LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The Federal Aviation Administration said it did not mislead neighbors living under a new flight path from Las Vegas’ Harry Reid International Airport, but the federal government will not answer specific questions about a slide depicting the new route.
The FAA’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. It also implemented a new departure procedure, where some planes take off from Runway 19 and then make a hard-right turn.
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.
Neighbors and county commissioners said they were told the new flight path for general aviation aircraft would not cause any impact. But the FAA classifies chartered and private flights in “general aviation.” Las Vegas is seeing more chartered aircraft with the arrival of the Las Vegas Raiders and other highly attended events.
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.
The FAA declined an on-camera interview for the 8 News Now Investigators’ initial May 16 report, but a spokesperson said planes have always departed from Runway 19. The 8 News Now Investigators asked for more information about the hard-right turn procedure, specifically about a slide shown to neighbors.
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. The shaded region and the apparent lack of flight history would indicate the new route would affect a new neighborhood.
The federal government would not answer the 8 News Now Investigators’ specific question about why the slide shows planes historically departing off a different runway and a shaded region for a new flight path.
“Going back to the Page 8 slide (It’s Page 9 on my PDF, the title says “LAS / HND / Proposed Departure Routes / South Flow: Runway 19 / RATPK / GIDGT”) — showing the proposed route and the existing radar tracks, there is the proposed route demarcation and the existing radar tracks,” 8 News Now Investigator David Charns asked the FAA’s public affairs office in several emails. “There are no radar tracks in the proposed-route shape, so how can the FAA write in its final report that “no new areas would be overflown” when clearly this proposed route shows a new route with no prior flight track history?”
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.
“As we explained before, the FAA was completely transparent about the changes we were proposing and ultimately implemented,” a spokesperson said about the 8 News Now Investigators’ question about the slide. “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.”
Neighbors previously told the 8 News Now Investigators that planes never flew over their homes and that they feel like the FAA misled them.
Other communities across the county with Metroplex projects have sued.