FAA halts flight path changes for the Twin Cities airport

Twin Cities residents opposed to revised flight paths at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have won a victory in their attempt to block changes that would have concentrated noise over some homes in South Minneapolis and Edina.

The FAA has decided not to implement a plan that would have required departing aircraft to follow narrower routes on departure.

The proposed concentration of airplanes along flight paths is part of a Federal Aviation Administration plan to modernize the nation's air traffic system. If the plan were fully implemented, it would have resulted in less noise for most people around the airport but more noise for some, said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan.

The FAA decision goes beyond the recommendation of the Metropolitan Airports Commission. The MAC had supported the changes except for departures to the northwest from the airport's two main runways. That would have avoided increasing noise for some homes in South Minneapolis and Edina while reducing it for most homes to the south and east of the airport. There was a groundswell of opposition to the plan after it was announced in 2012.

The FAA decided that implementing the new system, known as Area Navigation or RNAV, only for certain runway departures, was not safe enough.

The agency will adopt RNAV procedures for arrivals, but a statement from the MAC indicates that won't change where planes fly.

"Arriving aircraft have to line up with runway headings whether or not they use RNAV, so flight paths will not change under an RNAV approach process," the commission said.

The MAC says the RNAV landing procedures will reduce noise and air emissions because aircraft will perform a stepped descent, and will remain at higher altitudes longer: "Once they begin descending, [aircraft will] continue to do so with the engines in an idle configuration until landing. Staying higher longer with the engines at an idle setting reduces noise impacts and emissions."

In 2013 there were, on average, 592 daily departures at the Twin Cities airport.

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