Editor: When it comes to protecting area residents who live near flight paths from increasing aircraft noise in the endless noise war with Reagan National Airport, Arlington County government officials, U.S. Rep. Don Beyer and their counterparts in Maryland and D.C. have been as effective as Donald Trump has been in protecting the Kurds in northern Syria.
In fairness to our fearless leaders, they have never claimed to support a reasonable balance between the goal of a thriving airport and thriving neighborhoods, or to be reliable allies of people who get hammered by up to 120,000 aircraft-noise events per year that exceed thresholds established by Arlington to protect public health and quality of life.
In the actuarial calculus of their Realpolitik view, increasing noise is a small price to pay for the economic benefits and convenience of a thriving local airport that continues to wildly outgrow its designers’ original vision as a base for regional air travel. If some neighborhoods have to take a hit for the greater good, it is unfortunate but unavoidable, they seem to suggest.
And yes, more noise is coming to Arlington. In January 2020, the FAA plans to move the north departure flight path closer to Rosslyn to address “an unacceptable national-security risk” posed by 50 instances per year of planes skirting protected airspace on the D.C. side of the river. Meanwhile, airlines will continue to replace smaller aircraft with larger and add more late-night and early-morning operations to meet demand, and the FAA will continue to favor sending departing traffic to the north, disproportionately increasing noise levels in densely populated neighborhoods in Arlington and DC relative to other neighborhoods, because north-flow operations are more efficient than south-flow operations.
Will the noise study that Arlington and Montgomery County are planning to kick off later this year lead to a reasonable balance? No, that will not happen until Congress directs the FAA to fix its broken noise policy by specifying reasonable limits, which Congress has no intention of doing anytime soon.
Still, the new study is encouraging compared to Arlington’s default position, which has ranged from declaring, in 2010, that technology is making the noise problem moot to promising, in 2015, to explore all reasonable options to reduce noise in Arlington neighborhoods where reasonable means exist while continuing to maximize operations that produce noise, including late-night and early-morning operations that disturb sleep for thousands of residents.
How do you say “if you lose all hope, you can always find it again” in Kurdish?
Mark McEnearney, Arlington