Fly Friendly Program - Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the City of Mesa doing to reduce noise over
- How much of a priority is this for the City?
- Why does the City need the federal and
state grant funds for the airport?
- When do aircraft make the most noise?
- Who regulates the pilots?
- Who should I contact about low-flying
- What are the rules regarding how low an
aircraft can fly over a residential area?
- Can the City fine pilots who don’t comply
with the noise abatement procedures?
- Why don't aircraft fly over the desert to
the north and northeast of the airport instead of over
- When is the airport open?
- Why doesn't the City of Mesa have curfews
or restrictions similar to those at other airports such as
Scottsdale, Burbank and Orange County?
- How can I file a noise complaint?
- What happens when I file a noise
- What are the City’s future development
plans for the Falcon Field Airport?
- Will Falcon Field Airport have commercial
airline service in the future?
- Why can’t aircraft be diverted away from
flying over my house?
- Why do we have to have so many airports in
Phoenix? Why can’t everyone just use Phoenix Sky
Harbor or Phoenix-Mesa Gateway?
- Who is ultimately responsible for aircraft
noise and safety?
- Where can I find more information about
Falcon Field Airport’s Fly Friendly Program?
What is the City of Mesa doing to reduce noise over
The proximity of the airport to residential areas makes some
level of exposure to aircraft noise inevitable. However,
the City is striving to minimize this as much as possible, while
still serving the needs of the airport tenants and users by
developing and implementing the ‘Fly Friendly’ noise abatement
program at Falcon Field Airport.
Although the City owns and operates the airport, it has no legal
authority to restrict certain aircraft types or users from using
the airport. Also, since it receives federal and state
funding for airport capital improvement projects that help to
keep the airport open and safe, it must remain open to the
public and to any and all types of aircraft and users. However,
the City can create voluntary noise abatement procedures and
encourage pilots to use these procedures as much as possible
without jeopardizing their safety.
In 2009, a set of 20 voluntary noise abatement recommendations
were developed by a City of Mesa Ad Hoc Task Force. The
task force was comprised of airport tenants and businesses as
well as members of the community. These recommendations can be
The City has embraced these recommendations and has been
successful in implementing the majority of them. It is
still working on implementing others, since some of them take
more time and resources to implement.
The City’s implementation role in the ‘Fly Friendly’ Program is
focused on communication. By continually communicating its
‘Fly Friendly’ initiatives to appropriate parties, it is leading
the way in a cultural change among airport tenants and users
that embraces the use of the voluntary noise abatement
procedures whenever possible. In order to make others aware of
the voluntary noise abatement program, the City has contacted
the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), pilots who do not
base their aircraft at the airport, other Arizona airports,
fixed base operators at other airports who provide services to
Falcon Field users, flight training academies/schools located at
other airports in the Phoenix area, and various other aviation
businesses. It will soon be contacting licensed real
estate brokers who market and sell homes near the airport.
How much of a priority is this for the City?
Minimizing aircraft noise so that neighbors can enjoy
an excellent quality of life is very important to the City.
However, safety is always the first priority. This includes the
safety of the aircraft pilot and passengers.
Why does the City need the federal and state grant
funds for the airport?
Most airport capital improvements are expensive. The City is not
in a financial position to fund all of these improvements itself
and must seek assistance from the FAA and the State of Arizona
to fund design and construction of these improvements. Many of
these improvements are safety-related.
When do aircraft make the most noise?
Most noise complaints originate when an aircraft is either
taking off or landing. Since individuals have a wide
range of sensitivity to noise, aircraft noise may affect some
people more than others. Also, the noise level can vary
depending upon a number of other factors. These include, but are
not limited to:
- Aircraft type and size. A common
misconception is that the larger the aircraft, the louder
they are. However this is not necessarily the case.
Many newer aircraft have state-of-the art engines which are
designed to limit their noise output.
- Aircraft load. Passenger and fuel loads
can affect noise levels. Heavily loaded aircraft
generally climb more slowly, thereby increasing the noise
- Weather. Aircraft may appear to
be noisier during the following weather conditions:
- Cooler days when windows are open and people are
- Hot summer months. An aircraft’s ability to
gain altitude quickly decreases when outdoor
temperatures are high. The aircraft remain lower
for a longer period of time and need more power to
- Low cloud cover. Sound resonates back to the
ground instead of disbursing throughout the atmosphere.
- When the air is cool and dry the air molecules are
closer together, causing sound to travel longer
distances and to seem louder.
- Time of Day. Nighttime or early morning
aircraft operations may have a greater noise effect because
of the absence of other sounds heard throughout the day from
such things as automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, lawn
mowers, televisions and loud music.
