Denver International Airport Doesn’t Have To Overhaul Flight Paths, Federal Court Rules

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
A jetliner approaches Denver International Airport at sunset with Longs Peak in the background, Friday, March 5, 2021.

A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit several metropolitan counties filed against the Federal Aviation Administration, ending a long dispute over the noise levels from Denver International Airport disrupting nearby neighborhoods. 

Judges in the Washington D.C. circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals said the counties “failed to demonstrate their standing to bring their claims.” 

“As to the remaining claims, which are brought by all six petitioners, we are again left without any affidavits or other evidence substantiating any petitioner’s standing, and several petitioners’ theories of standing suffer from legal flaws as well,” the judgment said.

The six petitioners, led by Centennial Airport’s Arapahoe County Public Airport Authority, argued that an FAA analysis on the impact of the Denver Metroplex project was inadequate and did not permit community involvement in the project’s development. The other petitioners include Greenwood Village, Mountain Aviation Inc. and Gilpin, Arapahoe, and Douglas counties. 

Locals have voiced their concerns about flight noise during public comments at the Centennial Airport’s Community Noise Roundtable. At the last recorded meeting in May, one Greenwood Village resident complained that more “loud and circling” flights have passed over his home recently.  

The Metroplex project, which went into effect in 2020, was meant to improve efficiency at various airports, including DIA, by changing aircraft arrival and departure procedures. The project uses satellite navigation to guide air traffic and created 29 new routes for planes to take off or land. 

In their response, FAA officials adamantly denied the accusations. 

“FAA’s modeling and reasoning also supports its conclusions on other impacts, and Petitioners have not demonstrated to the contrary,” the agency said. “FAA properly identified the relevant environmental concerns, and its analysis fully supports its finding of no significant impact.” 

This is not the first time — and very likely not the last time — DIA has faced complaints about disruptive flight noise. In 2018, Adams County sued DIA after it violated a 1988 agreement to monitor and limit noise level in exchange for county land. A Jefferson County judge ruled against DIA, which paid out $33.5 million to Adams County.