Reducing local helicopter noise while conducting missions safely may be difficult, the Pentagon says, but the military is willing to try, according to a new report.
The commitment and the recommendations conclude a Dept. of Defense report on the causes and effects of helicopter noise in the D.C. area. This document was completed as a result of Rep. Don Beyer’s amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which included noise mitigation recommendations that Beyer and other regional lawmakers have sought for years in response to constituent complaints.
“The recommendations in this report reflect priorities my constituents have sought for years to reduce helicopter noise in Northern Virginia, and would make a real difference across the region,” Beyer said. “In particular, the commitment from DoD to study the possibility of increasing altitudes of helicopter routes would be a real game changer.”
The other action items would help reduce noise and improve transparency and engagement with the community, he said.
“I thank the Department of Defense for undertaking and releasing this report, and urge the rapid implementation of these recommendations,” Beyer said.
Residents of certain Arlington neighborhoods have lived with helicopter noise for many years, and it is a thorny issue among them. Previous discussions around noise mitigation ended in a stalemate, as officials say agencies have to also consider safety, which includes avoiding the abundance of commercial airplanes in the region.
There are more than 50 helicopter operators in the area and the biggest contributor is the Army, followed by the Marine Corps. The Army, Marine Corps and Air Force combined conducted 21,863 operations — although that does not translate to 21,863 flights. About eight flights per day used the Pentagon helipad, which is limited to only DoD-directed exercises and three- and four-star executive –and civilian equivalent — travel.
This new report finds that the flights currently occurring at levels “considered acceptable” based on Army, DoD, and federal land use compatibility recommendations. It did acknowledge, however, that studies find helicopter noise is “much more variable and complex” than airplane noise.
The DoD pledged to take four broad steps toward possibly reducing noise.
One notable recommendation is that DoD will discuss the possibility of increasing altitudes of helicopter routes with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Currently, FAA assigns helicopters to lower airspace because the airways are dominated by large commercial passenger jets, namely those landing at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport.
“The airspace within the [National Capital Region] is one of the busiest and most restrictive in the United States,” the report said. “The military helicopters that operate within the NCR are sharing airspace with three major commercial airports and are required to follow the helicopter routes and altitude restrictions established and enforced by FAA.”
And a majority of helicopter operators have expressed concern that changing the altitude could reduce safety for all aircrafts, saying that “establishing quiet or restricted zones would negatively affect their mission.”
Other recommendations include continuing to track and analyze helicopter noise complaints to identify potential trends as well as adjustments that the Army Aviation Brigade, 1st Helicopter Squadron and Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron 1 could make.
DoD said it will also work with FAA to obtain flight track data trends to look at compliance with local flight procedures and helicopter routes, and address any potential corrective actions. Finally, DoD said it will work with the Army and Marine Corps to ensure “fly neighborly” and “fly friendly” procedures are being reinforced and examine the procedures currently being used.
That’s according to new numbers from the Virginia Dept. of Health, which is now reporting 219 cases statewide and 3,337 people tested. Arlington has the third-highest number of positive COVID-19 tests in the state, after Fairfax County (31) and James City (32).
As of Friday afternoon, 173 people had been tested at Arlington’s new drive-through testing site, which opened on Wednesday on N. Quincy Street near Washington-Liberty High School. Officials from Virginia Hospital Center expected to conduct another 60 tests on Monday, having received a new shipment of tests on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon announced Sunday that a Defense Security Cooperation Agency worker has passed away after contracting COVID-19. As reported on March 9, the worker had spent time at the agency’s offices in Crystal City, leading to tenants in a pair of buildings being notified of the possible coronavirus exposure.
DOD announces death of Crystal City-based contractor, who worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. #coronavirus: passed away on March 21, 2020. The individual had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been under medical treatment at a local hospital. @wusa9 pic.twitter.com/WHW5InRYq5
— Laura Geller TV (@LauraGellerTV) March 22, 2020
Also today (Sunday), Arlington Transit announced that it would be temporarily increasing service on one of its routes due to an unexpected rise in ridership.
