Federal Court of Appeal launches lawsuit against FAA over DIA flight path

A federal appeals court this month dismissed a long-standing legal challenge from Centennial Airport and several Denver metro counties to a set of new flight paths to and from the International Airport of Denver which, according to the plaintiffs, causes unwanted noise in the neighborhoods and disrupts the natural beauty of the foothills.

Despite the June 8 ruling by the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, residents who say aircraft air noise has become pervasive and disruptive are vowing to fight back.

“If we are going to allow the destruction of our peaceful enjoyment of residential areas, our parks and our forests, then what do we have to offer Colorado?” Said Gilpin County resident Donna Okray Parman, founder of a group of residents opposed to the Federal Aviation Administration’s new flight routes. “No, we are not giving up our fight against this.”

The FAA blessed the new flight paths, dubbed the Denver Metroplex Project, in January 2020. The new protocols went into effect in March 2020, just as the coronavirus pandemic hit the country and reduced air travel to a fraction of what they were. .

But now that more planes are back in the skies, Okray Parman said the noise has become hard to ignore. Last week, as she planted a garden at her home near Black Hawk, planes kept coming in.

“Every three minutes a jet flew over the house,” she said. “It’s getting horrible.”

The FAA’s Metroplex Project uses satellite navigation to move air traffic more safely and efficiently in and out of metro area airports, including DIA, Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, and Centennial Airport. The agency predicts that the streamlined flight paths, which promise smoother descents than traditional staircase approach pilots take today, will save more than half a million gallons of fuel per year, for a savings of $ 1.8 million.

The FAA last year released a finding of no significant impact in its decision brief. He concluded that “some people will experience a slight decrease in noise, others no change and others a slight increase in noise.”

Okray Parman and hundreds of other residents say the shift in westbound air traffic south – away from Boulder and into Gilpin County – disrupts their peace and quiet and threatens the historic sites of the small mountainous county.

At the same time, many residents of the southern suburbs of Denver fear that the DIA’s new approach and departure lines may exacerbate the noise impacts of air traffic entering and exiting Centennial Airport. The airport, along with Greenwood Village and Gilpin, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, sued the FAA against Metroplex in March 2020.

The appeals court ruled this month that none of the plaintiffs had standing. Robert Olislagers, CEO of Centennial Airport, said he was not sure the judges and their clerks “really understood the case”.

“Having 10 minutes to plead a complex case is also not conducive to your case being heard,” he said. “… So the easy way out is to make an obscure procedural decision and skip the merits of the case. We and our co-applicants kept that foreground and met all deadlines, but the court simply kicked it.

Olislagers said the airport board will meet in August and discuss any future steps.

“Unfortunately, it is very difficult to overturn a court decision when it has already been decided that we do not have standing,” he said. “The two remaining options are to seek a bench ruling or to go to the United States Supreme Court. Both are long and expensive processes.

About Theresa Burton

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