No Answer to Airline Noise in Sight

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Can you hear me now? Courtesy Georgetown University.

It’s been an ongoing and undeniable complaint for years. Airplanes arriving at and departing from Reagan National Airport over Georgetown have been increasing both in number and in noise.

This despite a late-2013 change of flight patterns by the Federal Aviation Administration that steered airliners over the Potomac River for slightly longer stretches. This despite official complaints that irate neighbors have launched in federal courts over the past two years (denied and rejected on appeal). This despite speeches from the likes of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan that residents around Reagan National are “miserable in their homes.” This despite numerous town hall meetings and studies funded by the DC Department of Energy and Environment.

Despite it all, flights have been taking off at lower altitudes, on more frequent schedules and in more concentrated, narrower paths. One response by the frustrated sufferers has been to involve local politicians.

In Georgetown, local politicians has mostly meant lawyer Rick Murphy, a member of the Georgetown-Burleith Advisory Neighborhood Commission who has been involved with the issue for years.

On Sept. 20, Murphy and a number of representatives from the FAA, DOEE and a plethora of agencies with less familiar acronyms — such as OFRA, MOCRS, MWAA and RNACNWG (the Reagan National Airport Community Noise Working Group) — revealed the latest results of a second-year study on noise levels at a meeting at Georgetown Day School.

In a mind-numbing presentation of charts, graphs, displays and mathematical results of studies of decibel noise levels in all possible configurations, Randy Waldeck of the CSDA Design Group concluded, yet again and with a shrug, that airplane noise is increasing and there’s not much that can be done about it.

The ideal-world solutions he suggested include: persuading someone with authority to reduce or at least cap the number of flights over Georgetown, especially between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m.; establishing a strict higher altitude level for over-town traffic; and hiring an SME (subject matter expert) for the working group.

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