“The ART 41 is seeing an increase in ridership this afternoon,” the local transit agency said. “We encourage social distancing on buses, so there will be an increase in frequency this afternoon to accommodate our passengers and keep everyone safe and healthy.”
Jay Westcott contributed to this report
(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) A portion of S. Clark Street in Crystal City remains closed by police due to a bomb threat.
Clark Street is currently closed between 23rd Street and 26th Street while Pentagon and Arlington County bomb squads investigate a reported threat at a Department of Defense facility. Bomb-sniffing dogs are searching the building to ensure there are no explosives inside.
Pedestrians were moved away from the area as a precaution.
“Avoid the area and follow police direction,” said an Arlington Alert about the incident.
Update at 11:35 a.m. — The “all-clear” has been given and first responders are preparing to leave the scene.
UPDATE: The all clear has been given to the earlier bomb threat in Crystal City. Employees are beginning to renter buildings and road closures should be lifting shortly. https://t.co/hpdwk7vlCu
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) December 3, 2018
The ALL-CLEAR has been given. Roadways around the affected area will reopen approx. 20 mins. Due to safety reasons, employees are asked to follow police direction before re-occupy the building(s).
— Pentagon Force Protection Agency (Official) (@PFPAOfficial) December 3, 2018
Police Investigating Shooting in DoD Office Building — Arlington County police are investigating a fatal shooting in the Defense Department’s Taylor building, at 2530 Crystal Drive in Crystal City. The shooting happened this morning and initial reports suggest it was self-inflicted.
Lyon Village Profiled by WaPo — “Close to both the Clarendon and Court House Metro stops on the Orange and Silver lines, Lyon Village is the kind of neighborhood where families know their neighbors, children play and parents can walk almost everywhere.” [Washington Post]
ACPD Recruiting for Citizen’s Police Academy — Applications are currently being accepted for the Arlington County Citizen’s Police Academy. The academy “was designed to create a better understanding and communication between citizens and the police through education.” Applicants are subject to background checks before acceptance into the program, which shows the “inner workings” of the police department. [Arlington County]
Arlington Hosts Travel Trade Show Attendees — Arlington County hopes to get a big tourism and economic boost from its promotional efforts during this year’s U.S. Travel Association IPW trade show, which was held in D.C. for the first time. The county, in partnership with the Rosslyn BID, JBG Companies, and Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall, also hosted 150 trade show attendees in Rosslyn on Monday. [Arlington County]
Crystal City Startup Gets Big Funding Boost — Arlington-based private detective booking startup Trustify has raised more than $6.5 million as part of its latest fundraising round. The company recently opened a new office in Crystal City. [Washington Business Journal]
Letter to the Editor: Kids Over Dogs — The writer of a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette newspaper doesn’t understand why, in county government, there seems to be more urgency over proposed changes to a dog park than making sure there is enough land to build new schools to keep up with rising enrollment. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The County Board has given the go-ahead to a plan from the U.S. Department of Defense to install equipment around Arlington that could detect explosions and provide forensic data to investigators after an attack.
The board’s members voted unanimously last night to approve a license agreement between the County Board and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to install the equipment on county property.
According to a county staff report, the nature and location of the equipment will be kept secret and exempt from Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, a fact that worried ACLU of Virginia’s executive director, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga. Speaking before the board, Gastañaga argued that it was “important that the capabilities of the equipment be public.”
“We don’t think think that… those capabilities of this kind of equipment are any real secret,” she said. Additionally, Gastañaga urged the board to ask the Defense Department to agree not to install listening devices or other active monitoring equipment.
County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac replied that the board has some of the same concerns as the ACLU, and added that its members have had an opportunity to examine the plans to assure “that the nature of the equipment is not the kind of thing that can record audio or visual activities.”
