Flight Patterns Take Quiet Approach

New maps point pilots away from neighborhoods


For almost 10 months now, Payson Municipal Airport has had new suggested flight patterns for approaching and departing aircraft.

Designed to help clear the skies over populated, noise-sensitive areas, they've been sanctioned by the FAA, ADOT's aviation division and the Payson Town Council.

But perhaps the most notable characteristic of these new flight patterns is this: Hardly anyone knows they exist.

But don't blame the Payson Airport Board.

According to board member Gordon Holm, the board has wanted to publicize the changes since they were developed last October.

"Actually, the town council is the controlling authority," he said, "but (Town Manager) Rich Underkofler wanted us to get everybody else's approval. That's what held the thing up."

The new pattern "doesn't change things much," Holm said, "but we've marked the noise-sensitive areas (on approach and departure maps) and asked (pilots) to stay away from them."

Publication of a brochure containing the new flight-pattern maps was delayed so it could also contain the new airport manager's telephone number. But since that position is not expected to be filled for another four to six weeks, the airport board chose to forge ahead.

The brochure supported entirely by paid advertising with "not a cent from the town," Holm said is now being printed and prepared for distribution all over town and to all pilots who use the airport.

"There are a lot of rumors going around, so we want to get this information out as quickly as possible. People have been (angered) by the delays in getting this information out, and I don't blame them," he said.

Carving new paths

The "recommended standard left traffic pattern" for normal entry into non-tower controlled airports such as Payson's is a 45-degree angle aimed at the center of the runway, followed by a downwind turn about 1 to three-quarter miles from the runway.

The new recommendation for Runway 24 (landing to the west) is that approaching pilots are to aim for the departure end of the runway, and then turn downwind between the two sets of water tanks in preparation for a 360-degree turn for final approach.

Pilots adhering to that suggestion would move their initial 45-degree approach line over the water treatment plant and away from the Payson Municipal Golf Course and Wildwood subdivision north of the golf course.

Under the old guidelines, departures on runway 24 took airplanes due west or southwest over the "noise sensitive area" of Wildwood.

The new departure flight path for Runway 24 suggests that pilots make a north bank once beyond the runway, completely avoiding direct flyovers of the land where developers may build 150 upscale homes (replacing the now-defunct Mountainaire affordable-home subdivision).

This plan also prevents inbound and outbound flights from occupying the same airspace.

The old southerly 45-degree approach for Runway 06 (landing to the east), which crosses over Alpine Heights, is essentially unchanged, but pilots are asked to not extend their downwind approach over Country Club Estates to the west of the runway entry.

Aircraft departing Runway 06 have been flying directly over Payson Elementary and Alpine Heights at either a straight 90-degree angle or a southeasterly 45-degree angle. Pilots are now requested to takeoff at a northeasterly 45-degree angle, avoiding the school altogether.

Attaining compliance

Although these flight patterns are not enforceable by the town or the law, Holm said he didn't expect much difficulty, if any, in getting pilots to adopt them.

"A lot of airports all over the country have these (suggested flight patterns). All we're doing is following some of the suggestions that they have found to work for them."

If anyone sees a pilot not following the requested flight paths, Holm said, "They should write out their complaint and contact us. We will contact the pilot. We'll send him a nasty letter and, believe me, they'll pay attention to it. Of course, there's always going to be the maverick, and that's the one we want to catch.

"As a flight instructor I can call up FAA and have them flight-checked and he's not going to like that, because they'll bring him in, make him go through an oral exam, go through his airplane with a fine-toothed comb, and examine all of his maintenance records and certificates.

"That's much more effective than any fine that they can pay off, walk away from, and then do the same thing all over again," Holm said. "Plus, word will get around; once it happens to one maverick, they'll be saying, 'Hey, don't mess around with those people in Payson.'"

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