The Problem ...

the story


Falcon Field, a municipal airport in Mesa, Arizona, has been recently occupied by the CAE/ Oxford Air Academy, possibly the largest flight school in North America aimed at training foreign commercial pilots. The top 6 things you should know...

  • 1


    80-95% of the flight activity in and out of the airport is now from this flight school which is responsible for the newly increased safety hazard and unprecedented noise over the surrounding neighborhoods.

  • 2


    The flight school has had two crashes with 4 fatalities since moving to Falcon Field. A major lawsuit has been filed alleging that CAE/Oxford made flight agreements with a client that contributed "to a culture whereby safe flight practices were sacrificed for economic gain." (source: The school flies touch and go patterns from both runways that are sandwiched between the FAA altitude minimum and the overlying landing approach for jets going into Phoenix Sky Harbor. The neighbors are justifiably concerned about the safety of these intense training operations taking place at minimum altitudes above their homes, schools, churches, and businesses.

  • 3


    The noise/safety impact map required by Arizona State Law to advise potential home buyers was expanded recently to include 14% of the geographic area of Mesa to accommodate the increased flight school activity. The tight pattern shown only north of the airport is gone.

  • 4


    The character of Falcon Field and the neighborhoods around it has fundamentally changed. Does a huge flight school discourage and impede businesses normally associated with a vibrant municipal airport? Has Falcon Field’s ability to be an economic engine for Mesa been diminished? Will angry taxpayers begin questioning why it is necessary to have an airport made busy only to train foreign commercial pilots?

  • 5


    Residents, private pilots, those with business interests at the airport, and those who cherish it as the quality municipal airport it once was are planning to take steps to save Falcon Field. This website is now active and should undergo weekly additions with news, information, and steps you can take.

  • 6


    Noise complaints and comments about flight activity should be sent to:

    leave a recorded message at:
    (480) 644-6647.

    The Mayor’s e-mail address is


(FAQ updated (1/4/14)

Aren’t you just a bunch of people who bought houses near an airport and are now complaining about noise?

Falcon Field and the surrounding communities grew up together and co-existed happily until an enormous foreign flight school became the dominant user of the runways. The previous tight training loop over the desert area to the north was expanded enormously, and a pattern was added off the south runway that is entirely over neighborhoods zoned Residential. Instead of experiencing the benign, intermittent overflights that quickly come and go as aircraft rise or descend near the airport, the residential neighborhoods now experience constant noise from planes making endless loops at full throttle and the lowest legal altitude. Being embedded on 3 sides with communities zoned residential, this was an absurd place to locate an enormous flight school. The citizens have every right to complain.

Aren’t the sounds you hear really the sounds of a financial engine for Mesa, its citizens, and the nation?

Certainly not! The sounds you hear are not those of business people flying into Falcon Field to tend to vibrant and expanding industries. They are all from a single tenant flying endless, meaningless loops to train foreign commercial airline pilots. Their presence discourages those seeking to locate new businesses and industries at and near the airport. Many who would otherwise occupy the increasing number of empty hangers are going instead to Gateway. Normal users of the airport must dodge and wait in the now crowded skies over much of Mesa. The pilots trained here by CAE go to work for foreign airlines that compete with American businesses. There is no local or national need or benefit associated with this occupation of the airport.

Why did the City approve such a harmful tenant at its airport?

It didn’t! Sabena Flight Academy left Scottsdale Airport and subleased a structure at Falcon Field. It never sought City approval; it just occupied and started operation. CAE subsequently bought Sabena. The initial lease was not for a flight school and it is a violation of City Law to sublease for a substantially different activity. The flight school came to Falcon Field illegally. When pointed out to City officials, the response was to the effect that “we didn’t notice it then and now it is too late”.

Why doesn’t the City put restrictions on Flight School flying to mitigate the impact on these training flights?

They affect 15% of the geographic area of Mesa directly and other areas of the city as well. The city took and continues to take FAA grants to develop the airport. As part of the grant conditions, the City yielded nearly all aspects of flight activity to the FAA. City officials claim they can do nothing. This isn’t entirely true, but this is their excuse for inaction

Why dos the FAA approve intense low altitude training flights over residential neighborhoods?

