It’s the noise and disruption from aircraft that residents say is changing their lives. On Monday those residents from a big section of north Miami-Dade were in federal court, taking on the Federal Aviation Administration to get the flight paths changed out of Miami International Airport.
Daily, the number of passengers flying in and out of MIA grows — record numbers were reached over the Memorial Day weekend. The flights, most of the time, take off to the east towards Interstate 95.
“Every minute, every two minutes, there is an airplane over my head. I fall asleep to airplanes. I wake up to airplanes," Karen Deleon said.
Deleon lives in North Miami and was one of the residents who went to federal court Monday. Her hope is a return to a quiet sky above.
“It’s gotten worse over the last year,” she said.
Only NBC 6 was there for the hearing, where three judges from the Federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals listened. The City of North Miami, and the other cities, towns, and villages nearby are joining hands to battle the FAA over new flight routes residents say bring a lot more noise.
“We just want them to follow the rules,” said Joshua Fuller, the mayor of Bay Harbor Islands who spoke to NBC 6 outside the courthouse. “We are not super-high buildings, nevertheless brand new buildings with hurricane glass still have residents with shaking inside their individual units. They can’t enjoy their homes.”
The flights used to come out of MIA and go further east over the Atlantic before they made a turn to the northwest. Now, under the new flight routes, this is what happens: the planes turn over or near the Intracoastal, which residents say puts them over more homes and lower when overhead.
The FAA officially told NBC 6 from Washington they don’t comment on court cases underway but said the new routes are part of the modern air traffic control and route system called NextGen that is designed to streamline air routes, improve communications with controllers, and make flying safer. It’s all based on satellite navigation and removing the ground-based navigation built after WWII.
The residents' technical legal argument is that the FAA didn’t conduct fair and accurate audio tests and ignored the actual environmental impacts the change brings.
“We have challenged the FAA and the flight paths to protect Biscayne Bay," said Laura Reynolds of the Friends of Biscayne Bay. "We are asking for a full environmental impact statement because, in part, the flights are now going over the critical wildlife area, the aquatic preserve, which we are charged to protect."
The FAA attorney told the court they notified the cities, towns, and required departments in the state, and gave everyone a chance to respond at public hearings. That’s a claim the residents dispute, and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson opened the door for more of them to have a say over a year ago.
“I want them to go back to the true historical route," Deleon said after the hearing. "The true historical route is the smartest route. It impacts the fewest amount of people and its safest.”
The attorney representing the FAA Monday chose not to talk to NBC 6 after the hearing. The appellate court will now take a look at all of the arguments presented and come up with a ruling that may take several weeks or months.
Below is the FAA's full statement:
The South-Central Florida Metroplex improved the flow of air traffic into and out of 21 airports in Florida by making the airspace safer and more efficient. The project added new, more efficient air traffic procedures. Most are satellite-based but several are conventional procedures based on radar and other ground-based navigational aids. Many of the prior air traffic procedures in Florida were outdated. Older procedures were inefficient because they relied on ground-based systems, which limited available flight paths, required inefficient climbs and descents, or occupied the same airspace. Satellite-based procedures allow for fixed routes, altitudes, and aircraft speed. Precise flight tracks help keep routes automatically separated from one another. The initiative focused on four major international airports, where operations have a direct effect throughout the National Airspace System: Miami (MIA), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (FLL), Orlando (MCO) and Tampa (TPA) international airports. It also included smaller reliever and satellite airports. The FAA began working on the South-Central Florida Metroplex in 2012, and after a pause to reevaluate the project scope, resumed work in 2017. The agency gathered public input on the project at more than 30 public workshops across the study area in 2019 and 2020. Metroplex was implemented on April 22 and August 12, 2021.