“It is dormant equipment that is only activated when an event occurs and it does not record audio or video,” MacIsaac said. “You can have a high level of confidence that the equipment they’re putting out there is not capable of doing the sorts of things that there is concern about.”
Board member John Vihstadt agreed with McIsaac and said that “the county has a high degree of control over exactly what DTRA is doing and what they’re putting out on county property.”
“I think a big distinction here is that we’re not turning over any part of our county’s infrastructure or geography or territory to DTRA, we’re simply entering into a licensing agreement to deploy the kind of sensors that they have described,” added board member Christian Dorsey. “That gives me great comfort that many of the civil liberties issues that Ms. Gastanaga have brought up are not going to be ongoing issues here.”
Furthermore, board chair Libby Garvey said the county could choose to cancel the agreement if it ever became concerned with the new equipment.
Screenshot via County Board video
Following up on frequent resident complaints, last month Beyer added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act “to study changes to the region’s helicopter flight routes, operating procedures, and even the types of helicopters flown in the national capital airspace to mitigate the effect of noise on the region’s neighborhoods.”
A letter sent today to Defense Secretary Ash Carter by Beyer and other local members of Congress notes that the bill directs the Defense Department to work with the FAA “to develop recommendations for the reduction of military helicopter noise, taking into account the operational needs of the military while offering residents a much-needed reprieve.”
The letter expresses concern about the noise while offering “to support your outreach to communities to ensure the DOD and the FAA receive the most comprehensive information regarding the effects of military helicopter noise.”
The full letter, after the jump.
Arlington Inmate Dies — A 48-year-old convict died early Saturday morning in the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse. The man, who had a “history of medical issues,” was found unresponsive in his cell and rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. [Arlington County]
More Sequestration Could Hit Virginia Hard — Virginia, and in particular Northern Virginia, is bracing for more sequestration cuts to the Defense Department, which are set to take effect in five weeks. Virginia’s two U.S. Senators are pushing for new budget legislation to replace the sequester. [Washington Post]
Cemetery Superintendent Removed — One year after taking the position, Arlington National Cemetery superintendent Jack E. Lechner has been given the boot. The Army says Lechner’s job performance was unsatisfactory. [Washington Post]
DAK Chicken Opens in Shirlington — DAK Chicken, a Korean-style chicken restaurant, welcomed customers on Friday for its soft opening. In addition to chicken wings the new Shirlington eatery offers other Korean and Asian-fusion dishes like kimchi, bulgogi and ramen. [Northern Virginia Magazine, Facebook]
Arlington Company Makes Fortune List — Courthouse-based Opower has made Fortune Magazine’s inaugural “Change The World” list. Opower is ranked No. 45 on the list of 51 companies “that have made a sizable impact on major global social or environmental problems as part of their competitive strategy.” How long Opower remains in Arlington remains a question: the company is currently considering a move to the District. [Fortune]
Update at 2:15 p.m. — Office of Naval Research spokesman Doug Abbotts said that the flag is that of the building’s property manager, and it was left up overnight this week while the American flag was taken down. Abbotts said that while it looks like a plain white “surrender” flag, the logo is “faded, but it’s there.” The white flag has since been taken down.
For two days this week, the Office of Naval Research building, at 875 N. Randolph Street in Ballston, was flying a white flag on its flagpole, not its usual stars and stripes.
Lori Klein lives in the building behind ONR’s headquarters, and she said the flag was up Wednesday and Thursday nights before she talked to a security guard last night. This morning, the white flag was nowhere to be seen and the American flag was back in its normal place.
“I was walking my dog when I saw the flag, so I stopped a security guard and told him about it,” Klein told ARLnow.com over the phone today. “He had no idea it was up there.”
A spokeswoman for the ONR was not aware of the flag when first contacted by ARLnow.com.
The flag was seemingly reminiscent of the work of German artists this summer, who replaced two American flags on the Brooklyn Bridge with white flags.
If it was a prank “somebody really pulled something off… considering there are cameras and security guards all over the place, and how high alert they must be on,” Klein said.