The FAA’s stated position is that their only concern is safety and that it is safe for aircraft to fly over neighborhoods. Noise is not their problem or concern. This also allows the number of flights out of Falcon Field to expand, whether they are beneficial to Mesa citizens or not. The FAA is a Federal bureaucracy that first and foremost seeks to expand itself. More flights means a need for more personnel and a bigger budget. FAA officials have been openly contemptuous of neighborhood complaints at public meetings and in personal interactions. Getting FAA personnel into the tower that would direct training traffic away from the neighborhoods would be helpful. Senator Jeff Flake lives in one of the affected neighborhoods. Senatorial inquiries and intervention can work miracles on local Federal bureaucrats tormenting a community. Write him.

Why does the FAA deal with airport development outside of air safety issues?

It is possibly an out of control, very expensive Federal bureaucracy seeking above all else to preserve and expand itself. This is certainly a question that has not received the kind of public discussion it deserves.

Doesn’t the City Manager have legal authority to intervene and regulate activities at this City-owned and managed airport?

Yes! However previous attempts were met with such organized blowback that he backed off. The Chamber of Commerce and the aviation community have heretofore rallied around the Flight School on ideological grounds. Both object instantly and vehemently on the grounds that there should be no limits on free enterprise and aviation. They typically get their way, even though they are in the wrong in this case and people suffer as a result.

What is the AOPA? Why is it so strongly opposed to the neighbors and why is it so effective with the City?

It is the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a national organization. This is a group like the NRA which vigorously defends the “rights” of aviation of any kind to operate in the most unfettered manner possible and views any citizen attempt to curtail aviation in any manner as something to be fought at all costs. Obviously paranoid, it views even the slightest constraint as the likely beginning of an onslaught leading eventually to someone effectively “taking away their planes.” It is a well-funded lobby group that acts immediately to intimidate any public official listening to the legitimate concerns of average citizens. Just ask Mayor Scott Smith.

Has the AOPA taken an official position on the CAE takeover of Falcon Field? Surely that is not in the interest of AOPA members with airplanes there.

An AOPA representative came to a neighborhood meeting in 2009 and stated that the AOPA would take no official position on this issue. Shortly thereafter the organization descended on the Mayor’s office opposing any limits on CAE. In December, 2013 when CAE expanded and started unprecedented levels of training flights, the Mayor responded to citizen complaints by asking the AOPA to hold a “Check In” meeting for the public in a CAE facility. Yes, you read that correctly. At that December meeting, Otto Shill, the moderator and local AOPA representative, stated twice that he “had concerns” that the neighbors’ complaints were about aviation in general and not just about the flight school operation.

In view of City inaction, FAA hostility toward the neighbors, and the overwhelming intimidation of the AOPA and Chamber of Commerce, what can realistically be done to save Falcon Field and the neighborhoods around it from the destruction being wrought by CAE/OXFORD?

For the moment, Falcon Field has already been lost to this rogue Flight School. The best we can achieve on the short range is to vote in a city ordinance requiring all flight schools at Falcon Field to use the new FAA approved noise suppression mufflers manufactured in Germany. This will give significant noise relief and is something that will not interfere or regulate flight activity. We hope all involved can support this. We wish CAE/OXFORD would voluntarily implement these mufflers to be good neighbors as Embry Riddle Flight School did in Florida. We wish the City Council would simply pass this ordinance and spare the citizens the cost and effort of obtaining signatures to get this on the November ballot. We can dream on, but we can also take matters into our own hands.

NOTABLE QUOTES with commentary

(updated 1/12/14)

CAE Student quotes (from Internet blogs):

“After a horrible night, being sick and only 4.5 hours of sleep, I woke up at 0430 because

I had the first flight of the day. I took some painkillers, left my breakfast for what it was, and went to dispatch with my flymate”

“I found it quit (sic) hard, I was sweating, I was nervous, I barely payed (sic) any attention to the tower and didn't had the time to listen out what and who was talking on the frequency, and to keep an eye on your instruments and the other traffic was just a hell.”

