Quiet Skies Coalition says noisy flights over Burien still a ‘Work In Progress’


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By Jack Mayne

Any “comprehensive resolution” to the continuation of noisy propjet flights over Burien remains a work-in-progress, and any decisions by the Federal Aviation Administration remain up in the air, according to the latest newsletter from Burien’s Quiet Skies Coalition.

The coalition was formed in Burien because the FAA invoked an annual “air space adjustment” that involved the yearly visit by the Navy’s Blue Angels for Seafair in 2016. The FAA conducts semi-annual reviews of its “letter of authorization” updating procedures to comply with revised guidance and operational issues.

Then the FAA withdrew the paragraph that directed traffic to the 250-degree path over Burien after the city filed a petition with the 9th Circuit court in San Francisco. The city and Quiet Skies believed the FAA did not comply with environmental act requirements. The U.S. Department of Justice reviewed the petition and directed the FAA to delete the 250-degree paragraph until they complied with environmental rules.

Later it withdrew that requirement, but told its Seattle-Tacoma International Airport flight controllers to make decisions to redirect flights over Burien based on current traffic and weather conditions. Many of the Q400 turboprops planes are sent over the city, causing residents below to curse the noise and the impact on their lives.

The Q400 turboprop planes were directed over Burien when the wind at SeaTac was from the north as planes take off and land into the wind. That “north flow” wind is prevalent in the winter but can occur any time of the year. The air controllers are attempting to clear runways quickly so that larger airliners can land during busy periods.

Resident responses
The latest Quiet Skies newsletter says the FAA is currently “reviewing approximately 756 responses” submitted by Burien residents and other interested people to a “Preliminary Environmental Analysis” the administration had posted for comment on their “NexGen” website – “NexGen” means next generation of its handling of aircraft at fast-growing airports line SeaTac.

“We are not sure when all the comments will have been reviewed nor what effect our comments will have on their actions,” says the Quiet Skies newsletter.

Quiet Skies says its members forwarded the environmental analysis to the Seattle office of the federal Environmental Protection Agency “for their expert comment on the format and content.”

“The EPA kindly reviewed the FAA’s Preliminary Environmental Assessment and forwarded their comments to both the FAA and the Quiet Skies,” the newsletter says.

The result, it says, were “areas for significant improvement and certain items were omitted” that were pointed out to the FAA.

Justifying plane turns
But Quiet Skies says there “are indications” that the agency may be planning to issue a “Categorical Exclusion” justifying the turns over Burien.

“If they do, we expect the city to challenge the legitimacy” of the preliminary environmental assessment.

Last winter, Quiet Skies brought the matter to the Burien City Council that had the financial means to support hiring experienced lawyers to battle the FAA, so the Quiet Skies case became the City of Burien’s legal case.

The city hired the Dentons law firm’s San Francisco office. Dentons bills itself as “a global law firm … with the competitive edge in an increasingly complex and interconnected marketplace.”

Dentons immediately petitioned the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco “related to our grievance against the FAA.”

Quiet Skies said, “even though the FAA has reversed its directive, the petition remains in effect, subject to mediation efforts.”

The 9th Circuit Court is the busiest federal appeals court in the nation and it “prefers to allow the parties to a petition to attempt to resolve their differences before the case goes before the judges.”

Quiet Skies newsletter says its petition “is currently a work in progress.”

Seeking a Solution
Quiet Skies said that on July 25, Burien City Attorney Lisa Marshall and City Manager Brian Wilson and the Denton’s lawyer, Matthew Adams, “met with approximately twelve FAA personnel to discuss possible solutions.”

But Quiet Skies was “not allowed to attend the meeting” and if they did, “the FAA would cancel the meeting,” so it opted out because there was “more to gain by having the meeting.”

Marshall and Wilson later met with Quiet Skies and discussed the points the FAA had raised in the meeting.

