Airport noise is in the news again this week at Scottsdale Airport…and another airport in the Valley: Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, aka, “the airport formerly known as Williams Air Force Base.”
Ironically, I spent a few years at that installation going through USAF pilot training, working in a research billet after graduation, and in a couple of other positions. One of those other jobs was in the Airspace Management Office where–among other things–I fielded noise complaints. In reading the complaint comments on the AZCentral article it looks like not much has changed at Gateway. And they all sound very similar to the complaints generated by activity at Scottsdale Airport.
You’ve seen a number of articles posted here on ScottsdaleTrails covering many aspects of this issue (search “Airport” category). However, the dominant theme of these posts and most of the complaints is residential encroachment. More precisely, the problem is the lack of political will on the part of community ‘leaders’ (like Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane) to even acknowledge the threat of residential encroachment, let alone actively protect airports against it. Airports and residences are simply not a good mix.
In a nutshell, it seems our leaders are trading short term economic gain for the sustained economic contribution of the airport. In a recent teleconference with the FAA the Scottsdale Airport Advisory Commission was told that the problem boils down to the fact that these leaders will be long gone from office and the political spotlight when their short-sighted city planning decisions drag the airport down.
We saw it firsthand at Williams, where the developers sold their homes on the weekends when there was very little flying. The home buyers also typically moved in on the weekends. However, at 0-dark-thirty Monday morning the first sorties would launch and send jets right over their heads at 250 knots (about 300 mph for you non-aviation types). A pretty effective alarm clock, to say the least! The situation at Gateway and Scottsdale airports isn’t that drastic but the principles remain the same. WAFB closed around 1992 largely due to noise issues, after about 50 years and billions of dollars’ worth of contribution to the local economy.
Tuesday night the Scottsdale City Council will consider the third in a series of Scottsdale Airpark residential developments. Item 23 [large file, may not load correctly depending on connection speed] on the Regular Agenda is for “Scottsdale Airpark Communities” on the site of the old car dealership on Hayden Road just north of Costco. SAC seeks approval for 600 residences about a half-mile from the runway.
You’ve heard most of the arguments for and against. You’ve heard references to other airports like Santa Monica where these disputes are creating all kinds of problems. However, the Gateway issue may be news to you…but this isn’t the first time residential encroachment and airport noise has been a problem right here in the Valley. The City of Chandler has been wrestling with many of these same arguments for some time. Here are some recent AZC articles about Chandler Airport:
- FAA disputes Chandler Airport flight estimates (Nov 2011)
- Pilots criticize proposal for apartments near airport (2010)
- Chandler Airport runway battle getting hot again (2008)
And yet in Scottsdale where everything seems to happen in a vacuum, history may be repeating itself.