TAMPA — A proposed update of flight paths to and from the Tampa Bay area’s two major airports would not create any significant noise impacts, a federal environmental analysis concludes.
The analysis, still in its draft form, looked at changes the Federal Aviation Administration is considering making as part of a project known as the Florida Metroplex.
The agency is working to update flight paths and procedures as part of a nationwide move toward the use of GPS technology and satellite-aided air traffic control to reduce congestion and complexity around busy airports, as well as enhance safety and save fuel.
Federal Aviation Administration officials say they have no plans to make changes to jet operations below 10,000 feet, where noise would get noticeable.
“We’re making changes at the higher altitudes that get you in and out of the Tampa area,” Michael O’Harra, the Federal Aviation Administration’s southern regional administrator in Atlanta, said Monday. Those changes “end at a higher altitude, and then planes continue along the routes that they have today.”
Above 10,000 feet, the agency is looking to make one change over Pinellas County.
Currently, westbound flights that take off from Tampa International Airport take a turn to the southwest and fly a path above 10,000 feet over Safety Harbor, then Clearwater, Largo and Indian Shores before heading out over the Gulf of Mexico.
As proposed, those flights would instead turn more due west and fly over an area that includes Dunedin, Oldsmar, East Lake, Palm Harbor and Tarpon Springs.
Making that change, officials said, would help keep westbound departing flights away from other flights that are headed toward Tampa or other coastal airports.
Officials and stakeholders with Tampa International and St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport emphasized to federal officials that they did not want changes to flight paths below 10,000 feet.
“We’ve really made that effort in collaboration with the airports to ensure that we minimize any impacts,” said Jim Arrighi, a Federal Aviation Administration metroplex program manager based in Washington D.C. “Changes below 10,000 feet was not one of those things that we pursued.”
If approved, the changes would take place between spring and fall of next year.
First, however, Tampa Bay area residents have until July 10 to review and send in written comments on the plans and environmental assessment.
The Federal Aviation Administration will hold two online workshops at 6 p.m. Thursday and noon Friday to give Tampa Bay area residents a chance to learn more and ask questions. Residents can sign up to participate in the workshops at floridametroplexworkshops.com.
To see the draft environmental assessment, go to metroplexenvironmental.com/docs/fl_metroplex/A_FL_Metroplex_DEA_Ch1-5.pdf. For more information on submitting comments, go to faa.gov/air_traffic/community_involvement/florida.