Air traffic from Washington’s National Airport (DCA) now exceeds that from Dulles; nearly 400 flights depart and arrive every day. About 80 percent of these aircraft (those travelling west) traverse Fairfax County. At a rate of one every two or three minutes during peak times, overhead air traffic can produce continuous noise — in excess of 70 dBA (occasionally 80 dBA) over residential communities from Old Town Alexandria to Mt Vernon. Such constant noise pollution and accompanying exhaust contaminants are recognized as having deleterious impacts on human health. Fairfax County residents are suffering.
In Spring 2015 the FAA implemented NextGen, an advanced flight control system that uses GPS instead of radar to track flight paths in and out of DCA. NextGen’s much increased geolocation accuracy offers the opportunity for the FAA to alleviate aircraft noise pollution over essentially all of Fairfax County. This is achieved by precisely directing departing and arriving aircraft along the center of the nearby Potomac River, including its westward turn at about eight miles south of the airport, rather than over residential communities. Planes must be high enough that their noise fades into the background before turning from the river. Fairfax County Supervisor Dan Storck, enthusiastically supports river-centered flight paths as do elected state Del. Paul Krizek and U.S. Rep. Don Beyer. Fairfax County residents can pressure all their elected representatives to encourage the FAA’s rapid implementation of this solution. They can also participate in the South Flow Alliance for Quiet Skies (https://www.facebook.com/southflowalliance/) that is fighting for reduction of aircraft noise pollution over Fairfax County.