FAA taking comment on Vegas-area ‘NextGen’ flight path plans

LAS VEGAS — U.S. aviation officials are giving southern Nevada residents a chance to comment about new flight paths due to begin in 2020 in the skies over Las Vegas as part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s sweeping Next Generation Air Transportation System.

Current routes are safe, the FAA said, but modernizing takeoff and landing maps around North Las Vegas, Henderson Executive and McCarran International airports should cut airline fuel costs, reduce pollution, improve pilot and controller communication and increase efficiency.

The agency has posted documents online about its Las Vegas Metroplex plan, and has scheduled a series of public workshops next week at sites in and around Las Vegas. Nellis Air Force Base also is in the study area.

The FAA started in 2014 to revise flight paths and procedures around the country under its “NextGen” program.

It aims to use more precise, satellite-based navigation instead of decades-old beacon navigation technology to save time, increase the number of flights that airports can handle and reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

Projections are the modernization will cost about $40 billion through 2030, with more than half the cost borne by taxpayers and most of the rest by what the FAA terms airspace users.

Changes to flight paths have drawn criticism and noise complaints in some cities including Phoenix, where residents of historic neighbourhoods won a court fight and the FAA responded with changes to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport departure route.

Neighbours of airports in Orange County, California, and Washington, D.C., have also fought the agency over flights taking of at lower altitudes, in narrower paths and on more frequent schedules.

McCarran airport, located adjacent to the Las Vegas Strip, is among the 10 busiest airports in the U.S. based on the number of arriving and departing passengers served.

Complaints about aircraft noise have been fought in the past in Las Vegas, where the city waged a court battle against the FAA after the agency in 2007 began allowing aircraft to use departure climbing routes dubbed the “right turn” during McCarran takeoffs.

Opponents argued the route was unsafe because it directed hundreds of planes a day over densely populated neighbourhoods.

The Associated Press