“I hear the tower speaking to somebody else. I almost have to turn final. Frequency is clear and I wanted to try for a 2nd time when I heard “44P, number two follow the archer, cleared to land, rwy 04R”. I thought immediately “Number two? Did he said number two? Archer? Which Archer? I’m on final you …. !!!!!!..! And off course there’s no Archer in sight! Not in front or behind me. Not on the left or right. But I was wrong, there WAS an Archer…on the runway below, just in front of me, positioned and holding, ready to take off as soon as he got the clearance. There was only one little tiny problem, I was on short final and there was no way I could land. I remember I heard the voice of Achmed The Dead Terrorist in my head saying “holy crap!”. I hit the throttle to full power, flaps up. When the tower finished giving the Archer below me his take off clearance I said “very friendly”, “Falcon tower 44P RUNWAY 04 RIGHT, going around!”. I saw that the aircraft below me started to roll just a couple of seconds before I flew over him. “Archer 44P, roger, make euhm…right traffic and euhm…turn crosswind when able.” I don’t think I was nervous…I didn’t had the time to be stressed, only time to react…I know the plane below me was climbing in the same axis as I was…I looked behind and below and had him in sight. To be sure not to hit him I turned a bit to the right to fly next to the runway and I turned crosswind as soon as possible to separate us. When I extended my crosswind I heard, “Archer 44P, sorry for that, you are number 3 and cleared to land runway 04R, advise when you have the traffic in sight”

“And off course the run-up of the bird was a complete mess again. When I started to do the right magneto check, the plane started to vibrate horrible and the RMP dropped to 1300.”

This is what is going on in the skies over the residential areas of Mesa. With the virtually continuous student flights over the neighborhoods, it is only a matter of time before….. We wonder how the Mayor, the City Council, the FAA, and the Airport Manager are going to feel about that when they could have done something to prevent it.

NEWS MEDIA: Mon Dec 23, 2013:

“David Luna, who was appointed this year to fill a City Council vacancy from east Mesa’s District 5, will seek election to the seat in 2014. ……Luna said the airport and neighbors have no choice but to coexist, and if the city more fully educated residents on federal flight rules and airport operations, some of their concerns might abate”.

This City Council aspirant is unable to distinguish between concerns regarding the CAE flight school and other aviation issues that don’t exist. The neighbors and Falcon Field coexist just fine. However, the neighbors cannot ever co-exist with CAE? Oxford’s current practice of bombarding residential areas on 3 sides of the airport with constant touch and go flights at the lowest legal altitude and full throttle. Wake up Mr. Luna, this inane comment makes you look foolish! Wed Dec 11, 2013:

Otto Shill: “Right now, Falcon Field (Airport) is going through some real challenges with a neighborhood close to the end of the runway”.

Mr. Shill, the President of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce and the local AOPA representative, continues to misrepresent the problem to the media by implying that there is but a single neighborhood close to the end of a runway that is unhappy with the changes in flight activity at Falcon Field. If he would check the public records, he would find that formal noise complaints are widespread in all areas around the airport. It is this kind of deception and incompetence that impedes a solution to the constant bombardment of residential areas all around the airport. He also knows full well that CAE/Oxford is the sole source of the problems. Shameful comment, Mr. Shill! Wed Dec 11, 2013:

“People might complain about the noise at the airports, but we remind people that that’s the sound of money, the sound of enterprise, the sound of business coming into the East Valley,” said Roc Arnett, East Valley Partnership president.

And my we remind you, Mr Arnett, that this is NOT the “sound of money, the sound of enterprise, the sound of business coming into the East Valley.” It is, instead, the sound of one tenant that took over Falcon Field for its own purposes and whose presence is actually DISCCOURAGING businesses from locating there! Try asking some of those trying to recruit businesses to Falcon Field. It is not just those concerned about noise and safety threats to the surrounding community who are concerned with the CAE/ Oxford takeover.