(Updated at 11:45 a.m) Arlington is teaming up with some of its neighbors to the north to somehow find a solution to the persistent problem of aircraft noise generated by Reagan National Airport.
County Board members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt announced last Friday (June 1) that Arlington and Montgomery County, Maryland have agreed to both chip in funds for a consultant to study the issue starting this year.
The Board members wrote in an email that the study’s goal is “to quantify the noise impacts on our community, to determine what specifically is driving the increase in those impacts in recent years and to identify and evaluate all actions that could reasonably be taken to reduce and mitigate them.”
“Despite what look like promising recommendations for operations south of the airport, the fact remains that we do not appear to be any closer to a solution today for those communities north of the airport than we were when this effort was initiated,” Garvey and Vihstadt wrote. “It is our hope that this study will result in concrete recommendations to achieve the county’s and the region’s goal of reducing aircraft noise where possible and to equitably share it where necessary.”
County leaders have been wrestling with the issue of aircraft noise for years now, particularly as National recorded a spike in air traffic in recent years. Nearby residents have become particularly perturbed by the noise as the airport adjusted flight patterns in accordance with the Federal Aviation Administration’s “NextGen” modernization initiative for the air traffic system in 2014.
“We continue to hear loud and clear from our residents that the noise impacts have worsened significantly since this action and have had a substantial negative impact on their quality of life,” Garvey and Vihstadt wrote.
Arlington and Montgomery County residents are not the only ones grappling with the issue. Some residential portions of Northwest D.C. have encountered an increase in noise since NextGen was implemented a few years ago, leading one District resident to file thousands of noise complaints over the course of one year.
The county has worked with the FAA on the issue since October 2015, through the “DCA Community Working Group,” and the Board members say they’ll send the results of this new study to that group once it’s wrapped up. They plan to update the community on a timetable for the study in the comings weeks, and work is set to kick off with the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) also recently proposed a series of amendments to the new FAA reauthorization bill to address the issue.
Congressman Don Beyer (D-Va.) has added several amendments to the FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4) intended to reduce aircraft noise in the region.
One of the amendments would provide for soundproofing “residential buildings located on residential properties that are subject to increased perceived noise levels as a result of the NextGen initiative of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
A press release promoting the amendment did not provide further detail as to how this soundproofing would be executed, though it did note the expansion of discretionary grants to fund “noise compatibility programs” and “noise mitigation projects” in addition to soundproofing.
One of the amendments would charge the administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration with developing “a noise inquiry website… to receive, track, and analyze complaints on an ongoing basis from individuals in the National Capital Region.”
There is already information on the FAA’s website about how to report complaints, however the advice generally instructs residents to either contact the FAA ombudsman or to complain directly to the airport about the alleged noise problem.
A separate amendment proposes a monthly helicopter noise abatement working group, led by the FAA and with Department of Defense officials in attendance, to “collect, correlate, and identify trends” relating to regional helicopter noise.
Another amendment seeks to “review and revise helicopter flight paths, including those used by the Department of Defense and all military helicopters, identifying and issuing new official paths for the areas in which helicopters may be able to fly at higher altitudes.”
The FAA’s official website also touches on military-related aircraft noise, noting that the agency “does not have the authority to regulate the operations of military aircraft.”
Back on January 16, Beyer held an aircraft noise community forum in Fairlington to discuss the issue with a few dozen attendees.
“It is frightening, it is often daily, and it is very disruptive to my life,” one woman said at the forum, adding that the noise upsets her pets and rattles her windows.
More from the press release:
Rep. Don Beyer today offered a series of amendments to H.R. 4, the FAA Reauthorization Act, designed to mitigate the effects of aircraft noise on communities in the National Capital Region.
“Hundreds of my constituents have expressed to me their frustrations with the slow pace of change prompted by their input to government authorities about aircraft noise,” said Rep. Beyer. “This problem isn’t getting better quickly enough. Northern Virginians have been patient, but there is more that can be done to reduce the toll taken by noisy aircraft on our community.”
He offered two amendments related to airplane noise which would expand discretionary grants which fund noise compatibility programs, noise mitigation projects, and soundproofing of houses in affected communities.
Additionally, Beyer will throw his full support behind an amendment to the same legislation offered by Rep. Barbara Comstock, which would block the expansion of flight slots in the region’s airports, increasing the quantity of flights and the resulting noise from aircraft.
Beyer also offered two amendments based on feedback from constituents presented during his Fairlington town hall on helicopter noise in January. One amendment would require the FAA to review helicopter flight paths, including Department of Defense and all other military helicopters, to find areas where they may fly at higher altitudes to reduce noise for communities below.
