Aircraft noise over Arlington continues to roar as studies of calmer skies continue



An airplane above, seen from Gravelly Point (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

With the opening of a new concourse at Reagan National Airport, aircraft noise over Arlington remains high and the area is still exploring ways to mitigate the roar.

Complaints from residents about overhead noise have been constant for years, due to helicopter flight patterns to the national airport and the Pentagon. Most of the complaints come from people living near the Potomac River, which is the general flight path for most jets arriving and departing from the airport.

Last week, during the official celebration of the opening of the new DCA lobby, Congressman Don Beyer offered a “good riddance” of the infamous 35X door, assuring residents that the new door will not exacerbate not the noise.

“While the new facilities will improve the passenger experience, it will not result in increased flights or aircraft noise, a common concern in the region,” he said later. said in a tweet. “And I will continue to work to reduce aircraft noise in our area!”

This year, several separate studies and reports have come up with potential solutions to appease the skies. A study, commissioned by Arlington County and Montgomery County, is underway as the scope shifts from inbound to outbound planes.

The joint study advised in April to redirect incoming planes so that they increasingly fly over the Potomac River instead of “residential and noise-sensitive areas.”

The recommendations were made to the Reagan National Community Noise Working Group (CWG), which operates under the authority of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).

The CWG in turn forwarded them to the Federal Aviation Administration, although it is not clear if and when the FAA will act on the suggestions.

The findings and the process shocked some residents of the North Arlington neighborhoods near the river. In public comments at the County Board of Directors meeting on September 18, Alice Doyle, a resident of Chain Bridge Forest, said the altered flight paths would cause her and her neighbors to take the brunt noise.

“To be clear, this means that areas like Chain Bridge Forest and Arlingwood that are near the Chain Bridge not only see relief from aircraft noise, we are now going to see and hear more flights overhead,” he said. she declared. “The disruption of flights over our homes is almost constant with occasional periods of relief. As part of this plan, those much needed moments of noise relief will disappear. “

She also criticized the county for being “half-listening to the process” and not having enough representatives at the CWG meeting.

County board member Libby Garvey responded that she understood Doyle’s concerns, but said the report recommended changing flight patterns to ease the burden on more populated areas of Arlington.

She reiterated in federal matters such as this, the best county officials can do is make recommendations.

Now, the joint study has a new focus: departing flights, Arlington County spokeswoman Bryna Helfer told ARLnow.

“The technical work on the new interim procedures for departures to the north is currently at the center of the study and a community meeting to present these interim procedures will be scheduled before the end of 2021,” she wrote in an e -mail.

In 2018, Arlington and Montgomery counties agreed to share the $ 250,000 cost of the study, which was officially launched in 2020. For the outbound flight study, Arlington paid $ 50,000. additional and Montgomery an additional $ 100,000, Helfer said.

The CWG will meet again next Thursday, October 28.

The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Department of Defense also completed studies this year. The September GAO report recommends that the FAA use noise measurements that are easier to understand.

These include: “sound exposure level”, the total noise caused by a hover; “Number above”, the number of air flights exceeding a certain decibel threshold; and “time above” means the length of time that a location is exposed to a certain sound decibel.

Heather Krause, director of the report, said the FAA agrees with the findings and will report to GAO in 180 days on the implementation of these new measures.

Additionally, the study helps the FAA communicate with the public, Krause told ARLnow.

“[This was] to help communities better understand the type of impacts they might face when changes are made to flights in their area, ”she said.

Beyer, meanwhile, also supports GAO’s recommendations.

“These GAO recommendations would lead to better measurement of aircraft noise and community awareness, and I urge the FAA to implement them as quickly as possible,” he said in a press release. Friday.

In a third report, dated July, the DoD pledged to try to reduce helicopter noise by possibly increasing the elevation of roads and tracking noise complaints to find models. However, the ministry was unable to give assurances.

“Airspace in the [National Capital Region] is one of the busiest and most restrictive in the United States, ”the report says. “Military helicopters operating in the NCR share airspace with three major commercial airports and are required to follow helicopter routes and altitude restrictions established and enforced by [the] FAA. “



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