Opinion: Letter to the Editor: No Unified Front On Airplane Noise

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: No Unified Front On Airplane Noise

While I share Chris Fulghum’s views [“Groundhog Day,” letter, Mount Vernon Gazette] that residents of the Mt. Vernon area would be better served if our elected officials — and the media — paid more attention to much more serious issues than speeding on the GW Parkway, on the airplane noise issue he erred in lumping state Del. Paul Krizek with other “groundhog” elected officials.

Indeed, since his election 2015, Paul has taken a leadership role on a number of issues of concern to local residents (inter alia, actually getting Dominion Power to replace street lights that had been off for months in Hollin Hills — not an easy task).

Concerns over the FAA’s arbitrary and ill-considered decision to reroute southbound flights from Reagan National airport over the highest elevations in the Mt Vernon District — purportedly to save the airlines a few pennies on fuel and a few minutes of flying time — have grown exponentially in the past year and a half, but for the most part, our concerns have fallen on deaf ears.

Paul has been a key player in efforts to energize other elected local, state, and members of Congress — as well as local residents — to persuade the FAA to rethink its ill-conceived decision. Paul’s Gazette column provides regular updates, and he has spent hours volunteering at the Farmers’ Market and local polling places to spread the word. Supervisor Storck has joined in, and now hosts meetings of the SouthFlow Alliance.

Sadly, the struggle for a common- sense solution has been an uphill slog, with resistance and stonewalling at all levels of government: the FAA; the MWAA (which still has no representative from the heavily impacted Mt. Vernon area ); and even the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. (It took more than seven months for the Board of Supervisors to pass — and the chairman to forward to the MWAA — the resolution passed by the MVCCA last June addressing these concerns.)

Last summer I was part of a group organized by Paul and state Sen. Adam Ebbin (who also deserves credit for his efforts) that traveled to Capitol Hill on a 100-degree day to meet with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner about the airplane noise issue. To our surprise, Warner failed to appear, and even his staff director didn’t show up until the end of the meeting. The lack of apologies – and the failure to follow up in support of our concerns, were startling, and disheartening.

Senator Kaine has sent staffers to a couple of meetings, including the South Flow meeting, but thus far he has shown no interest in joining the effort to get the FAA’s attention.

More troubling, state Sen. Scott Surovell, the Mt. Vernon resident leading the charge to address GW Parkway issues, has remained silent on airplane noise.

U.S. Rep. Don Beyer appears to be the only Virginia member of Congress who has shown any interest (he organized the Reagan airport meeting — and even got our parking fees waived), but his efforts have produced little. To his credit, Beyer managed to get an amendment into this year’s DOD budget calling for a joint FAA/DOD study of the impact of low-flying military helicopters — another issue of concern in our area. However, three months after it was due, the study has yet to begin.

Beyer also joined the House Quiet Skies Coalition that is trying to address the issues resulting from the FAA’s NextGen rules, but that group is dominated by New York and California congressmen. Beyer has also written to the head of the FAA citing lack of progress and calling for a timetable for when these issues will be addressed, but has yet to have a response. It is not clear whether he has been urging others in the Virginia delegation to play a bigger role.

Meanwhile, the FAA continues to blow us off, refusing to meet with us again, claiming variously that there were not enough complaints, that only a few people complained, that the residents of Accokeek, Md. deserved more attention than Virginia residents living south of the airport, etc.

It is interesting that Maryland’s elected officials – local and statewide, including Governor Hogan — managed to unite to pressure the FAA on noise issues in Montgomery and PG counties, and they are getting a response.

We urge Mr. Fulghum and other local residents — and the media — to join the fight. Maryland got results when its legislators joined forces; will we be as lucky?

Mary Tracy

Hollin Hills