The other would require the FAA to set up a noise inquiry website using data from local airports, and to establish a helicopter noise abatement working group to look for ways to reduce helicopter noise in the region.
What would it be like to skydive in highly-restricted airspace over Arlington and the Pentagon?
A new video gives us a first-person perspective on just that. The GoPro-style video shows the skydivers who swooped down from above as part of a demonstration before the Marine Corps Marathon this past weekend.
Multiple expert skydivers landed in a small strip of land between the runners and Arlington National Cemetery as tens of thousands of runners watched and applauded.
‘Meeting Bowls’ Coming to Courthouse — A new, temporary public art installation is coming to Courthouse. Workers will be building 5-foot high “meeting bowls,” designed by the Spanish art collective “mmmm….,” and featuring an 8-foot long circular bench inside. The bowls, which are meant to be used by passersby, are expected to be completed by Monday, July 17 and will remain in place until November. [Washingtonian]
Pentagon City Residents Peeved by Shopping Carts — Legions of stray shopping carts are getting on the nerves of Pentagon City residents, NBC 4’s Julie Carey reported during a news broadcast last night. [NBC Washington, Twitter]
Scholarships Awarded to Wakefield Students — “The Wakefield High School Education Foundation recently awarded 27 scholarships totaling $201,000, bringing the total number of scholarships presented over the history of the foundation to 400 and the total dollar amount of scholarships and teacher grants to more than $2.25 million.” [InsideNova]
Local Author Pens New Thriller — Arlington resident Bill Schweigart, author of the Beast of Barcroft, a supernatural thriller set in Arlington, has penned another book of local interest: The Devil’s Colony, which features a fictional Arlington resident as its main character. [Penguin Random House]
Nearby: Montgomery Co. Consider Plane Noise Suit — Montgomery County, Maryland has hired a law firm to explore legal action against the Federal Aviation Administration in response to new flight paths that have produced a dramatic increase in aircraft noise complaints. The flight paths were implemented in 2015 as part of the FAA’s NextGen system and have prompted some complaints in Arlington and D.C. as well. [Bethesda Beat]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
The Federal Aviation Administration is scrapping a proposal to shift the northerly flight path from Reagan National Airport closer to Rosslyn, according to Rep. Don Beyer’s office.
The FAA sought feedback on the plan during a public meeting at Washington-Lee High School in September. The plan, which was intended to reduce noise in the Foxhall Village neighborhood of D.C. while placing flights more directly over the Potomac River, was met with skepticism from Arlington residents. County Board members pointed out that aircraft noise in Arlington was already on the rise under the current flight path.
Rep. Beyer (D-Va.) sent a letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in October, outlining “serious concerns with many aspects of the plan.” The congressman hailed the FAA’s decision to terminate the proposed changes.
“Today’s decision by the FAA to terminate the proposed… departure procedure is a positive development in our ongoing quest to quiet the skies over northern Virginia,” Beyer said in a statement. “While the proposed path was intended to increase flight time over the Potomac River, it was significantly concerning that there was no clear understanding on the level and impact of plane noise on airport area communities.”
The FAA wants to shift the northbound flight path for planes taking off from Reagan National Airport directly over Rosslyn, a change that many residents expressed skepticism about during a public meeting last night at Washington-Lee High School.
“What we’re asking people to look at is a new proposed route that is an effort to relieve noise in the Foxhall Village section of [D.C.] and put planes more over the middle of the river,” said FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown. Residents of Northwest D.C. have been complaining about airplane noise for some time now, culminating in a letter to the FAA from D.C.’s attorney general earlier this year.
But the new proposed flight path could result in more noise for parts of Arlington, particularly the Rosslyn, Courthouse and North Highlands neighborhoods. (The new flight path would slightly shift planes away from some far northern Arlington communities.)
Some residents questioned why Arlington should be subject to more noise so that D.C. residents could have more peace and quiet.
“The problem with downtown airports is that they’re convenient and they’re noisy,” said Arlington resident and retired Naval aviator Jim Pebley. “You can have one, but you can’t have it without the other. The best we can do is distribute the noise equally between the District and us.”
Arlington County Board members Libby Garvey, Katie Cristol and John Vihstadt were in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting. Garvey on Monday wrote a letter to the FAA asking why data shows aircraft noise increasing in Arlington over the past couple of years. The letter asks the FAA to be more responsive to concerns from residents and localities about aircraft noise; it also asks the agency to propose alternatives for reducing noise.
“Arlington County firmly believes that improvements for both those on the ground and the flying public are possible and necessary,” the letter says. However, “it does not seem reasonable to the County that local communities, who are not experts on the needs, constraints and opportunities with regards to aviation, should be tasked with solving this problem.”
