Opinion: Commentary: Arlington County Board Members Libby Garvey and Matt de Ferranti on Airport Noise

Opinion: Commentary: Arlington County Board Members Libby Garvey and Matt de Ferranti on Airport Noise

As you know, there has been an operational change at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) that has resulted in more commercial aircraft flying directly over Rosslyn, and more exposure to aircraft noise for our residents and businesses in that area of the County. We wrote to the FAA last November protesting these changes.

On Jan. 30, 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) published a new flight procedure for DCA departures called HOLTB ONE (RNAV). Under this procedure, for north bound departures, the first navigational waypoint after departure has been moved 781 feet west-southwest. This shift moves flight paths previously located well over the Potomac River and instead places them directly over Rosslyn. All other things held equal, more flights mean more noise exposure.

This new flight procedure was initially presented by the FAA and the United States Secret Service (USSS) to the DCA Community Working Group at their May 23, 2019 meeting. The FAA is acting at the direction of the USSS to shift flight paths away from the restricted airspace known as P-56A, which extends from the Kennedy Center eastward and covers the White House, the United States Capitol, and the Supreme Court of the United States.

There has been no documented environmental review process associated with the publication of HOLTB ONE (RNAV), and both the County Board and Congressman Beyer have previously written to the FAA in opposition to this procedure roll out and the lack of environmental impact analysis, as well as the lack of direct community engagement. The new procedure will be in place until July 16, 2020 as a validation period, after which the FAA will decide whether to apply this shift in flight paths to other departure procedures.

We are close to completing the procurement process for an aircraft noise consultant. Once they are officially under contract, we plan to have our noise consultant explore possible alternatives to the waypoint relocation and path shift that will keep flights over the Potomac River and still respond to national security concerns over P-56A incursions.

We also plan to file an official complaint with the FAA and are considering other actions we might take. We encourage residents and businesses disturbed by airplane noise to also register official noise complaints with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), and to let us know.

These complaints will be part of the public record and useful in future actions we might take to protest these changes and, hopefully, have them rolled back. Information on the MWAA reporting process and links for the on-line reporting system to lodge a noise complaint may be found at the very top of the County webpage on aircraft noise. https://departments.arlingtonva.us/cmo/airport-noise/ We have added an easy link to report these complaints to us as well, so we can also have a record of what complaints MWAA is receiving. It is most important that MWAA receive the complaints, but useful for us to also have them.

The hiring of our joint consultant with Montgomery County and public protest about these flight changes should help us finally be able to make some progress in addressing this difficult and frustrating issue. One of the first tasks of the consultant will be to meet with our community and with Montgomery County.