FAA displays new flight paths

John Scarffe, Boulder.  Boulder County residents from the city of Boulder, Nederland and Coal Creek Canyon crowded the Boulder Library’s Boulder Creek Room on Monday, April 17, beginning at 5:15 p.m. to see proposed flight paths for airplanes leaving from Front Range airports. The workshop was one of twelve the Federal Aviation Administrative is conducting in April and May 2017 on proposed airspace improvements in the Denver Metro Area.

The workshops are part of the Denver Metroplex effort, which is currently in the Design Phase, according to the Denver Metroplex website.


“Using data collected in the study phase, the Metroplex Program Team is re-designing flight paths and updating procedures to increase efficiency and improve operations in your area,” according to the website. The FAA is preparing an Environmental Assessment to document the potential environmental effects from optimizing aircraft routes while departing from or arriving to the Denver Metroplex area.

The Boulder Creek Room was set up with videos on Air Traffic 101, explaining the height needed for aircraft and that planes need 1,000 feet of separation. Displays showed previous and proposed flight routes. The old flight paths will be replaced by those using Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) to increase the separation of planes at takeoff and landing.

Experts from Denver International Airport and the FAA were available to answer questions about the displays. Michael Sutherland explained that the flights won’t be changing that much, but they will be attempting to gain altitude above 12,000 feet more quickly.


According to an FAA fact sheet, the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) is the ongoing modernization of the national airspace system. “NextGen is transforming air traffic control technologies and procedures by moving from ground-based navigation to satellite and GPS-based navigation and from analog to digital communications. We are fundamentally changing how we see, navigate and communicate with aircraft.”

A key goal is to improve the way aircraft navigate around complex, metropolitan areas by creating more efficient and direct flight paths, according to the fact sheet. “Using NextGen procedures in these areas could improve on-time performance, which would benefit the region and the entire national airspace system.”

Denver has been designated for a Metroplex project. Modifications will be made for arrivals and departures, and people living or working in the Denver Metropolitan Area may see adjustments to aircraft routings, according to the fact sheet. The Denver Metroplex Project would improve the efficiency of airspace in the Denver Metroplex area by optimizing aircraft arrival and departure procedures to and from various airports, including the Denver International Airport, Centennial Airport, Greeley-Weld County Airport, Fort Collins – Loveland Municipal Airport, Buckley Air Force Base, the Front Range Airport and the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport.

At the FAA workshops, written comments will be taken, and, after the last workshop on May 5, the procedures will be posted on the website and the electronic collection of comments will be open for 30 days, according to the FAA. The community feedback the FAA receives from these workshops will help the agency determine whether it should make changes to the preliminary designs before beginning the project’s draft Environmental Assessment.

Many of the residents at the Boulder presentation came to lodge complaints and to give the FAA their comments. A Gross Reservoir resident said: “I’ve been living with this for 22 years. How about doing us a favor and move those flights?”


According to a news release by Pamela Barsam Brown, in 2015, residents of South Boulder noticed a significant increase in DIA air traffic, and noise complaints were filed. The citizens compiled data and conservatively estimate air traffic has increased over parts of Boulder County by a factor of three since August 2014.

“The FAA’s current design, implemented without public notice to elected officials representing affected communities, has increased noise by concentrating air traffic in a narrow path,” Brown wrote. “Flights now occur as often as every two to three minutes. This first alliteration of airport noise, called the NextGen, has caused outcry across the nation and prompted communities to file law suits challenging the FAA’s plan and notification procedures.”

Brown advocates the ‘South Boulder Departure Path TWEAK.’  “This simple plan shifts this current noisy NextGen ‘FOOOT’ path to uninhabited areas of Rocky Flats. The plan saves time and fuel for the airlines and reduces this new and severe airport noise for up to 140,000 citizens. It also allows the FAA to come into compliance with NEPA noise policy for the Indian Peaks Wilderness.”

Brown sent the release, supporting materials and a suggested letter to the Nederland Board of Trustees, and at the Board’s April 18 meeting, the Board agreed to send the letter with copies to Senators Bennett and Gardner and Rep. Polis. It states:

“We are writing in support of the proposal put forth by Dr. Gerald Meehl regarding “tweaking” the location of the FOOOT pathway, moving it a bit south to avoid a direct passage over Boulder, Louisville, Nederland, and Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. The consolidation of air traffic in the FOOOT pathway to a narrow flight path has resulted in numerous noise complaints.

“We feel the ‘South Boulder Departure Path TWEAK’ is a reasonable solution to mitigating the noise disruption in population centers in Boulder County including Louisville and Nederland posed by the implementation of NextGen technology consolidating the FOOOT flightpath.”

According to Allen Kenitzer, FAA regional public affairs officer, those wishing to make comments to the FAA about NextGen or the Denver Metroplex effort can use the electronic comment form, which will be available on May 5, after the last Public Outreach meetings for the Proposed Procedures Preliminary Designs.


When the Draft Environmental Assessment is released for public review and comment, that announcement will include website and email information for submission of comments in conjunction with the Draft Environmental Assessment.

The URL to the website for submission of comments is:  http://www.faa.gov/nextgen/communityengagement. All the material at the public presentation also will be available on the website.