If you’re a District resident and you’ve noticed more noise from airplanes, you’re not alone. In 2016, there were 36,653 noise complaints made to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Increased noise complaints are a result of the Federal Aviation Administration changing airplane flight paths into and out of National Airport several years ago.
The District hired Freytag & Associates to conduct a noise assessment over the past several months to determine what impacts noise from airplanes are having on District communities. The findings will be used to develop recommendations to revise air traffic procedures, the goal being to minimize noise impacts.
Last week, the District Department of Energy and Environment hosted a meeting to discuss the 2017 DCA Airplane Noise Assessment. Georgetown and Palisades residents packed the room to listen to the findings of the report and make their voices and concerns heard. As the Council member representing these neighborhoods, I have heard from many residents regarding the growing noise levels along flight paths to DCA. I was encouraged by the turnout and to know that residents are as concerned as I am.
MWAA conducted a noise assessment prior to changing the flight paths, but only looked at noise levels within 1.5 miles of the airport. Based on that, the recommendation was to move flights east to mitigate noise over Virginia. This is what caused the noise issues in the District. Noise monitors that Freytag put inside homes along the new flight paths showed that residents had a 34-percent chance of being awakened by airplane noise during nighttime hours and that, in addition, the noise was disturbing students inside classrooms.
Another interesting fact was that flights out of DCA are kept much lower at takeoff than at other airports, and that contributes to the noise. Also, almost every flight takes off to the north, again impacting District residents.
How do we fix this growing problem? To start, I reached out to MWAA and demanded that the FAA restore flight paths to their original pattern prior to the change, in an attempt to decrease noise pollution in Ward 2 and in other parts of the city. My hope is that the FAA will initiate changes based on the study’s findings. However, I will remain persistent in my calls to the FAA to change the flight paths and lessen the effects of airplane noise on constituents’ lives and sanity.