Sound, then fury: FAA surprises group with plans to change Reagan National flight paths

A recent Federal Aviation Administration move to “address Secret Service concerns” surprised and frustrated a group that handles complaints about noise from Reagan National Airport.

Ken Hartman, Montgomery County regional services director and a member of the airport’s Community Noise Working Group, said it was caught off guard at the latest meeting in May, when FAA officials announced a flight path change that could take effect without any public input.

“We were surprised when FAA arrived at the meeting with Secret Service in tow,” said Hartman.

The group, he said, was told that the FAA would be making changes at Reagan National to “address Secret Service concerns.” The explanation: concern by the Secret Service over reported incursions into protected airspace by commercial flights.

Group members are frustrated, he said. While they recognize the need for national security, they want relief for residents living under the flight path that has narrowed the air traffic over Montgomery County, Maryland, to a slender band since 2015.

Before those changes, Hartman said noise from aircraft was intermittent. Now, for what he says are the “unlucky” residents of such areas as Brookmont, Green Acres and Cabin John, the disruptions that can drown out conversation inside homes come as frequently as one to three minutes apart.

The problem is compounded by the increased traffic at Reagan National, he said: “The way they add these flights is at the beginning and the end of the day — so as early as 5 a.m. and as late as 1:30 or 2 a.m.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh sent a letter to FAA officials on May 30, telling them he is “deeply troubled” by what he called a “lack of transparency” in the change that could take effect as soon as August.

WTOP has contacted the FAA for comment.

Noise complaints can be submitted to Reagan National’s website.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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