Now Burien City Attorney Marshall and Matt Adams of Dentons Law Firm “are drafting a letter to the FAA thanking the FAA for the meeting and asking several additional questions.”

Over flights are back
Quiet Skies writes that they monitored the propjet Q400 departures.

“The conclusion, although they have rescinded the procedure for an automatic turn to 250 degrees (which sent the aircraft over Burien) … they have replaced that procedure with one that allows controllers to arbitrarily decide each Q400 departure path to the west over Burien.”

While having controllers deciding takeoff route “is a more or less traditional way of doing business for the FAA,” Quiet Skies says changes are needed.

“We believe (the) process needs to be replaced with a procedure that conforms to the National Environmental Policy Act.”

Quiet Skies says that if the FAA issues a categorical exception for the flights turned over Burien, Marshall’s “current position” is that “the 250-degree heading violates” environmental policy law and that the 756 comments provided the FAA are a very good indication that the impacts to residents are “significant” thereby requiring the completion of an environmental assessment.

Read our extensive previous coverage of this issue here.

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Comments

8 Responses to “Quiet Skies Coalition says noisy flights over Burien still a ‘Work In Progress’”
  1. odubya23 says:

    Yeah, but the Quiet Skies Coalition took people’s donations like they could do something with them. I wonder, if it should turn out that a people’s body of pissed-off homeowners has no legal sway over what the FAA does and does not do, will they return the money they begged out of Burienites for a lawyer that should have known better in the first place?

    Rate: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 25

    • Clean it up! says:

      So odubya23, you are saying we should just rollover and let the airport continue to degrade our quality of life and property value?

      Rate: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 4

      • odubya23 says:

        Well, first off, being an Army Brat I find the passing planes somewhat reassuring. It reminds me of when I grew up on bases all over the world. Secondly, not being a home owner I don’t feel that this nebulous concept of “property value” is really being impacted in any meaningful way. And if it is, it’s one more thing keeping the techies out of Burien and pricing me out of my own home.

        Rate: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 18

      • Dave says:

        Your comments sound like you have an issue with a legal challenge? Are you in the industry or an airline lobbyist? Haven’t you said before that people should just move away? So do you think an industrial polluter should be able to ruin the lives and health of its neighbors?
        The FAA violated the law and the court agreed. This is the best thing that could possibly happen in a battle against airport encroachment at a mere few dollars per affected household. Maybe you think courts and lawyers should be free? You sound pro industry and anti community, who do you work for?

        Rate: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4

    • Shari says:

      Hmmm. So I guess you ask the American Cancer Society to refund your donations at the end of every year in which they don’t discover the cure?

      Rate: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  2. Captain obvious says:

    I think in this situation its up to the people that donated money to that group to get there money back if they want. I think just because they can’t be a part of one meeting is not a reason to give up. But I also don’t how this effects the whole city of burien.

    If the financial out come of this is worth it. If the problem is as bad as some say it is or if it’s a over dramatization of a situation like we have seen so many times.

    Clean it up your issues with the port as you explained in the passed are a little different issue than what the quite skies group is fighting about.

    If I remember correctly your issue is about the port buying up property’s and closing schools and possibly lowering your appraisal value of your property. Not the noise from plains over the seahurst neighborhood and the south west corner of burien. As you explained you live near the NERA area that is located on the south east corner of burien near the airport on the north side of 518.

    Rate: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  3. David Silver says:

    Seattle gets a lot of noise from the airport also

    Rate: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Seahurst resident says:

    When you donate to a non-profit there is no guarantee of any outcome. They can do whatever they want with it, however they will need to proof their reliability. It looks like they did their best and continue to do so.

    What is more troubling is that the city spend tax dollars on this. Ironically to save flights over West Burien to direct over North Burien. The North Burienites have a reason to really mad about this.

    Any sane person would have considered that the FAA won’t give a damn and that turbo props would be outdated over time to resolve the issue anyway. Spend your money wisely and donate to good causes.

    Rate: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1