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DCA Runway Work May Direct More Planes Over Arlington

by ARLnow.com May 17, 2011 at 3:59 pm 7,446 42 Comments

Through the end of 2011, crews will be working to rehabilitate the main runway at Reagan National Airport. The work will force the closure of the runway at night, and will result in more planes flying closer to Arlington.

Reagan National’s Runway 1/19 will be closed for milling and resurfacing each night, weather-permitting, from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. The project — the first such work on the 6,869-foot runway since 1990 — is expected to wrap up before the end of the year.

There are no scheduled departures at DCA after 10:00 p.m., but there are about a dozen regularly-scheduled nighttime arrivals that will need to land on another runway after 11:00 each night, according to airport officials. The runway that’s most likely to be used is Runway 15/33, which points northwest/southeast. Depending on prevailing winds and weather, arriving flights will either be directed to approach from the northwest — thus flying over Rosslyn and the Pentagon — or from the southeast, over Southeast D.C. and the Potomac.

Residents have expressed concern over increased late night air traffic.

“They’re still landing right now at 12:05… [and] flying directly over Rosslyn,” said an anonymous tipster, in an email sent last night. “This will be a major headache for the rest of the year.”

Airport officials, however, suggest the impact will be minimal.

“Folks won’t be seeing these 12 arrivals coming in, necessarily, every night,” said Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokesman Robert Yingling. He added that arriving flights are generally relatively quiet.

“The engines are generally running at a pretty low rate when an aircraft is landing,” which limits the amount of noise generated, he said.

Although weather could occasionally cause Runway 1/19 to stay open — thus putting nighttime flights back on their normal path — it could also cause delays and force departures and additional arrivals to be pushed back after 11:00 p.m. Yingling said that only planes that meet certain noise restriction requirements are permitted to take off after 10:00 p.m.

We reached out to Arlington County’s resident aircraft noise guru — County Board member Mary Hynes — regarding the runway issue but have not yet heard back.

  • Westover

    True, flights that are lnading create minimal noise. But, I am still concerned with having flights scheduled so late in the evening. I was under the impression that nothing was supposed to be scheduled after 10:30pm into DCA.

    • danielobvt

      That stopped long ago when the modern planes complied with noise ordnances.
      Modern Boeing or Airbus planes are radically quieter than the planes from decades ago.

      • dynaroo

        Ironic misspelling of “ordinances.”

  • LP

    There was a large number of flights over Arlington (Clarendon, Lyon Park) yesterday after 5PM, I’m assuming it was because of the heavy storms on the normal path heading up the Potomac.

    However, if this is the case with the runway resurfacing, some people in the above stated neighborhoods are going to be hearing a lot more noise in the coming months.

    • The resurfacing and runway closure is only happening between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

    • Westover

      It is one thing if occasional weather pushes the flights later or onto a different flight path, but they should not be regularly scheduled so late.

  • PhilL

    It’s really not that big of a difference. Because of airspace restrictions over the downtown area, the “river visual” approach for runway 19 comes in at an angle almost parallel and aligned to 15. In other words, a plane flying over Key Bridge on approach to 19 needs only a small turn to be on approach for 15. In fact they do it quite a bit, you can watch them diverge to the right and head for the Pentagon as late as when they are over Roosevelt Island. The affected area in Arlington is pretty small anyway, which is another way of saying far away from me and of no consequence to my sleep.

    • Westover

      Yeah, from that approach it is only those Rosslyn dwellers and our resting heros at Arlington that will hear things, but 4/22 affects a lot of folks in N. Alexandria, Crystal City, Potomac Yards and S. Arlington.

      • Ali

        I’ve lived in CC for 5 years and the fire station here is far louder than any plane has ever been.

        • Curious George


          Good point. I like off of Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square. The only time a plane bothered me was a military jet going the wrong way during the last air defense exercise.

          Fire truck sirens will blow you out of bed though.

        • Michael H.

          Yeah, the fire trucks are a lot louder than most of the planes. For a few years, it was the false fire alarms in my building that were the biggest problem. Not sure why the alarms used to go off so frequently back then.

  • PhilL

    Here is the other impact: RWY 15 is about 1600ft shorter than 19 (about 25% shorter), and has no ILS. 15 only has a VOR approach, which has what they call “higher minimums”. Basically it means you need to see the runway threshold from a higher altitude than an ILS approach into 19. They’ll be more likely to have to divert flights during the construction if the cloud ceiling is low.

  • Hattie McDaniel

    He added that arriving flights are generally quiet

    Bulls—. I can hear them quite well, especially on a cloudy day.

    • danielobvt

      Boy, did you pick the wrong place to live then. I have lived here since the 1st grade (30 years) and maybe hear a couple of aircraft a day. It is amazing what the quieter aircraft combined with the filtering that your brains does can make them all but disappear. The main time I hear them is when it is really cloudy (causing the noise to reflect) or the very occasional low approach.

  • Librarina

    Whatever happened to no flights before 7am or after 11pm? With Congress having jurisdictiion over the airport, they will continue to chip away at any regulations to keep the traffic in check in order to get away from DC as quickly as possible, and add flights to their home states. The skies were so quiet and peaceful after 9/11 when the airport was closed.

    • Max

      I think if flights are delayed, they’re allowed to take off/land during the curfew, as long as it’s not regularly scheduled. That is the way airport slots work, I believe.

  • Michael H.

