By Jack Mayne

The controversial decision that resulted in a great number of small commuter jets flying over west Burien at all hours has prompted the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco to ask the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to look again the need for the rule.

Burien City Attorney Lisa Marshall said at the Dec. 2 Burien City Council meeting that the Appeals Court issued an opinion(PDF file) last week regarding the FAA’s ongoing use of a turn to the west of Q400 light passenger aircraft is causing noise to city residents.

The FAA said the turn over the city was done to get slower moving light airliners out of the way of the large jet airliners that use the much more of the runways.

Arbitrary, capricious
Marshall said Burien argued in federal court that the change “was arbitrary and capricious because it does not consider reasonably foreseeable actions at Sea-Tac in its analysis…”

The recent Federal Court decision says it “was implausible that the FAA could not reasonably foresee whether there might potentially be cumulative impact” on the residents of Burien below the flight path. The federal appeals court sent the issue back to the FAA, telling it to consider “all reasonably foreseeable future actions, including those which may impact” the Burien residents.

Mayor Jimmy MattaMayor Jimmy Matta said he wanted to thank the Quiet Skies Coalition and the residents of West Burien and the city staff for putting the appeal together with the help of some lawyers familiar with dealing with the Ninth District Appeals Court in San Francisco.

Quiet Skies Coalition president Larry Cripe told the Council that he and the members of Quiet Skies “have been through a lot together.”

“I come before you tonight, three and a half years later where I first complained about the turns over the city,” he said, adding it was the Quiet Skies Coalition that brought that suit to the city. “We filed the initial suit and then handed it off to the city, for which we are very grateful that you chose to go forward with that.

“A lot of people thought it would be a waste of money, but I must tell you that … this victory, as thin as it might have been, we stand now ready to continue the fight which we started.”

Larry Cripe
Larry Cripe

He said he wanted to especially thank City Manager Brian Wilson and City Attorney Lisa Marshall “for the fine work they have done to carry this forward” and for allowing Quiet Skies to be part of the case and continuing the fight against the so-called Sustainable Master Plan for the growth of the airport.

“I must tell you, the City of Burien is leading this charge, we will continue, we have the experts,” he told the Burien Council.

The federal court of appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted the petition by Burien and directed the FAA to go back to the drawing board and consider the potential cumulative impact of future operations like the Burien Turn.

Cripe said in a memo to his members that “this is by no means the end of our fight (in fact in many ways it’s only the beginning) but this decision is a huge step forward, and it puts the FAA on notice that those who are most affected by the relentless expansion of airport operations across the county will not idly stand by and do nothing.”

Public Comment
Beyond the annual consideration of housekeeping and zoning rules and the general business, the Council also heard from its citizens.

Soraya Cervantes said “it was becoming discouraging” because of the low wages and the high cost of homes in Burien and “fortunately we found a home in the city of Kent” and said she “wanted to raise the awareness that the working class are driven out…”

Pamela Jorgensen thanked the Council for its “forward action,” on clean fuel standards, but then said “Please don’t institute back-in parking on SW 152nd Street.

Sarah Moore also supported the city’s backing of clean fuel standards.

The director of the Port of Seattle’s government relations, Nate Caminos, said the Port just passed its budget that will make transportation through the Port and the airport “more efficient and sustainable.”

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.