opinion

Edwards: Why can’t aviation schools be awesome neighbors?

Posted 6/8/21

We live in an awesome area — the Superstition Mountain foothills and wilderness. My neighbors and I enjoy the beauty all around us. We all have several things in common; we prefer the mountains …

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opinion

Edwards: Why can’t aviation schools be awesome neighbors?

Posted

We live in an awesome area — the Superstition Mountain foothills and wilderness. My neighbors and I enjoy the beauty all around us. We all have several things in common; we prefer the mountains and desert rather than vehicles, buildings, concrete and asphalt.

We live 32 miles from Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and 33 miles from Falcon Field Airport. The problem is not noise. That is an exceedingly small part of the problem. If that were true, the airports would get phone calls several times a day. Even as I write this letter, I hear school planes to my southwest.

Lives are in danger

The big problem is No. 1 we feel our lives are in danger. When an aircraft has a pilot who is the instructor — and a student pilot — we believe that increases the opportunities for us to be in danger.

Yes, I know aviation schools can come up with all kinds of statistics about how a school has a safety record. That does not match an airplane on the side of my home and that is my biggest concern for my neighbors and my family’s safety — no one can guarantee our safety.

Aviation studies (Liberty University – AOPA Air Safety Institute) claim that between 2000 and 2015 there were 240 training (instructional flying) planes involved in fatal accidents in the U.S., resulting in the death of 432 people. Allegedly, the No. 1 reason for the accidents was loss of control (81% stall or spin events) by the pilot, with the second major reason being midair collisions (71% outside the airport environment). Thus, although extremely rare, flying accidents during training programs happen.

I have visited with a lot of pilots over the years. The first was an Arizona Game and Fish pilot who would tell me about the many times they are encountering dangerous turbulence. I am a volunteer firefighter in Queen Valley and we train with helicopters. These pilots instruct us on needs of the pilots when it comes to mountain flying. When we fight wildfires, the aircraft need information on weather. The Superstition Mountains range and foothills is an extremely dangerous place to fly.

Peace and quiet

Our way of life is at the northern end of the Sonoran Desert; the Superstition Mountain range is world-renowned for its beauty.

People live out here because they enjoy the peace, quiet and beauty. When we look up, we want to see a buzzard, not an aviation school or airplane making a living on our way of life. We want to walk out on our trails and not see an airplane practicing over our way of life.

Follow the money

We feel that aircraft schools are making a living off our way of life, using our way of life to improve their way of life financially.

This is what I hear when I go to some flight school meetings — look at all the money we’re bringing into Mesa and the area. We are not Mesa; we are Apache Junction, Gold Canyon, Queen Valley — less than 20 square miles of homes in the foothills — and we are asking all the schools please do not put our lives in danger, leave our 20 miles of peace and quiet and a wonderful way of life alone. Aircraft have thousands of miles to fly; we are in one area we love to call home.

Trespassing in airspace
As far as we are concerned it’s the same as trespassing. You might as well open the door to our homes and come walking in. That is the downside of the aircraft. When we hear you, we can also see you even in our homes.

We do not want to have to call the airports and flying schools every day and say, “you once again are putting our lives in danger, taking our way of life and destroying it.”

Queen Valley has one gas station and grocery store and a golf course and I understand that the golfers really like the peace and quiet. I also understand that they are starting to get frustrated with the amount of air traffic flying over our 5-mile-square of heaven on Earth. I have had a couple meetings on the phone and at the airports Falcon Field, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway with several awesome schools.

I have called the Aviation School APS. They do not make excuses, they apologize. They would say what can I do to make it right? APS wants to be a good neighbor.

The same thing with ASU when I called the dean at ASU. Next thing I know I had a phone call from the ASU airport instructor with apologies and it can go on and on with other schools.

Unfortunately, we have schools that do not want to be a good neighbor and we have schools that altered their flights and we do appreciate that very much.

This does not totally fix the problem. I have an aviation school that flies above my ranch every day. When I call the school all I hear is we have the right to fly where we want. My question is why do you think you have the right to put our lives in danger, make our lives miserable, make you happy, make your way of life better than our way of life?

I mentioned in one meeting that I could bring my 4x4 to go fast up and down the street and you would call the law because I was creating a dangerous problem for the homeowners. The same analogy, flight schools that are going into our way of life with their aircraft are schools that do not want to be a good neighbor; that is self-centered instead of other-centered.

Aviation schools should learn to use the thousands of acres that are uninhabited to do their training, not over the top of our homes putting our lives in danger, not over the top of our ways of life.

Why train over our homes putting our lives in danger when the schools can fly north of Falcon Field in the Four Peaks mountain range where there are no homes. Hundreds of miles north and west. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway has several flight schools that can fly south.

So what do you do as a homeowner and business? The Flight Standards District Office in Scottsdale no longer files what they call noise abatement. FSDO info on the website says to contact the airports and I add call the schools; but here is the problem — they want the numbers off the plane, what time, what color, what did the plane do. Yep, the plane is doing more than 100 miles per hour at 3,000 feet. Impossible even with great optics.

I found an awesome free app called flightradar24. With this app I know every airplane over my head and anywhere in the world. I can see the school, commercial or private. Now when I call the schools about putting my neighbor and my life in danger, they will listen about how we want awesome neighbors. Yes, most schools have been other-centered, not self-centered, and are doing awesome in my area of Queen Valley.

Here is contact information for Superstition Mountain homeowners:

  • Falcon Field Airport: Concerns about aircraft noise and safety can be shared with the city at apps.mesaaz.gov/FalconField/Comments or by calling the airport comment line at 480-644-6647.
  • Flight Schools at Falcon Field include Classic Air Aviation, 602-574-5376; ATP Flight School, 904-595-7950; Falcon Executive Aviation Inc., 800-237-2359; and CAE Phoenix, 480-948-4515.
  • Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport: 480-929-7902.
  • Flight schools at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport include AeroGuard Flight Training Center, 623-233-1630; UND Aerospace Foundation Flight Training Center, 480-988-8117; ATP Flight School, 904-595-7950; Aviation Performance Solutions, 480-279-1881; and Fighter Combat International, 866-359-4273.

These are just a few of the schools training over your homes. Give them a call and ask them to be awesome neighbors.

Editor’s note: Steve Edwards is a resident of Queen Valley and was recently appointed as chairperson of the Association for the Development of a Better Environment’s air traffic control committee.

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