The Office of Naval Research is an agency within the Dept. of Defense that “coordinates, executes, and promotes the science and technology programs of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.”
Photos courtesy Lori Klein
The Department of Defense announced Tuesday that the number of civilian furlough days in Fiscal Year 2013, which ends Sept. 30, has been reduced from 11 to 6.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in a memo to defense staff that the savings were accomplished thanks to Congress approving a reprogramming request, allowing the department to shift budgeted funds across accounts. Hagel also said more funds would be available for training and other military programs.
Many civilian defense employees are expected to have taken six furlough days by Aug. 17, in which case those employees wouldn’t need to take any additional furlough days.
The Pentagon’s budget is still on thin ice, however, because Congress still must pass a FY2014 budget. Currently, sequestration is slated to cut the FY2014 DoD budget by $52 billion, 44 percent more than FY2013.
“You can’t understate the impact these furloughs, originally set to eliminate an entire months paycheck, are having on the morale of our federal workforce,” Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said in a statement. “Thankfully, by virtue of this decision, DoD employees and their families now face a little less hardship. Congress must step up and deal with these budget issues in a responsible manner, so that sequestration ends and we stop furloughing our federal workforce.”
In Virginia alone, nearly 72,000 DoD employees are affected by furloughs, which require one unpaid day off per week for 11 weeks. The state is expected to be particularly hard hit by the cuts due to the Pentagon being housed in Arlington.
It’s too early to definitively claim furloughs will ease traffic congestion, but AAA believes fewer people on the road could lead to less gridlock and fewer accidents. In fact, the organization suggests commutes could resemble those of July and August, when the region experiences its lowest traffic volume and rate of accidents.
“For all other workers, the morning and evening commutes to the daily grind could look like it does on any of the ten federal holidays in the Washington metro area or on Fridays, when federal workers use their flex-time schedules or compressed work weeks (AWS) to take time off,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
AAA predicts Metrorail and Metrobus ridership may be affected as well. According to WMATA, nearly half of peak period commuters are federal employees and 35 Metrorail stations serve federal facilities, including the Pentagon in Arlington.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) took to Twitter earlier today to express his displeasure with the furloughs. He also sent the following statement to ARLnow.com:
“Due to sequestration, today marked the first of 11 furlough days for 650,000 DOD civilian employees. This 20 percent pay cut is the unfortunate and shameful result of Congress’ failure to work together to find an appropriate way to reduce the federal debt and deficit. I voted against the Budget Control Act that set up sequestration not only because it focused solely on cutting discretionary spending at the expense of increased revenues, but I feared that the Supercommittee could not find compromise. Congress must make tough choices, but we cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal workers.”
Street Lighting Complaints Continue — At its meeting on Saturday, the County Board addressed the complaints it continues to receive over the new LED streetlights being installed throughout the county. The Board has heard a number of types of complaints, including the lights casting a harsh glow and being too bright. County Manager Barbara Donnellan acknowledged the complaints but didn’t have any immediate solutions. She said the new lights save a lot of money. [Sun Gazette]
Red Truck Bakery Profile — Earlier this month, web magazine Slate — a division of the Washington Post Company — profiled Arlington resident Brian Noyes, the founder of Red Truck Bakery. Noyes restored a Cherrydale farmhouse and began his bakery business there while still working for Smithsonian magazine. He began in 2009 by selling goods out of the back of a 1954 Ford pickup truck and eventually found a brick and mortar location to work in Warrenton. Noyes, who has baked treats for the likes of President Obama, plans to open a new location in The Plains soon. [Slate]
NORAD Exercise Tonight — Arlington residents may hear unusual noises tonight as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) conducts training exercises. The training flights are designed to hone NORAD operations and to test its systems and personnel. The flights are scheduled to begin at 11:30 p.m. and run through 5:30 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday). [U.S. Department of Defense]
Flickr pool photo by J Sonder