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Frequently Asked Questions

History and Planning

How long has the Airport been around?
The Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority (PMGAA), formerly Williams Gateway Airport, is part of the former Williams Air Force Base. The Air Force Base was used for training pilots and instructors, training about 25% of all Air Force pilots in the last ten years it was open. The Department of Defense broke ground on July 16, 1941 and operated the base for over 50 years before closing in September 1993. Six months later, in March 1994, the airport reopened for public use as Williams Gateway Airport. In 2007, the Airport name was changed to Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.


Who decided to use the Airport for commercial service?
In 1991, the Air Force announced the Base would be closing. The State and local community were concerned about the 3,800 jobs and $300 million economic impact they would lose. Upon the announcement of the closure, the Governor of Arizona appointed the Williams AFB Economic Reuse Planning Advisory Committee. The committee was made up of representatives from neighboring towns and cities, Maricopa County, State of Arizona, business leaders, and citizens. Through a public process, the committee developed the Williams Economic Reuse Plan, which outlined how the Base would be redeveloped. It was presented to and approved by the Governor of Arizona and the U.S. Air Force in 1992. That plan called for creating an educational consortium (Arizona State University Polytechnic and Chandler-Gilbert Community College), and a commercial reliever airport, now known as Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.


Was the general public included in the planning process?
The general public has been included in all major planning processes by including citizens on the planning committees and by participating in public workshops. Specifically, the public has been involved with the 1992 Williams AFB Economic Reuse Plan, 1993 Airport Master Plan, 1996 Williams Regional Planning Study, 1997 Williams Area Transportation Plan, 1999 Airport Master Plan Update, 1999 Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 150 Noise Compatibility Study, 2008 Master Plan Update and the Gateway Executive Summary in 2012, and Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan in 2016. The public is also represented through their elected officials and is invited to attend monthly Airport Authority Board meetings.


Was the local community informed of the development plans?
The Airport's development plans have been widely publicized since the closure announcement in 1991. Since that time, Airport plans have been discussed in many public meetings, city council meetings, and media. The Airport has also been shown on many maps of the area over the past 50 years as an Air Force Base and since 1994 as the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. In April 2000, additional State legislation was passed (Traffic Pattern Airspace Map) requiring the disclosure of the Airport to homebuyers in the area to help ensure the community is informed. Currently, Airport staff offers public presentations on the Airport's master plan to civic and social groups throughout the Valley.


Were environmental impacts considered?
As part of the Air Force Base closure, the Air Force completed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which met the requirements for establishing Gateway as a new commercial service airport. The EIS addressed environmental issues including pollution, noise, wildlife impacts, and archaeological resources. Compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is required for projects using federal funds. NEPA is typically complied with through the preparation of an Environmental Assessment (EA). Another EIS is only necessary when the impacts of a project (using defined thresholds) are significant even after mitigation. Even though closing the Air Force Base and reusing the facility as a commercial airport reduced the noise impact, the Airport Authority conducted an F.A.R. Part 150 Noise Compatibility Study to further explore noise mitigation and abatement opportunities. Noise impacts and surrounding land use recommendations were reviewed in 2016.


Current Operations

Who uses the Airport today?
Gateway Airport was the 45th busiest airport in the U.S. during 2015 with 214,409 landings and takeoffs. Gateway has a wide variety of tenants and a diverse group of Airport users. While the majority of our traffic is general aviation flight training, military aircraft, large aircraft flight-testing, and cargo operations are common. Our tenants include Allegiant Air, Cessna, Embraer, Airline Transport Professionals (flight training), Chandler-Gilbert Community College (aircraft maintenance training), University of North Dakota (flight training), and Able Engineering.

The Airport's most common users include all Phoenix metropolitan area flight schools, Allegiant Air, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), 161st Arizona Air National Guard (KC-135s), USAF Air Training Command (T37s and T38s), Marine Corp (F-18s and AV-8s) and a variety of cargo and corporate jets.


I thought the Air Force Base was closed. Why does the military still fly there?
Even though the Air Force left in 1993, it is common to see military aircraft using the Airport. As a public use airport, Gateway Airport is open to all types of aircraft, including the military. As a former base, Gateway is well known to many military pilots who know that our runways, taxiways, and navigational aids are sufficient for their use. In addition, many military facilities are very busy, so it may be difficult to conduct all the needed training at those facilities. As a result, the Airport handles some of the overflow.