Who regulates the pilots?
The FAA regulates pilots. Pilots must complete a
certain amount of training before the FAA will issue a pilot’s
license. The FAA also regulates flight training schools
and academies, aircraft manufacturers, aircraft maintenance and
repair businesses, and its own FAA air traffic control tower
personnel. There are substantial consequences for those who fail
to comply with FAA rules and regulations. In extreme cases it
could result in the loss of their pilot or operating licenses
and/or substantial fines.
Who should I contact about low-flying planes?
The FAA regulates aircraft when they are flying. if you
think that an aircraft is flying unsafely, contact the FAA
Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) at (480) 419-0111.
What are the rules regarding how low an aircraft can fly
over a residential area?
Aircraft altitude requirements are established by the FAA. It is
important to remember that most aircraft operating near the
airport are in the process of landing or taking off. In
these cases, FAA regulations regarding altitude do not apply
because they want the aircraft to be sure to take off and land
When aircraft are lining up with other aircraft to land at the
airport, they should be flying at or above the following
- Small single-engine & multi-engine aircraft (most
propeller aircraft): 1,006 feet above the ground
- High-performance aircraft (jets): 1,506 feet above
- Helicopters: 506 feet above the ground
Can the City fine pilots who don’t comply with the
noise abatement procedures?
The FAA prohibits the City from fining a pilot who chooses not
to use the noise abatement procedures. This is why the City is
promoting a ‘Fly Friendly’ culture among all tenants and users
of the airport so that they will choose to comply with the
Why don't aircraft fly over the desert to the north and
northeast of the airport instead of over residential
Because there are many aircraft flying in the Phoenix
metropolitan area, it is often necessary for aircraft to fly
over residential areas in order to avoid flying into other
aircraft. The weather also plays an important role in
determining where an aircraft flies.
Aircraft normally take off and land into the wind for safety
reasons. Whenever the winds are calm (5 knots or less), pilots
are asked by the FAA air traffic control tower to use the
runways that send the aircraft over Longbow Golf Course, the
commercial/industrial areas to the north, and the Salt River in
order to minimize their effect on residential areas. However, if
the winds are blowing from the southwest, pilots will take off
and land to the southwest so that they are flying into the wind.
Regardless of the direction of the wind or which runway is used,
aircraft often fly over some homes simply because the airport is
located in a major metropolitan area where there are many homes.
When is the airport open?
The FAA requires the Falcon Field Airport to remain open to the
public 24 hours per day, 7 days per week on a non-discriminatory
Why doesn't the City of Mesa have curfews or
restrictions similar to those at other airports such as
Scottsdale, Burbank and Orange County?
Prior to 1990, some local governments passed restrictions on
aircraft in flight. In 1990, Congress passed the Airport Noise
and Capacity Act of 1990 that makes it extremely difficult for
airports to impose curfews and other noise and access
restrictions. However, restrictions that were already in place
at airports prior to the Act becoming law were "grandfathered"
in. Since some airports already had restrictions in place,
they were allowed to remain in effect. In Falcon Field’s case,
no restrictions existed prior to 1990. The following link
contains the full text of this Act:
How can I file a noise complaint?
You can file a noise complaint on Falcon Field Airport’s
You can also submit a complaint by calling the City’s ‘Fly
Friendly’ Program comment line at (480) 644-6647.
What happens when I file a noise complaint?
All comments received are entered into a database, and whenever
possible, they are matched up with a particular aircraft event.
The City is in the process of purchasing additional tools to
increase its flight tracking capabilities so that it can improve
its capability of identifying the circumstances associated with
a particular noise complaint. In the meantime, if you file a
noise complaint, it is important that you provide as much
information as possible about the date, time of day, description
of the aircraft (including the number on the tail) and what
occurred. Because the City is a government agency, your comment
or complaint is subject to public inspection through the Freedom
of Information Act (FOIA).
What are the City’s future development plans for the
Falcon Field Airport?
The airport does not have room to expand from its current
geographic size. However, the vacant land within the airport
boundaries will eventually be developed for aviation purposes.
To learn more about future plans, go to the following website
Will Falcon Field Airport have commercial airline
service in the future?
Phoenix Sky Harbor International and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway
airports are the primary commercial service airports in the
Phoenix metropolitan area. Because these airports are able to
accommodate commercial airlines now and in the future, it is
unlikely that Falcon Field will ever have this type of service.
Why can’t aircraft be diverted away from flying over my
The FAA Air Traffic Control Division manages the airspace at and
around airports, including Falcon Field. In addition to Falcon
Field, there are several other airports nearby that also have
aircraft landing and taking off (Phoenix Sky Harbor
International, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway, Chandler and Scottsdale).
