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New flight paths coming to Colo. next year as a part of FAA's 'NextGen' program

Changes caused noise complaints in other cities
Posted at 5:43 PM, Dec 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-10 20:30:10-05

DENVER -- Colorado's skies could soon get a lot noisier or quieter, depending on how close you live to 30 new flight paths being proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

It's part of the FAA's effort to modernize air traffic control and transition away from land radar in favor of more accurate satellite tracking for aircrafts.

The program, known as "NextGen," is supposed to make the skies safer, airplanes more fuel-efficient, and make the planes, in theory, quieter.

The FAA recently announced its plans to release a draft environmental study to the public about the changes in April 2019, followed by several months of public comment, before issuing a final report in September 2019.

"If we want to improve the aviation system, changes have to be made to the system," said Jeff Price, an aviation expert and professor at Metro State University in Denver.

But Price said the changes also mean changing where planes fly.

"You're going to start seeing more and more people hearing more and more airplanes," he explained.

And that's the whole problem – coming soon to an airport near you.

The FAA put out these maps showing the proposed flight path changes. Price said while many of the shifts appear small on the map, they will likely have significant changes on the homeowners living down below.

"Instead of a homeowner moving to the airport, we now have flight paths moving to the homeowner," said Price.

Whether homeowners will be impacted by the changes, Price said it is nearly impossible for the average person to figure out as the maps are now.

"There might be a line going right over your house, but that line might be at 10,000 feet or 15,000 feet," he said. "Hard for a non-pilot to figure out when you look at an aeronautical chart."

It's a conundrum that has already caused controversy in other major cities. As the FAA rolled out new flight paths, noise complaints exploded in cities like Baltimore, Phoenix, and San Diego.

Arizona's fight lead to a court battle, while in California lawmakers got involved.

What exactly will happen in Colorado is still up in the air, at least until next year.

"You've got a lot of busy aircraft all in this area and it's going to be the traditional argument. When I bought this house, there's weren't any airplanes over my house. Now there are and that's your problem, " said Price.