Opinion: Letter to the Editor

Opinion: Letter to the Editor

Silence Over Plane Noise

— It is amazing that 25 years of community input on the air traffic noise coming out of DCA was destroyed with the flick of a switch by the FAA and its NextGen System. I am not prone to write letters such as this, but I was recently sitting on my back patio at 11:26 p.m. trying to enjoy the last of an early fall evening. Every 5 minutes, the quiet was shattered by planes taking off. The noise meter on my phone was reading almost 100 decibels with each passing. This is at 11:26 p.m. — almost midnight! Then, this morning, the planes started taking off at 5 a.m. Around 6:15 a.m., it occurred every 3-4 minutes. It is as if someone built an airplane super highway right through our neighborhood, and it has been this way for over a year and a half.

There are only a handful of Mount Vernon politicians (Kudos to Mr. Storck and Mr. Krizek) that have made an attempt to get this issue to the forefront of the discussion with the FAA and the Board of Supervisors. Apparently, because of the status of DCA, it seems that Congressman Beyer is the only one in our district with authority over the FAA to help change the situation. However, he has done little except call a community meeting this summer at Reagan National Airport (which he did not attend) to check the box with his constituency. Staff members from the FAA who attended this meeting basically shrugged off the questions and concerns from community representatives regarding the unrelenting overhead noise south of the airport. When asked what could be done about changing the patterns back to less noise intensity, officials said, "It would require months of study." There were more useless responses when asked what happened to the distributed flight approach that existed for many years prior to NextGen. No answers or solutions were offered.

Other attendees asked about the 10-mile turn limit that is in place for northbound air traffic. "How is it that the low altitude, south bound traffic is allowed to carry the deafening noise over residential areas turning only five miles south of the airport, while northbound traffic requires 10 miles?" I am curious if it might have something to do with housing values and constituencies in that direction. Perhaps Mr Beyer might be able to answer that question, but he is, again, silent.

During this community meeting and in hopes of better understanding his perspective and plans, I decided to sign up for Mr. Beyer's email communication. Interestingly, as I sit here writing this letter another email comes in from the congressman. Just a sampling of his newsletters show our man in Washington discussing melons in the Great Barrier Reef, climate refugees in the Gulf, the global covenant of Mayors, a congressional dispute with ExxonMobil, gun suicide, government agencies adhering to EPA policy, a Kiribati weightlifter in the Olympics doing a playful environmental dance — and let's not forget the 30,000-year-old virus laying in wait in Siberia that is going to kill us all. When will Congressman Beyer begin to talk about issues related to his own district? Perhaps with the multitude of environmental emails, he trying to assuage his guilt for having sold thousands of carbon emitting vehicles out his automobile dealerships? If the environment is his concern, what about the concentrated noise pollution over our heads?

At least in his July 28 missive, Mr. Beyer opines once on aviation — but only in regard to jet CO2 emissions destroying the earth. This is the closest he has come to any discussion of the impact of these planes over his own constituency. To describe it in environmental terms for the congressman, it is noise pollution plain and simple. To the point: if the Federal Highway Administration were going to build an interstate through the Mount Vernon District, you can be certain there would be environmental impact studies, noise analyses, public hearings, etc, etc. The FAA's own charts show a bright yellow air traffic line cutting right thru this district south of the airport. The main chart indicates repetitive flights going over the same path at low altitude and high volume where, prior to the current NexGen system, those same flights were dispersed over a broader area allowing more altitude and thus reducing noise.

How was the FAA unilaterally allowed to change the pattern that so many communities had developed with hard work over years and years in conjunction with elected officials and airport authorities? No studies, no hearings. I have lived in this area for over 20 years, and I understand there will be occasional aircraft noise. However, what has changed in the last year and a half has been unconscionable by any standard. Where is our congressman and where are our other elected officials who can actually make an impact on our behalf? Silent.

This newspaper recently published an edition noting priorities for the Mount Vernon area. There was not one mention of this noise pollution as a quality of life issue. There is an article in this newspaper almost every week about the automobile traffic on Route 1, but not the drumbeat for change for the deafening super highway of airplane traffic overhead.

Lacking the support of our elected officials who are in a real position to change the situation, local community groups recently found out that there is an online log for noise complaints at DCA https://complaints.bksv.com/dca You can also call the tower directly at 703-413-0341. Additionally, should you wish to sign it, there is an online petition at http://chn.ge/23575yB

In this election season, is it any wonder that voters are so upset with their representatives at all levels? If our local officials are silent for those whom they represent and our congressman can't get his priorities in order, why should we vote for these candidates when simple quality of life issues are not a priority for them in this district?

Chris Fulghum