LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Neighbors living near Harry Reid International Airport are fed up with planes flying over their homes, something they said they did not agree to when the federal government implemented new flight procedures.
The Federal Aviation Administration’s Las Vegas Metroplex Project went into effect in February 2021. The project was meant to streamline and secure the airspace in and out of Las Vegas.
The 8 News Now Investigators gathered a few dozen neighbors who all live southwest of the airport and who said since Metroplex’s enactment, loud planes constantly fly over their properties. Specifically, the neighbors live in Western Trails near Warm Springs Road and Decatur Boulevard.
“There are days when it’s endless,” Ed Reed said. Reed moved into the area 45 years ago. His home is farther west on Warm Springs Road toward Rainbow Boulevard.
“It quickly evolved into something a lot more,” Reed said.
A new flight path takes some general aviation flights departing from Runway 19 from the airport above the southwest valley. The planes are then required to make a right-hand turn toward the northwest as they leave the airspace.
The reason for the change, according to a preliminary document for the project, was to eliminate “the need to taxi across two runways to depart” and simplify workflow. A slide about the proposed change to the airport’s southern traffic flow cites a “challenge” of “high air traffic controller workloads” and a “solution” of “some general aviation aircraft” using Runway 19.
“All flight tracks would remain within historic flight tracks,” the FAA’s record of decision said. “Therefore, no new areas would be overflown.”
“I just wanted you to know I write everything down,” neighbor Karin Borgman said. Borgman moved into her house in 1988. Borgman notates every loud plane, phoning an airport hotline to complain.
“I’ve been able to read the word Delta on the bottom of a plane and I’m blinder than a bat,” Borgman said.
Neighbors and county commissioners said they were told a new flight path for general aviation aircraft would not cause any impact. But the FAA classifies chartered and private flights in that umbrella, neighbors, and commissioners said. Las Vegas is seeing more chartered aircraft with the arrival of the Las Vegas Raiders.
General aircraft park on the west side of the airport next to Las Vegas Boulevard and are closer to that runway, necessitating the need for the planes to taxi across “two busy runways,” documents said.
“We were kind of promised one thing and they’re doing something else,” neighbor Casey Baugess said. “I feel like we were lied to.”
“What would you equate that noise to?” 8 News Now Investigator David Charns asked Baugess.
“It’s kind of like a giant semi-truck driving down the freeway and you’re just standing there,” he said.
The FAA declined an on-camera interview, but a spokesperson said planes have always departed from Runway 19.
“While the route is primarily for general aviation aircraft, the FAA also assigns it to airlines when wind conditions prevent them from safely departing other runways.”
“I know that when my neighbors in my district heard ‘GA,’ they were thinking smaller planes, hobbyist planes,” Commissioner Michael Naft said. Naft’s district includes the overflown area.
“We’re kind of confused as to why they’re still doing this plan, why they’re not listening to the community,” Baugess said.
While it is certainly true that the Las Vegas valley expanded around the airport, the flight paths have changed since the airport’s founding in the 1940s. Older flight paths took into consideration less-populated or industrial-focused areas, records showed.
Representatives from the FAA gave a presentation to Clark County commissioners about the project and neighbors’ concerns during a commission meeting in late 2021.
“I’m far from satisfied on this,” Naft said.
“We don’t have the manpower to meet with individual homeowners’ associations or neighborhoods,” a representative from the FAA told the panel.
“That is just not an acceptable excuse from a policymaker or a government official to say, ‘No we don’t meet with everyday citizens,’” Naft said.
At the time, Naft said the flight path had more than 1,500 inappropriate uses between February 2021 and the fall meeting. The airport nor the FAA could provide an updated number as of Monday.
During their 2021 presentation, FAA officials said the new procedures save about 2 gallons of jet fuel and about 30-40 seconds of flight time on average.
The FAA also said the procedure affecting the southwest neighbors was part of a wide-ranging environmental study and sound model. That model, run before the 2020 U.S. Census, used population data from 2010.
Since then, the population in the ZIP Code southwest of the airport has increased by 38%. The number of homes in the ZIP Code increased 20% from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Baugess bought his home not expecting planes flying right overhead.
“Yes, we did choose to live near the airport, but the flight paths had been established for I don’t know how long,” he said. “We have two small children and it’s woken them up in the middle of the night before and they’re wondering, ‘Is the plane going to land on the house?’”
The 8 News Now Investigators reviewed old flight plans for departures off Runway 19 and could find no evidence of a hard-right turn in previous pilot guidance.
In addition, the FAA’s sound study kept the types of planes in their sound model the same for making changes versus making no changes, even though the “solution” to the ground-traffic program included diverting more general aviation aircraft – possibly more small jets and chartered larger planes – on that runway.
The FAA’s sound study ultimately determined “the proposed air traffic procedures do not change runway use.” There is no indication in any document the 8 News Now Investigators review that the immediate right-hand turn was considered as part of an environmental or sound study.
“They’re paid for by taxpayer dollars and they ought to be accountable,” Naft said.
The FAA made changes in the initial months after Metroplex’s implementation, including working with airlines and pilots to make a Runway 19 departure and right-hand turn a last resort. for commercial aviation.
“So now, they’re finding this little gray area where it’s a private plane but it’s a 747,” Baugess said.
Neighbors and the county are left to put up with the noise as the federal government appears to be silent.
“I would expect some sort of empathy from them,” Baugess said.
“The Las Vegas Metroplex project did not change runway usage,” a spokesperson for the FAA added. “The FAA was completely transparent about the changes we were proposing and ultimately implemented. We explained the proposed changes to the Runway 19 departures on display boards that we showed at our public workshops and posted on our website.”
“When the FAA completed its Las Vegas Metroplex Project in 2021, it published an airspace route for general aviation,” a spokesperson for the airport said. “Larger aircraft that may look similar to commercial fleet utilize this route due to being chartered services, but they fall under general aviation guidelines. Overall, as a region, we have seen a large growth in our overall general aviation traffic, especially with large events at Allegiant Stadium. However, there are occasions when the FAA may necessitate that commercial airlines use this route under certain circumstances such as wind and weather conditions, airfield construction activity, navigational aid, and traffic capacity. The FAA manages the air traffic control tower to create the most efficient and safe operations using the published routes available.”
A spokesperson for the airport said the Department of Aviation had received 52 Metroplex-related complaints since February 2021. The FAA said it has received 22 complaints since February 2021.
Documents indicate the airport received 104 total complaints overall in March 2023 with several clustered in the southwest neighborhood. In February 2023, the airport received 68 total complaints, which marked a 43% decrease from February 2022 but a 300% increase from 2021, records showed. One household called 16 times.
The FAA noted the number of flights arriving and departing from the airport has increased dramatically since 2020 as the pandemic waned with traffic up nearly 80%, a spokesperson said.
The airport’s noise complaint hotline is 702-261-3694.