WASHINGTON, D.C. - A court ruling Tuesday overturned a Federal Aviation Administration order from 2014 that set new departing flight paths for Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with the city and others that claimed the FAA's approval of the new paths was "arbitrary and capricious."
Since September of 2014, flights at Sky Harbor International Airport had been taking off with a different path from the past, directly over historic and other neighborhoods. The FAA maintained it was about safety and saving fuel.
But the City of Phoenix and people putting up with the noise wanted the planes to fly the old flight paths.
According to a release from airport officials, the city filed a lawsuit in June of 2014 on behalf of Phoenix neighborhoods. Several historic neighborhoods in Phoenix also filed a lawsuit.
In its ruling, the court said the FAA found that there was a possibility for controversy, but “did not notify local citizens and community leaders of the proposed changes as the agency was obligated to, much less allow citizens and leaders to weigh in.”
“This ruling is good news for the city, but great news for the impacted neighborhoods who have been fighting these changes for the past three years,” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said in a release. “I would like to thank all of those involved in providing their expertise, including financial and emotional support. Our community needed a victory, and this result gives me great faith in the judicial process.”
The ruling indicates the FAA must revert to the pre-September 2014 routes until a new environmental process is conducted, according to a release, but city officials said that doesn't necessarily mean it has to happen immediately.
"We know that today's flight path is not allowed based on the court's ruling," Phoenix Aviation Department Spokesperson Deb Ostreicher said. "Exactly what happens from here ... we have to work together."
The FAA issued a statement saying the agency was looking at its options after the ruling.