    It’s easy to measure the noise of incoming flights. Stand over at Gravelly Point during the day and listen. The landing planes sure seem pretty loud to me as they fly overhead. The statement about arriving flights being quiet is a strange one.

    • Spackle

      Go to GP when they are taking off on Runway 1 (1/19 North). Let me know if you prefer aircraft to be landing or taking off while flying over Arlington.

  • Rebecca

    To the people are complaining: maybe you should have thought about noise before you moved so close to an airport.

    • Michael H.

      I’m not complaining. I’m just pointing out the strangeness of the spokesperson’s comment. When I’m not over at Gravelly Point, I don’t hear the planes that much. Just a general low-level-type sound. I don’t really notice it that much.

      I only notice the noise of the arriving planes because I frequently bike or run on the Mt. Vernon Trail. At Gravelly Point, I usually have to cover my ears as the plans pass overhead.

      • Michael H.

        I meant “planes”, not “plans”.

      • Michael H.

        I meant to say “as the planes pass overhead.”

      • CW2

        Well, you’re talking about planes that are merely a few hundred feet overhead at Gravelly Point. Of course they’re going to be loud from that distance.

        They are not that close when they pass over various apartment buildings and houses in Arlington, and hence not as loud.

        • Michael H.

          That’s why I said that I don’t notice the planes that much when I’m not at Gravelly Point.

  • pdk

    i travel often and flights regularly land after midnight, however it’s part of the pro/con of living so close to the city/airport. let’s hope the project manager is not the same idiot who ran the chain bridge or hump back bridge projects…

    • MC 703

      I landed on 1/19 last night from the South in a CRJ700. 10:45PM arrival from Memphis. Sorry guys. My B.

  • Arlingtron

    I’ve often observed flights using 15/33 coming in on the pattern for 1/19 then turn to use the cross runway. Probably using the ILS or just a pattern that’s easier to manage by the tower. I would say that if not for this story we wouldn’t know any different than usual.

    • LyonSteve

      When making 33 arrivals, they follow the same pattern as a 19 arrival with a quick turn over the Potomac at the end.

  • G550

    When they take off from 19 (That would be north), why do they sometimes follow the river and sometimes make a quick turn and fly over the area between Rosslyn and Courthouse?

  • jeff

    11:51 and a low-flying plane just noisily descended over rosslyn.

  • Arlingtonian

    I did think about the airport noise when I moved here over 30 years ago. There were time restrictions and distance restrictions on flights. After 9-11 it was obvious that the airport needed to be closed permanently. It just shows what a joke all the homeland security is. Planes fly directly over the Pentagon all day and night and can be anywhere in DC in seconds.

  • Steve

    What is wrong with people here? I used to live a few miles from JFK, and much, much larger and louder planes use that airport, and you simply get completely used to it. In fact I found the noise relaxing.

  • FJ

    I’m not sure whether prevailing winds and weather impacted arriving flights for the last three consecutive nights (6/12 thru 6/14) because Runway 15/33 – Southeast had at least thirteen arrivals between 11:30pm – 1:30am. This morning there were two arrivals using runway 15/33 – southeast; at 3:00am and 3:30am. These arrivals are very disruptive to sleep. While the plane engine(s) may very well be running at low speed the low flying altitude negates any noise reduction benefits. The planes are flying so low that you can actually see passengers in a window seat.

  • BerryBerryCold

    I agree. I was in Courthouse this past weekend and planes were taking off and then turning directly over Courthouse – mid-afternoon.

    I thought that they follow the river when taking off and landing to/from the North?

  • TC

    I agree, as well. I live in Rosslyn and have not had a good night’s sleep for two months. Planes arriving late into the night and starting back up at 6am. I’ve lived here 14 years and never have experienced this. It is very disruptive.

  • TriciaW

    There is a hotline that will register complaints in a database .. this helps in getting them to look for alternatives .. 703-417-8020 .. I urge EVERYONE to please call .. even if it does not affect you, it affects your neighbors in Rosslyn .. and register a complaint.

  • Jackflops

    Did anyone hear what sounded like sonic booms last night around midnight? Almost like fireworks but evenly spaced about 2 seconds apart. Very audible in the Ballston area.

    • Lou

      I heard them, but around 10:30. Seemed to be at least 10, all evenly spaced and somewhere towards Bailey’s Crossroads from me (Westover). I figured they were transformers and expected my power to go off any second.

      • Jackflops

        Scared the crap out of our dog.

      • Jackflops

        Also, was there some sort of NORAD exercise? Maybe that’s what I heard at midnight. Had the fan on, but I could hear something that sounded like jets in a weird noise pattern.

  • Paul J. Adam

    I hear the GD airplanes all the time in Rosslyn and I’m GOING CRAZY! I would have never moved here if I knew they would wake me up at 6am every morning. I have to sleep with ear plugs every night and I’m probably going to have to break my lease to get away from here, I just moved here for a job and wanted to be close to work to take the subway. I guess I’m learning my lesson the hard way. Stay the F away from an airport if you want sanity and restful sleep. So stressful it’s insane. Guess I’m gong to have to by the construction grade hearing protection ear muffs.

  • Sleepless in Rosslyn

    Just called the hotline . . . 703-417-8020 . . . it’s 11:51PM and another bird just whizzed over my complex. They are expecting another 5 more flights in tonight – last one in at approximately 12:40AM. The guy on the phone was nice and informative. He anticipates the runway project to be complete by the end of November. Yay?!


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