Another issue raised at the meeting: the safety implications of having jetliners flying even closer to Rosslyn’s tall buildings. The recently-released film ‘Sully,’ which recounted the Hudson River landing of US Airways Flight 1549 after striking a flock of geese on takeoff, was brought up.
“I’m worried about what this is going to do for a single engine out operation over Rosslyn,” Pebley said. “I ran the calculations. If you take off on a warm summer day and climbed up the best you could, you might make it a couple hundred feet over the tallest building there. That’s really scary.”
The FAA will be holding two additional public meetings — in Georgetown tonight and Bethesda tomorrow — and will weigh public feedback at each of the three meetings, Brown said. A final decision on the flight path could be make as early as January 2017.
Is Aircraft Noise Getting Worse? — Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak has taken up the issue of aircraft noise complaints in Arlington. Some residents say the noise has gotten worse recently, particularly with more helicopters and tilt-rotor V-22 Ospreys overhead. So far, the Dept. of Defense has not explained the purpose of the numerous Osprey flights. [Washington Post]
Amish Super PAC Has HQ in Clarendon — A political action committee that’s trying to convince the Amish to vote for Donald Trump this fall has its headquarters in Clarendon. [Quartz]
Arlington Honored as ‘Walk Friendly Community’ — Arlington has again been honored as a Gold-level Walk Friendly Community. Arlington is one of 15 communities nationwide to achieve the gold rating. [Arlington County]
‘Whimsical’ Old Victorian Farmhouse For Sale — A “whimsical” Queen Anne-style Victorian home that dates back to 1881 is on the market for $1.3 million. The home, in Arlington’s Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood, was the setting of a notable children’s novel, among other distinctions. [Washington Post]
InsideNova Implements New Ads? — InsideNova, the web home of the Arlington Sun Gazette, appears to be running 30 second video ads that cannot be closed with each new page view. That’s what ARLnow.com encountered this morning; it’s unclear if that is happening for every user. InsideNova content was previously placed behind a paywall, which has since been quietly removed. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Zoning Board Rules in Favor of Gun Store — Arlington Board of Zoning Appeals has rejected a challenge to the Certificate of Occupancy for Nova Firearms, the gun store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park. A group of residents filed the appeal, claiming that the store’s owner submitted false information to the county. [Daily Caller]
Complaints About Aircraft Noise in Barcroft — Residents of Arlington’s Barcroft neighborhood are organizing a working group to address the issue of aircraft noise, particularly noise from low-flying helicopters. [Chamandy.org]
Another IRS Phone Scam — Arlington residents are reporting yet another phone scam. If someone calls you out of the blue, says they’re from the IRS and tries to get you to reveal personal information, it’s probably a scam. [WJLA]
New Leader for Arlington Arts Center — Holly Koons McCullough has been named the new executive director of the Arlington Arts Center. Previously, McCullough served as director of the Greater Reston Arts Center. [Washington City Paper]
New Director of Transportation for APS — The Arlington School Board has approved the appointment of Angel Garcia-Ablanque as the school system’s new Director of Transportation. He was previously Assistant Director of Transportation for Montgomery County Public Schools. [Arlington Public Schools]
Fundraiser at Celtic House — Celtic House (2500 Columbia Pike) is holding a fundraiser for two veterans organizations today. The Irish pub, an ARLnow.com advertiser, will be donating a portion of all sales today to Wings for Warriors and Links to Freedom.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
In the first community meeting dedicated to discussing helicopter operations and noise in Arlington, residents found their concerns stuck between federal air traffic regulations and required military practices throughout the metro area.
Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey hosted the meeting last Wednesday night as part of an ongoing effort to hear and address resident concerns about noise pollution, specifically near Reagan National Airport.
The meeting’s panel included representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and the military, including the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
“It’s definitely our intent to fly friendly and to support the local community as much as possible,” Colonel Timothy Brown said at the meeting. Brown is a Commander in the U.S. Army Air Operations Group.
“This is a great feedback opportunity for us to take lessons and really work on training and communicating with our pilots so that everyone is able to support this goal as much as we can within the restraints of the airspace that we’re operating in,” he added.
However, as residents and representatives from neighborhoods closest to the airport shared their concerns, a disconnect between FAA regulations and military operations became clear, making it difficult for the selected panel to properly address questions.
“We monitor and grant approval in and out of the airspace, but we take care of civil aircraft in that area,” said Rebecca Cointin of the FAA’s Office of Environment and Energy. “I want to make it clear that we do not have a lot of regulation over noise produced by military aircraft. The FAA does not control, certify or regulate them.”