How do you measure activity?
Airport activity is measured in "operations." One "operation" is a take-off or a landing. A "touch and go," where the pilot lands and then takes-off again (commonly done during flight training), is two "operations." In 2015, the control tower at Gateway counted 214,409 airport operations and placed as the 45th busiest Tower in the United States (out of 516 ranked Towers). Gateway was the 102nd busiest U.S. airport in 2015 in total passengers served (1.2 million total passengers), out of 825 U.S. airports.


What are the benefits of having a local commercial airport?
Airports provide the link to a wide variety of aviation services that add great value to our daily lives. This includes emergency air ambulance services, medical transportation (transplants), community protection (police), recreational activities, overnight package and mail delivery, quick and convenient transportation for individuals, families, and businesses, and access to the nation's airspace transportation system. Airports also provide jobs. As jobs grow, the demand for housing grows as well. This creates a ripple effect that stimulates all aspects of the local economy. Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport already has an economic impact of $1.3 billion annually. Having an airport nearby will provide East Valley residents with convenient access to passenger and cargo flights in the future as well as business and recreational flying opportunities.


Airline / Passenger Service

How often does the parking shuttle run?
Shuttles average every seven minutes. The first shuttle begins service a minimum of two hours prior to the earliest scheduled departure of the day. The final shuttle of the day concludes after ensuring all passengers from the last scheduled flight have been provided for.


How do I reach Allegiant to express a concern?
Allegiant's Customer Resolution Officer can be reached at 702-505-8888


How early do I need to arrive at the terminal to catch my flight?
Although Gateway Airport is smaller and easier to use than major airports, it is strongly recommended by the airline and Transportation Security Administration to arrive at the airport no later than two hours prior to your scheduled departure.


I have an early departure time. What time do the restaurants open?
The passenger terminal has two restaurants located beyond the security checkpoint and both open two hours prior to the earliest scheduled departure of the day. More information can be found on our Restaurants and Shops page.


Future Operations

How big will the Airport grow? Is this going to be another Phoenix Sky Harbor?
Gateway Airport sits on just over 3,000 acres. With the exception of some land acquisition planned to ensure protection of the runway clear zones, our 2008 Airport Master Plan Update does not include additional land acquisition. So from a land perspective, the Airport is not forecasting any significant growth at this time. From an operational and development perspective, the Airport will have significant growth. Passenger service began in 2002 with over 2,000 people flying on charter aircraft to destinations such as Laughlin, Lake Tahoe, and Reno. In 2027, the Airport's master plan forecasts annual landings and take-offs to exceed 535,000 operations and with over 4 million passengers. For comparison, Phoenix Sky Harbor conducted 430,461 operations in 2014 and handled over 42 million passengers. As Gateway's commercial operations increase, the development of a new passenger terminal on the east side of the Airport (North East Area Development Plan) will become necessary. To support this growth a connection to the San Tan freeway was completed in 2007. It is clear that Phoenix Sky Harbor will remain the primary air carrier airport for the Phoenix-Mesa metropolitan area, and Gateway will supplement that by handling about 8% of the forecasted commercial operations serving the Valley.


Is it true that the flight paths for Gateway Airport conflict with those for Phoenix Sky Harbor?
Because Phoenix Sky Harbor is very busy, aircraft start lining up for landing several miles away. This impacts what airspace will be available for use by other airports. Since the FAA controls air traffic at both locations, they will manage the airspace to avoid conflict and ensure aircraft safety.


Why don't you have the airplanes take off and land in the other direction, or move the runways?
For safety, aircraft always attempt to take-off and land into the wind. When a runway is constructed, a wind study is conducted to determine the most appropriate runway orientation based upon the prevailing winds. Gateway's runways are "12" and "30", meaning they are aligned according to the magnetic compass to 120 degrees (southeast) and 300 degrees (northwest) because that alignment provides the best wind coverage. When wind is not a factor, the Airport uses Runway 30 since that minimizes overflights for the community as a whole. Moving the runways is not feasible and would most likely simply move the traffic from one neighborhood to another, a policy the Airport, and the FAA, will not endorse.


