Montgomery Co. residents ask council for solution to growing plane noise

This April 11, 2017, photo shows a Delta Air Lines Boeing 757 at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Delta and Lyft have worked a deal to give Lyft users frequent flier miles. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen)(AP/Jeff Baenen)

WASHINGTON — The battle that various local neighborhoods have been waging against the change in flight paths instituted by the FAA a few years ago has not seen much success.

Groups throughout the region still complain about a condensed stream of planes coming in lower, and louder, than before. With options dwindling, a group of Montgomery County residents is now asking the county council for help.

At a public hearing where residents could lobby for funding priorities in the next county budget, a group of residents asked the county to allocate $150,000 to hire an aviation expert who can work with the FAA for a solution they admit they haven’t been able to find yet.

“We’ve learned that the FAA can do things to mitigate noise beyond flight path adjustments,” said Janelle Wright of Potomac, who is an alternate member of the Reagan National Community Noise Working Group and a leader with the Montgomery County Quiet Skies Coalition. “Raising altitudes [and] alternating procedures are options that air space consultants can also help us evaluate.”

Wright says a variety of other approaches taken by the groups she works with have not been fruitful. She said they’ve tried to work with their congressional representatives, explored legal action and even tried to work with the FAA.

“The working group has made 11 recommendations over the past two years. Not one has been accepted,” said Wright.

During her roughly three minute speech, Wright explained that where planes once took a more spread out approach to Reagan National Airport, the FAA has since condensed things.  Her analogy was that the agency took an eight-lane highway and closed seven of them, and then told the planes to fly lower. Without remedy, Wright says property values will go down, hurting the county’s revenues.

“We need an airspace expert who can help us develop detailed and technically feasible options,” Wright argued. “We desperately need Montgomery County to step up and help.”

When she was done, several people associated with her group gave her a standing ovation. They all wore shirts letting county leaders know they were part of the same quiet skies coalition. Council President Hans Riemer acknowledged them, saying, “We see you.”

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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