Montgomery Co. residents raise complaints over airplane noise

WASHINGTON — Montgomery County residents are joining their neighbors in complaining about what they say is a dramatic increase in aircraft noise over their communities.

At a work session held by the Montgomery County council committee on transportation, council member Roger Berliner read from a prepared statement and said, “Instead of an irritation that was widely dispersed throughout the region”, air traffic in the area “has become a concentrated, amplified and unending disturbance for many of our residents.”

Berliner chalked the change up to new developments in technology that have created more concentrated flight paths along the Potomac River. Berliner said NextGen, part of the move from radar to satellite guidance for aircraft, also is partly responsible for the change.

Berliner read aloud a letter from a recent arrival in the Brookmont area of Bethesda who decided to rent, rather than buy, a home due to what they described as “incessant and overwhelming airplane noise.”

Michael Harrison, another resident upset by the volume and frequency of flights in the area, is more disturbed by the effects on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal towpath. He says a recent outing along the C & O for some relaxation was anything but relaxing due to the increase in noise.

“It’s not simply an occasional plane that’s quite low and loud, but that one can hear essentially plane after plane after plane!”

Harrison points out that the C & O canal is a national park, one that’s beloved by users, and the noise from jets coming in and out of Reagan National Airport has damaged what is essentially a national treasure.

“It was — and you notice I’m using the past tense — it was one of the great jewels of the Washington area.” Since that last walk weeks ago, Harrison says he hasn’t gone back.

David Mould, vice president for communications with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, told Berliner that residents’ perceptions aren’t wrong. He said the flight corridor being used by jets and planes into Reagan National have undergone what he called “slight modifications,” but that the effect is profound.

Likening the previous flight pattern to an eight-lane highway, Mould says in the past, aircraft noise was spread across the airspace. Now, with a narrowed pathway, “If you are living under that center line, you are getting hammered!”

Mould is part of a work group that’s asking Federal Aviation Administration to find ways to mitigate the effects of the changes in the skies over the Washington region. Berliner said Wednesday that representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration were invited to the work session, but did not attend.

At the council hearing on Wednesday, Berliner appealed to congressional staffers from the offices of Sen. Ben Cardin and Reps. Chris Van Hollen and John Delaney to work with him to persuade the FAA to find ways to ease the impact of the increased noise from air traffic.

Montgomery County residents aren’t alone in their attempts to get relief: Residents along the Potomac River flight paths, including Arlington and Alexandria, recently lodged complaints about the noise in their communities.

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.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up