A plan to alter the path of airplanes that takeoff and land at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport was OK'd by a Metropolitan Airports Commission committee Wednesday.
Officials with the Federal Aviation Administration say the plan will help aircraft navigate the skies more efficiently, saving time and fuel. But some people who live under the proposed flight paths worry about additional noise.
The MAC Noise Oversight Committee was tasked with deciding if the FAA's new navigation plan met certain noise-related criteria. The committee evaluated whether the plan would reduce the number of flights over residential areas and reduce plane noise, and if they felt residents in the affected areas were properly informed of the proposal.
MAC manager Chad Leqve said he received a lot of feedback from residents after more than 300 people attended two open houses in the last week.
"The perspectives range from maybe positive — if they lived in an area where maybe there wasn't a track — to those who had a significant amount of concern if they happened to live under the procedure tracks or in an area where a procedure track is being proposed," Leqve said.
MAC officials say the new navigation procedure will help planes fly more precise flight patterns, which will also mean more planes will follow the same path to and from the airport.
But that worries people like Michelle Mogin, who lives in the Fulton neighborhood in southwest Minneapolis. Mogin said she tried to look up flight plan maps on the MAC's website to find out how many planes are going to fly over her neighborhood, but unable to determine that from the information on the website.
"I hear this gentleman say there's going to be virtually no change at all. I hear other people say that flights are going to increase over my house from one or two per day to about 150 per day," Mogin said. "I don't know what the answer is, but I know I'm not informed. And I think there's a lot of people who feel exactly the same way I do."
Mogin asked the committee to slow down the process and allow residents to learn more about the proposal before moving forward.
"I found out about this at the bus stop with the other moms that were just absolutely gobsmacked that this thing was happening, so quickly and we had no idea it was going on," Mogin said.
The committee voted 10-1 in support of the new proposal. The lone opposing vote came from Minneapolis City Councilmember John Quincy, who said the FAA's new plan failed to meet four of the five criteria established by the committee.
Quincy said most importantly, the FAA and MAC did not give the public enough time to learn about the plan. Quincy said the FAA's timetable clashed with many other big events.
"Especially around election time, cities working on budget issues, the residents are all contemplating Thanksgiving — there's really a lot of time that is really needed to digest the information, process it and come up with alternatives. And that transparency and feedback I think is important for residents to be a part of."
The MAC will vote on the plan next week. However, Quincy said the commission will not necessarily have a say on whether the plan will be implemented. The FAA wants the MAC to agree to send a letter of support by the end of this month. If that requirement is not met by the deadline, MAC officials say the FAA will have to delay the navigation plan by more than a year.