Arizona Communities Sue FAA over Rerouting of Air Traffic

NOVEMBER 20, 2002

With the nation watching, a coalition of Arizona communities takes on the Federal Aviation Administration today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in hopes of stopping "Northwest 2000," a commercial jet rerouting plan implemented last February over Carefree, Cave Creek, Paradise Valley, north Phoenix, and north Scottsdale.

With similar aircraft noise conflicts across the country, experts believe this will be a landmark case.

"We're definitely watching this," said Nicholas Acciardo of Princeton, N.J. Acciardo said his group, the NJ Citizens Against Aircraft Noise, is also considering litigation after the FAA rerouted hundreds of inbound Newark Airport flights over central New Jersey neighborhoods last December. Acciardo said the FAA failed to conduct environmental studies and then rerouted planes lower than they said they would.

The Arizona coalition is fighting similar changes. The plaintiffs insist the FAA is not following its own environmental impact study in flying planes at lower altitudes. San Francisco attorney and aviation specialist Tom Roth said the Northwest 2000 case will become a precedent. "This type of case is going to repeat itself again and again as the FAA continues to move flight paths around," Roth said.

The FAA has indicated that the airspace south and southeast of the Valley will be redesigned next, affecting Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert, Tempe, Ahwatukee and south Phoenix.

Roth is representing the northeast Valley coalition suing the FAA. The parties include the towns of Cave Creek, Carefree, the Cave Creek Unified School District, and Quiet Skies, a group that consists of 40 homeowner associations, mostly in north Scottsdale.

Tempe is also suing, but last week entered into mediation. The Valley plaintiffs claim Northwest 2000 brings 297 more jets over the northeast Valley per day. The FAA says that figure is more like 67.

Roth will file a written brief today. Oral arguments are scheduled in March with a possible decision in May.

Source: Arizona Republic