FAA asked to reroute nighttime takeoffs

Oct. 11--EAGAN -- Airplanes roaring through the night over Eagan homes soon could be redirected.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission acknowledged that too many planes are unnecessarily making southeast departures on the new north-south runway at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport -- a path that puts them directly over Eagan neighborhoods between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

The city wants the planes redirected over an industrial area to the north.

A committee of the MAC, which runs the airport, agrees nighttime southeast departures should fly over the city's industrial area by using another runway, known as 12R, when traffic levels are lower and weather permits.

It's now up to the Federal Aviation Administration to cement the change.

"This is the kind of thing, hopefully, we'll get a solution (to)," Daniel Boivin, a MAC commissioner, said last week at a committee meeting. "It seems like the city is right."

Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire asked the MAC's Noise Oversight Committee, which represents the airport and its neighboring cities, to redirect more departures on two other preferred runways. The committee last month asked the FAA to redirect the flights.

MAC commissioners on Oct. 4 also gave support to the change.

"I'm pleased the MAC is recommending returning to the plan that was agreed upon before the north-south runway," Maguire said. "It appears ... the FAA and the airports are working together to direct night traffic over areas that are not residential."

Eagan residents began complaining in June about nighttime flights above their homes, said Dianne Miller, staff liaison to the Eagan Airport Relations Commission. On average this year, the city received 10 complaints a week about operations on the north-south runway, which opened in 2005. Most were about nighttime traffic.

"That's what's most bothersome to people," Miller said.

Before the new runway opened, airport officials agreed to use two existing runways, including 12R, whenever possible for nighttime southeast departures, which would direct planes over industrial businesses in Eagan and Mendota Heights.

But a MAC report in July verified that too many planes were unnecessarily using the north-south runway and flying over Eagan neighborhoods.

One-third, or 134 of 400 total departures, used the north-south runway that month. Nineteen percent departed from runway 12R and flew over the industrial area. The rest of the flights -- 48 percent -- departed on the second preferred runway.

"This is making sure we were compliant with something agreed upon years ago before the runway opened up," said Chad Leqve, manager of aviation noise and satellite programs. "There's a good case being made that some accommodation can be made."

Runway 12R is under repair now and closed to planes, but updates should be complete later this month, MAC spokesman Patrick Hogan said.

The city of Burnsville also complained last year of planes on the north-south runway using a different flight path than airport officials originally promised. The airport this year redirected more of those flights over the Minnesota River.

Maricella Miranda can be reached at mmiranda@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5421.

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