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Burien neighbors ready to sue FAA over flight pattern change at Sea-Tac Airport

SEA-TAC AIRPORT, Wash. - The Federal Aviation Administration made a quiet change to the flight paths at Sea-Tac Airport that neighbors say hasn’t been at all quiet.

On July 26, 2016, the FAA began allowing Q400 turboprop aircraft, operated primarily by Alaska Airlines, to make an immediate left turn shortly after northerly departures in an effort to speed up airport departures.

The route change allows planes to fly directly over portions of Burien and Seahurst where they typically have never flown before during normal operations.

“It’s like a fleet of greyhound buses every 15 minutes going over your house day and night,” said Dr. Dennis Hansen, who lives on 25th Ave SW, under the new flight pattern.

“It’s a very significant change for us,” said Steve Olmstead, who also lives under the new flight path. “I think we have been unduly targeted and not told beforehand."

A typical northern departure has aircraft making flight adjustments five miles out over Elliott Bay and at altitudes not as bothersome to generate complaints from neighborhoods. But, homeowners in Burien say the new changes have planes flying just a couple of hundred feet about their homes.

“It’s a continuous interruption,” said Tom McCarthy, who lives on 24th Ave SW, also under the new flight path. “They come very low. Love the circular route the big airplanes take, hate the little engines that come over your house.”

The departure changes do not affect jet aircraft.

A neighborhood group organized to fight the changes has met with the Federal Aviation Administration, its leader claim the group has received unsatisfactory responses.

“They have been very vague and not forthcoming with answers,” said Larry Cripe, President of the Quiet Skies Coalition.

Frustrated, the group has contacted attorneys and is laying the groundwork for a lawsuit against the FAA and the Port of Seattle, which operates Sea-Tac Airport.

“Currently we are underway to take legal action to stop what's been done,” said Cripe.

In a statement to KOMO News, the FAA said it is, “aware of concerns by the City of Burien with a very limited, but increasing number of smaller turboprop aircraft over a portion of Burien."

The FAA said the flights represent only 2 percent of the annual departures from Sea-Tac Airport.

The agency also said it’s responded to questions from the City of Burien and the Quiet Skies Coalition, and clarified its actions and will work to, “identify other possible ways to mitigate this issue during the limited time they happen."

One Burien City Councilmember wants the city to fight the changes.

“It’s like a third runway debacle all over again,” said councilmember Debi Wagner. “Where we are just shut out, we are abused, we are harmed, we are impacted and nobody will stand up for us and they won't acknowledge our suffering.”

Cripe and his group would like to see the FAA conduct an environmental impact assessment on the flight path changes and the effects on the neighborhoods.

The Burien City Council is considering authorizing up to $100,000 for a legal fight over the FAA changes. Meanwhile, the left turns over Burien will continue.

“I have no complaint with the airport, just the dumb pattern,” said McCarthy.

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