According to the panelists, 75 percent of the air traffic in the area is military, and the remaining 25 percent is law enforcement, medical evacuations and the civil aircraft Cointin referred to.
What the FAA does regulate is safe areas in which military aircraft can operate so as to not come into conflict with the civilian aircraft. The military has determined routes in the approved airspace for helicopters flying in and out of Reagan National, including along Route 7 and Route 1.
“We fly the route structure we do because it’s the safest way to fly in that airspace,” the Marine Corps Commander said, using a road analogy to explain why military aircraft tend to fly on either side of corridors like I-395 rather than directly above it. “When we’re flying those routes, they’re like highways in the sky. Unfortunately, we don’t dictate them. We operate via the FAA. We’re just the operators trying to fly in the safest, most efficient manner.”
As the discussion continued, fingers pointed to the U.S. Department of Defense, which regulates military missions, training and how its aircraft operate. It also became apparent that while neither aircraft operators nor the FAA alone could change the flight routes, residents also didn’t have an outlet to share their concerns.
“What I’m looking for is a way for people to let you know when it’s really a problem,” Garvey said. “I’m guessing this might not exist right now, but it might be something we can work on.”
With that in mind, residents shared their ongoing frustrations with noise and accounts of excessive helicopter traffic.
Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey will be hosting a community meeting on helicopter operations and noise on Wednesday, Dec. 16 from 7-9 p.m. at the Arlington Central Library auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street).
She held a similar meeting over the summer to discuss noise from airplanes heading to and from Reagan National Airport. That meeting drew approximately 100 attendees, who heard from representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The group addressed questions and comments regarding flight paths, hours of operation, types of aircraft and regional coordination moving forward.
This month’s meeting agenda also includes two representatives from the FAA, one from its Air Traffic Organization and another from the Office of Environment and Energy. Another confirmed guest is a commander of the U.S. Army Air Operations Group, and the list is expected to grow.
“We had an overwhelming response to the general aviation community meeting I hosted in the summer and I would encourage all of you to attend this meeting as well,” Garvey wrote in an email to constituents who had expressed concern about aircraft noise. “This will provide an important opportunity for us to not only understand the nature of helicopter operations in the region but will allow us to ask questions and have our voices heard to grow.”
The meeting is part of a “regular series of occasional updates on this issue” to continue efforts put into effect since the first meeting.
One of these efforts is the establishment of a Reagan National Airport Community Working Group — per a MWAA recommendation — that has met twice to discuss options to reduce or mitigate noise concerns in the region, according to an e-mail sent from Garvey to community members. The Working Group is made up of two community representatives from Arlington County, five of the eight Wards in D.C., Alexandria, Dranesville and Mount Vernon.
The County has also created an airport noise website as a dedicated resource for community members to learn about the issue and get updates on meetings.
A small prop plane was flying circles over Arlington, Alexandria and D.C. yesterday, and one tipster says it was probably an FBI surveillance plane.
The Cessna 182T Skylane plane was tracked by the website Flightradar24, flying around parts of Arlington. The Associated Press reported last month that the FBI uses that exact model of plane, equipped with high-resolution video cameras and cell phone trackers, to conduct surveillance flights over U.S. cities.
The AP also reported that such flights sometimes orbit Reagan National Airport.
“I stumbled on [the website] yesterday and much to my surprise there was one of those planes flying over Arlington,” said the tipster. “Just thought others in Arlington would be curious to know it is happening here as well as all over the country as the AP points out.”
The Washington Post reported in May that a Cessna 182T, registered to a company in Bristow, Va., was tracked flying over Baltimore during the Freddie Gray riots.
ARLnow.com has fielded occasional questions from readers over the past year or so about small aircraft seen circling overhead. The flights have struck readers as odd because with few exceptions FAA regulations limit aircraft flying over the immediate D.C. area to government aircraft and flights arriving and departing at Reagan National.
There are instances, however, when the FAA allows commercial general aviation flights over the restricted air space for aerial photography or research purposes.
Residents have said that such noise is affecting their quality of life.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the Metro Washington Airports Authority, in partnership with Arlington County, are hosting a community meeting in the County Boardroom at Courthouse Plaza (2100 Clarendon Blvd, Room 307).
The meeting will run from 7-9 p.m., and is designed to “allow Arlington County residents to voice their concerns to the FAA and MWAA, as well as hear possible solutions from FAA and MWAA.”
This is not the first time residents have raised the issue of noise pollution; in 2011 late night runway renovation prompted numerous noise complaints from residents in homes along DCA flight paths.
