U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans sent a letter last week to two congressional committees asking them to consider Phoenix area concerns about flight path changes at Sky Harbor International Airport.
In a letter to U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, McCain and Flake requested immediate attention to the draft language for the changes in an FAA reauthorization bill, due for renewal March 31, to which Arizonans objected because no opportunities for input were offered.
“These (flight path) changes were made without formal notification to the airport and without adequate opportunity for community engagement in the process,” McCain and Flake said. “As a result, the new flight paths have had major, negative impacts on residents around the airport and the greater Phoenix area. While we continue to support the aims of NextGen to improve passenger safety and travel efficiency, it is imperative that the implementation process include the airports and communities ultimately affected by these flight path changes.”
Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, is a new air traffic control platform in development to transition flights from radar- and radio-based communication to satellite- or GPS-based control to save costs and improve safety.
McCain and Flake’s proposal, filed as an amendment to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill, was recently approved by the U.S. Senate. It clarifies the right for communities and airports to engage with the FAA prior to enactment of flight path alterations.
McCain noted in a recent letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta that the language’s purpose is to “improve outreach to the community and airport, providing an opportunity for notification and consultation with the operator of an affected airport and the community before making future flight path decisions.”