Scottsdale vs. the FAA – the Bill for the Ongoing Fight is Getting Bigger

Flight paths. Photo Credit:

Prolonged legal battles with the federal government are expensive…very, very expensive. And the city of Scottsdale is learning that firsthand as their latest bill has come due in their battle against the FAA over flight patterns over Scottsdale.

Recent uncovered records show that the city approved a $175,000 contract for legal representation for this suit last year. The issue dates back to 2014, when a change in flight paths led to a suit about quality of life issues that the changes imposed onto the city. This led to a significant amount of local activism, including the formation of the Scottsdale Coalition for Airplane Noise Abatement (SCANA), with the very succinct URL of

Aside from the legal battles, the city of Scottsdale spent at least nearly $84,000 in lobbying the FAA via firm Covington and Burling LLC. Senators Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema performed at least nominal efforts to get the FAA to reconsider, to no avail.

The FAA is stating that the changes that Scottsdale is asking for, avoiding flying over the city entirely, is too draconian. It also states that it gathered public input in 2019, but announced at the beginning of 2020 that it did not intend to change its flight plans. According to the FAA, “Scottsdale has offered no cognizable reason to abandon statutorily required and now-longstanding flight procedures that improve safety and increase airspace efficiency,”

Clearly this typifies the difficult balance inherent when the federal government intersects with local government, and more overarchingly the concept of federalism. But it also defines the disdain that many have with the federal government: that they do not care about the needs of those that they oversee. Obviously it is a delicate balance, weighing local preferences with the desire for efficient routes for flying, something that most of us can appreciate. But it is unfortunate that the public voice must come at such a significant cost to taxpayers, one likely lost in the mire of government bureaucracy, and left to the whims of a system that couldn’t care less about the people it oversees.