In July of that year the MWAA hired the ITT Corporation to monitor noise in the communities near the airport in response to numerous complaints.
All who are impacted by the aircraft noise are encouraged to attend the meeting.
Photo courtesy Alex
Japanese Noodle Bar Coming to Ballston — Yona, a new Japanese noodle bar and Korean-inspired small plates restaurant, is coming to 4000 Wilson Blvd in Ballston. It will be the third restaurant from restaurateur Mike Isabella in the building. Isabella’s Kapnos Tavern is expected to open there next month and his Pepita cantina is expected to open in the first quarter of 2015. [Washington Post]
Leonsis Praises Ballston — Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is a big fan of Ballston, where the Capitals have their Kettler Capitals Iceplex practice facility. In a blog post responding to reports about the Wizards looking for a practice facility in either D.C. or Arlington, Leonsis wrote that “we feel fortunate that [the Capitals] ended up in the welcoming community of Ballston.” [Ted’s Take]
Wakefield Wins First Playoff Game — The Wakefield Warriors football squad celebrated its first-ever playoff victory on Friday. Wakefield will next face undefeated Tuscarora in the second round of the 5A North Region playoffs. Washington-Lee and Yorktown both lost their first-round playoff games. [InsideNova]
‘State of Affairs’ Producer Lives in Arlington — Rodney Faraon, a father of three whose 14 years as a CIA analyst helped inspire the NBC drama “State of Affairs,” is an Arlington resident. Faraon serves as an executive producer on the show, which premiered last night. [Washingtonian, WNEW]
Plane Complaints Explained? — Over the past couple of years, numerous Arlington residents have made occasional complaints about hearing what sounded like a single-engine plane flying overhead for an extended period of time. At the time, there was no ready explanation for who or what might be flying around Arlington. However, some now think those planes might have been flying for a recently-revealed Justice Department cell phone spying program.
Soccer Tourney For At-Risk Kids — A 9th annual soccer tournament for at-risk kids was held in Arlington on Sunday. [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
APS To Use ‘Big Data’ to Prevent Dropouts — Arlington Public Schools held a contest this summer for “big data” companies to analyze its student performance data, and plans to use the newly-released results to predict which students are at risk of dropping out of school. The winning company, Deep Learning Analytics, found that APS should refine its data collecting techniques. In addition, it found that, along with attendance, behavior and coursework, socioeconomic standing is a predictive indicator for school dropouts. [Arlington Public Schools]
Military Jet to Land at DCA — The Scorpion, a new military fighter jet, will land at Reagan National Airport on Saturday. The jet — manufactured by Textron AirLand LLC — will stay in a DCA hangar for a week, for marketing purposes. [InsideNova]
County Launches New Blog — Arlington County has launched “Natural Arlington,” a new blog to discuss environmental issues in the county. Recent topics include a discussion of green frogs, the environmental issues with dog poop, and a post about the sale of native plants at local nurseries. [Natural Arlington]
Road Closure for Street Fair — Part of 9th Street S. will be closed in the area of Walter Reed Drive for the annual Prio Bangla Potho Mela street fair. The event is taking place Saturday morning. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Bill Ross
Free Burgers for Feds — Because the federal government shut down early this morning, Z-Burger is following through on its offer to serve free burgers for all federal and D.C. workers who have been furloughed. The local burger chain, which has a location at 3325 Wilson Blvd, near Clarendon, says customers must present a government ID to get the free burger.
Task Force Recommends More School Buses — An Arlington Public Schools task force has recommended that the school system’s bus service be expanded, at least for elementary school students. Elementary students should be supervised on their way to school, said the task force, which also said that buses are safer and produce less traffic than cars. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Startup Raises $100 Million — Arlington-based Evolent Health has raised a whopping $100 million in its latest funding round. The health management company expects to rapidly hire and develop technology in order to meet heavy demand from the hospital industry, spurred on by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. [Washington Business Journal]
Crystal City Showing Resilience — Despite heavy military job losses caused by the Base Closure and Realignment Act, Crystal City is starting to bounce back and find new tenants to fill vacant office space. Property owners are also using the tough times to upgrade or redevelop older buildings. The office vacancy rate in Crystal City stands at 24.2 percent, up from 9.8 percent in 2011. [Washington Post]
Vintage Plane Flies Over Arlington — The photo above was taken from a Ford Tri-Motor, the first mass-produced airliner in the world. Built in the 1920s, the plane has been carefully maintained and, on Saturday, flew over Arlington in a flight organized by the Experimental Aircraft Association. [EAA]
Photo courtesy Mary Dominiak/Experimental Aircraft Association