Each airport is assigned a specific airspace area in which their
customers can fly so that they don’t overlap with each other.
Since there is a limit to the total amount of airspace allotted
to each airport, aircraft will invariably fly over homes located
near them. For a view of the airspace over the Phoenix
metropolitan area, see the following link:
The areas in yellow are those that experience large volumes of
Once a pilot communicates with the FAA air traffic control
tower, the aircraft is under the control of the FAA and the
pilot. However, the City can monitor noise-sensitive areas and
work with the FAA and pilots to encourage them to avoid flying
over residential areas as much as possible as long as it is safe
for them to do so.
Why do we have to have so many airports in Phoenix?
Why can’t everyone just use Phoenix Sky Harbor or Phoenix-Mesa
Since the Phoenix metropolitan area is so highly
populated, there is a greater demand for airport facilities than
can currently be met. Therefore, the FAA encourages cities
like Mesa to operate and maintain airports, like Falcon Field,
to relieve the amount of traffic and congestion that would occur
if there were only one or two airports in the region. Without
these ‘reliever’ airports, there would be higher safety risks
Also, Falcon Field Airport plays a key role in maintaining
the economic health of Mesa. It connects residents and
businesses to state, regional, national and international
markets. The airport contributes approximately $2.3
billion each year to the local economy and helps to attract new
businesses and jobs to the area.
Who is ultimately responsible for aircraft noise and
Falcon Field Airport is part of the FAA National Air
Transportation System and plays a vital role in the local,
regional and national aviation system. However, many different
organizations and individuals share responsibility for the
success of a noise abatement program. In Falcon Field’s case,
the City is just one of many responsible parties. Other
responsible parties include:
1. The Federal Government
The National Air Transportation System exists primarily through
the creation of federal legislation. The Federal Aviation
Act of 1958 established the management of navigable airspace as
a federal responsibility. Every facet of it is governed by the
FAA. The FAA controls aircraft noise through:
2. State of Arizona.
- Establishing aircraft noise emissions standards.
Aircraft are certified by the FAA for various levels of
noise emissions. All newly manufactured jet aircraft are
certified to quiet "Stage 3" standards. Older "Stage 2"
corporate jet aircraft are still permitted to operate
without mandatory noise-reducing "hush kits." Military
aircraft are exempt from these federal regulations.
- Managing the Air Traffic Control System.
The FAA is responsible for operating the airspace safely and
efficiently. Airspace in the Phoenix metropolitan area is
managed by the FAA Phoenix Terminal Radar Approach Control
(TRACON), which supervises the Falcon Field air traffic
control tower and other airport air traffic control towers
in the state.
- Regulating Pilot and Aircraft Safety.
FAA FSDO, located in Scottsdale, regulates this activity at
Falcon Field and enforces pilot compliance with air traffic
control instructions and flight regulations. Pilots are
trained in procedures that are intended to be uniform at
airports across the country. Noise abatement awareness is
part of the required pilot training curriculum.
of aircraft in flight is preempted by federal law.
Arizona Revised Statute 28-8486 Public Airport Disclosure
requires that public airport disclosure maps be provided to
the State. The maps provide information to prospective
homebuyers, real estate agents and current homeowners about
the airspace above their homes. The Public Airport
Disclosure Map for Falcon Field is on file with the Arizona
Secretary of State’s Office. It can be found online at:
. Pilots are responsible for
operating their aircraft safely while complying with all FAA
rules governing flight. National, state, and local
pilot associations actively encourage their members to ‘fly
friendly’ and use noise abatement procedures whenever
possible, consistent with safety.
. Residents and
prospective home buyers should research the location of
airports and determine if aircraft noise would affect their
quality of life.
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Where can I find more information about Falcon Field
Airport’s Fly Friendly Program?
Visit Falcon Field’s website at
for more information.
Community Outreach - Bringing Falcon Field Airport to you!
You are invited to learn more about how Falcon Field Airport
operates, current airport issues and events, and planned
The airport welcomes the opportunity to provide a
representative to visit your homeowners association,
community group, or civic organization. Whether it's a brief
10-minute presentation or an hour's worth of questions and
answers, feel free to contact us to schedule a date and time
to attend one of your upcoming meetings.
Here are some examples of topics you may be interested in
- Airport history
- Airport operations
- Economic impacts of the airport
- Airport improvements currently underway and plans for the
- What the airport is doing to protect the community &
environment, including the ‘Fly Friendly’ Program
We will do
our best to customize a program just for your group!
For more information customized programs or to plan a tour
of the airport, contact Dee Anne Thomas at 480-644-4233 or