By Jack Mayne Because of loud noise from low flying prop-jet aircraft permitted by the Federal Aviation Administration, the city of Burien has laid out the specifics it wants the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to rule on during court actions in 2019 (download PDF here). Burien City attorney Lisa Marshall authored the city’s request for changes that it hopes will end the constant turning of noisy prop-jet planes over the residential areas of western Burien. The city and the citizen’s group Quiet Skies Coalition has an ongoing appeal of FAA actions to permit and, at times, require smaller prop-jet passenger aircraft to veer over city neighborhoods on takeoff from Sea-Tac Airport. The city filed its specifics with the court this past week. The regulatory administration’s so-called “new route” was once said to be permitted by a waiver of flight rules because of the annual visit to the area by the Blue Angels aerobatic team. Now the FAA says they can grant “categoric exclusions” and not do environmental studies to allow the flight changes. The federal appeals court will hear the matter at a date still not determined but the Court requires appellants to file its specifics in advance of the setting court hearings. “This Briefing represents a significant achievement,” Quiet Skies Coalition President Larry Cripe said in a statement. “It began with one resident simply saying ‘enough!’ Others got involved, they organized, informed the community, addressed the City Council, you members of the community demonstrated your support, the Council listened and then tried to negotiate with the FAA.  When negotiations failed, our City Manager and Attorney worked with the Quiet Skies Coalition and hired an attorney familiar with aviation issues to file a Petition opposing the ‘Burien Turn.'” What Burien wants Marshall said the appeals court request asks the court to decide if the FAA “arbitrarily and capriciously concluded the ‘new route’ fits within an existing Categorical Exclusion from National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) review.” That so-called “Categorical Exclusion” relies on the FAA applying “modification of currently approved procedures.” Marshall tells the appeals court, ”the New Route is not a “modification” because there was no “currently approved procedure” in place at the time of the New Route’s approval. The city wants the court to rule whether the “FAA arbitrarily and capriciously” relied on an exclusion from the requirements of a National Environmental Policy Act review. The city also asks the appeals court whether the FAA “failed properly to evaluate whether ‘extraordinary circumstances’ were present.” No alternative Burien also wants the court to decide whether the FAA “arbitrarily and capriciously” concluded that there wasn’t a reasonable alternative to the “New Route” over residential Burien because the “conclusion rests on an incomplete application of one of its own orders” and whether the FAA’s analysis was premised on “assumptions contrary to those employed in the agency’s analysis of environmental consequences.” The city told the federal appeals court says that in recent years the airport has “grown quickly and somewhat unexpectedly,” with the FAA reporting there has been “approximately a 33 percent increase in operations at Sea-Tac since 2010, most of which has occurred since 2014” when Sea-Tac was the 14th busiest airport in the United States. City Attorney Marshall’s submission told the appeals court that by 2016 Sea-Tac had become the ninth busiest. “This growth includes a 20 percent increase in use of the Bombardier Q400, the principal turboprop turned west in over Burien during times takeoffs and and landing were to the north, the “North Flow conditions.” The Burien court filing told the Appeals Court that “although Sea-Tac is ‘essentially at capacity during daytime hours,’ additional growth is expected.” “To accommodate this growth, the FAA created an internal workgroup ‘to determine how to best manage southbound turboprops departing (Sea-Tac) in north flow.” Burien told the 9th Circuit court that “although the record contains little information about the workgroup’s participants and proceedings … first, the focus of the group was on increasing throughput and capacity; and second, the New Route was developed as part of the group’s activities.” ‘Substantional noise impacts’ The New Route eliminates the traditional coordination, but instead “it calls for turboprops to be ‘automatically’ turned to a 250-degree heading.” The “new route imposed substantial noise impacts on city parks, schools, residential neighborhoods, and other noise-sensitive areas. The City and its residents spent considerable time and effort trying to obtain from the FAA information about the New Route and its impacts. The FAA did not provide a formal, substantive response until December 16, 2016, at which point it refused to reconsider the new route.” With no other option, “the city filed a review in the federal appeals court.”]]>

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