A petition to reduce aircraft noise in the Georgetown neighborhood resulting from recently altered flight paths at Ronald Reagan National Airport was dismissed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on March 27.
Proposed by the D.C. Fair Skies Coalition, a group of neighborhood activists from around Washington, D.C., the petition came in response to the Federal Aviation Administration’s revision of flight patterns around D.C. airports and across the country.
The flight paths have been revised based on the NextGen plan, which utilizes satellite-based navigation to increase fuel efficiency, save time and increase airplane capacity at airports, according to a March 28 WTOP article. The increased efficiency causes planes to take off more often and at lower altitudes, leading to an increase in the volume and frequency of airplane noise all over the country.
The D.C. Fair Skies Coalition, with the help of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), filed the initial petition to the FAA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2015. The appeals court ruled the petition to be untimely, saying its “final order” had come in 2013. The petition had come after the 60-day statutory time limit, and there were “no reasonable grounds for delay,” according to the court.
“Federal law requires that petitions seeking review of FAA actions be filed within sixty days of the agency’s final order,” the court said. “We dismiss the petition as untimely.”
The D.C. Fair Skies Coalition said that it does not believe the FAA provided adequate notice to District residents that the organization would be revising flight plans, and that it is considering requesting a rehearing from the court and directly petitioning the FAA, according to an April 2 news release.
Georgetown University students and faculty have noticed the increased air traffic. Charlotte Lindsay (COL ’20) said excessive airplane noise has bothered her during her time at Georgetown, which lies on flight paths to and from Ronald Reagan National Airport.
“I think it’s definitely excessive in our area, and especially in class sometimes it’s hard to hear what your teacher is saying because of all the noise, or trying to go to sleep at night can be difficult,” Lindsay said.
In September 2017, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) directed Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to sue the FAA over the flight patterns to and from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. The order was made “on behalf of all Marylanders suffering from the adverse effects of the implementation of the Next Generation Air Transportation System,” according to a September 2017 article from The Baltimore Sun.
“This program has made many Maryland families miserable in their own homes with louder and more frequent flights which now rattle windows and doors,” Hogan wrote in his letter to Frosh. “As elected leaders of this state, we cannot allow this situation to stand.”
In a response letter to Hogan, the FAA said “reverting to the flight paths and procedures that existed prior to the implementation of the DC Metroplex project is not possible,” according to the Baltimore Sun article. The D.C. Metroplex consists of BWI, Reagan and Dulles International Airport.
While frustrated with the level of airplane noise, Lindsay also said she understood why the NextGen plan is more favorable to travellers and why the FAA may be reluctant to change flight paths.
“As somebody who would be on a plane, I would be annoyed if I had to take a longer flight path just because of a few people complaining about noise,” Lindsay said. “I feel like a big part of it is the nature of living in a city. It’s the sacrifice we have to make.”