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Peter’s Take: Mitigating Aircraft Noise in Arlington

by Peter Rousselot — July 14, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Last week, my fellow ARLnow.com columnist, Mark Kelly, posted a column that said that living with aircraft and helicopter noise in Arlington was the price we pay for the economic benefits generated by National Airport (DCA) and the Pentagon. In response, Chris Slatt posted this most up-voted comment:

One can fully support the airport and the Pentagon as necessary and integral parts of Arlington while simultaneously questioning whether reasonable measures are being taken to minimize their impact on quality of life.

Chris is right to question whether reasonable measures are being taken. Many measures are.

How the FAA has contributed to increased noise

The increased noise results both from increased numbers of flights at DCA and changes to flight paths.

Last year was DCA’s sixth straight year of record-high passenger traffic. DCA now serves more passengers than Dulles–an airport 14 times its size.

The changes to flight paths are a result of NextGen – the FAA’s modernization initiative for the U.S. air traffic system designed to maximize efficiency.

Congressman Don Beyer has spearheaded initiatives to address DCA aircraft noise

Congressman Beyer:

  • Is an original co-sponsor of HR 3965, the FAA Community Accountability Act. This bill would require FAA to take into account negative impacts on the human environment near airports when considering flight path changes related to NextGen. Currently, FAA is required primarily to consider only safety and efficiency;
  • Sent a May 5, 2015 letter from the Virginia and DC Congressional delegations to Transportation Committee members stating their opposition to changes to DCA slot and perimeter rules;
  • Encouraged FAA to include the DC region in a multiyear study of the relationship between aircraft noise exposure and its effects on communities around airports.

Congressman Beyer also has spearheaded initiatives to address helicopter noise

Congressman Beyer’s office has received complaints related to military helicopter noise since he joined the Congress. These complaints overwhelmingly have related to frequent overflights from the V-22 Osprey, an 85-foot-wide tiltrotor aircraft.

Beyer successfully added an amendment to the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act requiring the DOD to work with the FAA to study noise mitigation solutions to military helicopter noise.  He spearheaded a National Capital Region letter to DOD Secretary Ash Carter and the FAA Administrator offering to facilitate DOD/FAA outreach to communities impacted by military helicopter noise.

Beyer’s initiatives have not attempted to seek an outright ban on military helicopter flights, but he believes it is irresponsible to ignore his constituents and not seek some mitigation solutions. Beyer has not succumbed to the reasoning in Mark Kelly’s column that nothing can be done simply because the “Pentagon was here first.” Instead, Beyer has proceeded on the premise that homeowners in Arlington and elsewhere should not be forced to anticipate the Department of Defense developing and then routinely flying an Osprey over their homes.

Conclusion

Noise mitigation measures may include federal legislative or regulatory actions that actually will lower the aircraft noise levels we are experiencing today. At least with respect to DCA air traffic growth, it is hard to envision how this will be realistically possible unless the DCA air traffic share is lowered and the Dulles share is raised.

Preferably, DOD and FAA will adhere to good neighbor policies that will quiet the skies.

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