Planes landing at or taking off from Dulles International Airport can get so loud that South Riding resident Kathy Klingelberger sometimes feels like they are going to hit her house.
"They seem to get closer and lower flying all the time," she said.
Klingelberger was one of a couple dozen Dulles area residents who attended a June 26 meeting at Westfield High School to learn about the possibility of building two additional runways at Dulles Airport, bringing the total number of runways up to five.
She said residents of South Riding, built long after Dulles Airport, have gotten used to the current volume of airplane traffic. But, she added, "if you doubled the traffic, people are going to start noticing it."
THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION is launching a two-year study on the environmental impact of adding two runways to the existing three at Dulles airport. The new runways, part of the FAA's 1985 master plan for the airport, would be operational by 2007. The airport opened in 1962 but did not see heavy use until the 1980s.
One of the runways would run North-South and measure 10,250 feet. The other would run Northwest-Southeast and measure 10,000 feet. As part of the project, the FAA would construct taxiways and connectors to link the new runways with the rest of the airport. Improvements to the airport roadway and concourse are also scheduled.
According to Allan Nagy of URS Corporation, an engineering consulting firm hired by the FAA for the project, the airport currently operates at 60 percent of its capacity.
"By the year 2006, we are looking at an operation delay that far exceeds FAA guidelines," he said.
The current plan would not require any land acquisition but alternative options of the plan could include land acquisition in Loudoun County, according to Wat Bowie, of URS Corporation.
The land where the runways are to go is currently a wooded area owned by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. As such, the Authority is not subject to county land-use regulations. Cutting the trees to make way for construction would not require approval from either Fairfax or Loudoun counties.
"Certainly we wouldn't want to do anything that would grossly offend them," noted William Lebegern of the MWAA. "We'll consult [the Planning Commissions] as a courtesy."
AREA RESIDENTS at the meeting said they were particularly concerned about additional noise the new runways would bring.
John Walsh, a resident of Franklin Farms who used to work in the Dulles Airport control tower, said that jets approaching the new runway from the East will only be about 700 feet above his house. "And the little guys will be closer than that," he added.
"Anything that comes East of 28 you're going to hear it," he said
Greg Ballschneider, a resident of Virginia Run, said that the new North-South runway would result in more noise for his neighborhood. Even though he lives about 10 miles from the airport, jets fly very low overhead sometimes.
"If you're outside you stop talking with your neighbor" when they fly by, he said.
"When you look at growth, people imagine that it will be worse," said Bowie. "I'm sure there will be people here who are convinced there will be more noise." He added that to minimize the impact of noise, areas surrounding airports should be mostly industrial.
"The big idea is to minimize residential construction in those zones," he said.
Joe Czech, a noise-engineering consultant for the project, said that new, quieter types of aircraft soon to be in place will not disturb residents so much.
As part of the study, he said, the FAA will look at the types of aircraft, the flight profiles and the time of day to determine the noise impact.
"We know that [noise levels] are going to change somewhat, we just don't know how much yet," he said.