is something that really needs to be addressed immediately.

“It’s two years already and every single day is another day too late.”

KTAR’s Ashley Flood contributed to this report.

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