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Beyer Urges FAA to Reconsider Flight Path Changes, Accusing Agency of Avoiding Community Input

Opposition is taking flight against new route changes proposed at Reagan National Airport as residents and multiple members of Congress raise concerns.

The Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) earlier this year announced plans to adjust National Airport flight paths to avoid parts of the federal no-fly zone around D.C., to “address Secret Service concerns.” But Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) says the new paths means more noise.

“I hear from constituents on airplane noise issues consistently,” Beyer told ARLnow.com this weekend. “On this issue and in general, my constituents are frustrated that their concerns are not being heard and their interests not considered meaningfully by FAA, and rightly so. We must ensure that the community is involved in these decisions, which is exactly why the Community Working Group was created to begin with.”

The changes would adjust northbound departing planes at DCA’s Runway 19 to fly further westward. This would push more planes over land in Arlington — a plan residents fiercely criticized when it was first proposed three years ago, echoing long-standing concerns about the sound shaking homes and interrupting sleep as airlines switched to new navigation techniques to optimize routes, resulting in more flights early in the morning and late at night.

The FAA presented the same proposal again this past June, announcing the changes would go into effect in August to quell concerns from the Secret Service about planes zooming too close to the Lincoln Memorial and the White House. However, Beyer says the agency failed to consult the Reagan National Community Noise Working Group about the idea.

Beyer, who represents parts of Alexandria and Arlington, wrote a letter last week saying he understood the need to prevent planes from flying into federally restricted airspace, but noted that he remained “concerned about the process — specifically, the failure to give meaningful consideration to community interests — involved in a decision that will further concentrate the airplane noise in Arlington, Virginia.”

Maryland Democrats Sen. Benjamin Cardin, Sen. Chris van Hollen, and Rep. Jamie Raskin also wrote a letter this summer saying the surprise proposal represented a “failure to give meaningful consideration to community interests, the absence of an environmental review, and the negative impact” on neighborhoods.

“I join my Maryland colleagues in urging the FAA to halt implementation of the proposed changes to DCA flight procedures (both approach and departure changes) until it can demonstrate a need for these changes, as well as considering the concerns of the affected communities per the standard environmental review process,” Beyer wrote in his letter last week.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) held a series of regional meetings in October to gather public feedback on the proposed flight paths. Arlington and Montgomery County also opened bidding for a contractor who can recommend the best ways to solve the noisy dispute — after teaming up last year to fund a study on aircraft noise.

The issue over which jurisdiction should bear the brunt of the airport’s noise has at times created a tug-of-war between Maryland, Virginia, and D.C. The issue re-surfaced as some residents worry Amazon’s arrival in Arlington and the airport’s expansion project mean more flights could be added to the airport. (Last year, officials denied they have plans for additional flights.)

Raskin and Beyer are both members of the Congressional Quiet Skies Coalition, which advocates for “meaningful solutions” to aircraft noise and has previously called for DCA to limit its growth and study the impact of the noise.

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