Will there be major airlines serving Gateway Airport in the future?
Most likely, major airlines will be providing scheduled passenger service at Gateway. The Phoenix-Mesa metropolitan area is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. Areas with similar populations have two or more commercial airports with both airports being served by major airlines.


Noise

Do you have any noise restrictions, like banning loud airplanes or curfews?
No. In 1990, Congress passed the Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA) that outline the procedures that a community or airport must do to institute flight restrictions. Before instituting any flight restrictions, an airport must go through an extensive process and show that the "benefit" to the community outweighs the "cost" to the air transportation system. The FAA determines "benefits" by measuring how many people are living within the 65 DNL noise contour before and after implementing a noise restriction. Since there are no people living within Gateway Airport's 65 DNL noise contour, no "benefit" could be demonstrated. The restrictions that people often refer to at other airports were in place prior to this legislation and are "grandfathered," meaning they are exempt from ANCA requirements.


What is Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL)?
DNL stands for Day-Night Average Sound Level and is used to describe the cumulative noise exposure during an average annual day. DNL does not represent the sound level heard at any particular time, but rather represents the total sound exposure.


Why do aircraft fly over my house?
There are several airports in the Phoenix metropolitan area: Mesa’s Falcon Field, Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International, Scottsdale, Deer Valley, Glendale, Chandler, Luke Air Force Base and other private airports. The FAA regulates and classifies airspace throughout the Valley to separate air traffic both horizontally and vertically. It is inevitable that air traffic will occur over all areas of the Valley; however, overflights will occur more frequently the closer one resides to an airport's traffic pattern.


Are you doing anything to help minimize the noise?
Even though the Airport cannot mandate flight restrictions, we have developed voluntary Fly Friendly procedures that pilots are encouraged to use. These procedures will not eliminate overflights, but they do aid in minimizing the noise exposure. The Airport actively encourages pilots and air traffic controllers to use these procedures whenever possible.


Are airlines able to use the Fly Friendly procedures?
There are eight components of the Fly Friendly procedures intended to reduce the impact of aircraft noise. Of these, four may apply to airline operations, including the preferential use of Runway 30; use of the best rate of climb; use of turbine engine noise reduction steps; and when able, making an immediate right turn on departure from Runway 30. The angle between the runways and this requested right turn out to the east requires turns in excess of 150-degrees and include steep bank angles. While smaller jets and many military aircraft are often able to complete this requested departure turn close to the Airport, larger commercial aircraft may not be able to do so. Steep turns such as this may exceed FAA standards or airline policies. If so, we will stress the use of other procedures, such as climbing as high as possible.


I just moved to the area and was not told about the Airport. Who is responsible for disclosing the Airport to homebuyers?
Until 1999 for new homes and 2000 for resales, there was no specific legislative requirement for sellers to disclose the existence of an airport. Airport staff has taken several steps to ensure that you are notified of the Airport's existence, including advertising our development plans, providing tours for real estate agents, installing directional signs on US Highway 60 and surrounding streets, including local planning jurisdictions in our planning efforts, providing information about our development plans upon request, hosting Aviation Day events, and supporting state legislation that addresses public disclosure. If you have questions about a real estate agent's disclosure responsibility, please contact the Arizona Department of Real Estate. State legislation (ARS 28-8486), effective July 2000, requires the disclosure of certain property in the vicinity of an airport.


What steps have been taken to insulate the schools in the local area?
Questions about noise attenuation for schools should be directed to the applicable school district. While the Airport strongly encourages compatible development around it, Gateway Airport has no authority to regulate zoning or impose building standards. Gilbert’s Highland High School is one of the closest public schools to the Airport's 65 DNL noise contour line and was built in 1993 with noise attenuation measures to accommodate military training planes (the previous use of the Airport) as well as larger commercial planes.


What happens when I call in a noise complaint (480-929-7902)?
The Airport provides a recorded noise line to allow residents to express their concerns about overflights and noise. All calls are entered into a database and correlated with a particular aircraft event whenever possible. The calls allow staff to monitor compliance with our Fly Friendly procedures and Federal Aviation Regulations. A summary of the calls is provided to our Board of Directors each month.


Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the Airport. If you have further questions, please contact Brian Sexton, Community Relations Manager at bsexton@gatewayairport.com.