Amazon’s ‘Helix’ in Arlington may be too tall for FAA regulations

Amazon is currently constructing the crown jewel for its second headquarters complex in Arlington County, Virginia, but an organization that oversees the D.C. region’s local airports believes the signature 350-foot helix-shaped office tower that is part of the development will be too tall.

Engineers with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority concluded during an evaluation that “The Helix,” exceeds Federal Aviation Administration height standards near Reagan National Airport.

“The proposed height of The Helix building exceeded the FAA’s maximum allowed height for flight procedures at Reagan National Airport by 13 feet,” MWAA said in a statement to WTOP.  “The Airports Authority welcomes Amazon’s new headquarters and is committed to assisting the parties with this issue.”

In response to the study, the FAA referred WTOP to find more information about its height restrictions on the agency’s obstruction evaluation page.

A source with direct knowledge of the FAA review process told WTOP that exceeding one of its standards is not a “restriction” and is only an indicator that further study is needed.

Amazon also responded to the MWAA study.

“Our proposed design for PenPlace is now in its review phase, and we look forward to continue working with the FAA on our application,” Amazon said in a written statement, referring to the name of its headquarters campus in Pentagon City.

A source familiar with the construction of Amazon’s HQ2 told WTOP that the proposed design for the complex, which was submitted in February, is not the final design but believes the current version is in line with FAA regulations.

The head-turning helix building is the centerpiece of the proposal that also features multiple 22-story office buildings in addition to those already under construction as the company looks to accommodate 25,000 new workers over the coming years in the Arlington County neighborhoods across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital.

A number of people who live in Pentagon City signed a petition demanding that Amazon halt construction of the HQ2 project during the pandemic last year because of noise and the fact that so many people were teleworking at home.

WTOP has contacted Arlington County for comment about the MWAA study but has yet to receive a response.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story misstated the height of “The Helix.”

Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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