Hogan Wants State to Take FAA to Court Over Flight Path Changes

Residents in Bethesda, Potomac have complained about increasing airplane noise


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An airplane flying near Bethesda

Flickr photo via Ehpien

Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday asked Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh to sue the Federal Aviation Administration to challenge new flight patterns that residents believe have increased airplane noise in their neighborhoods.

The lawsuit request comes after hundreds of residents in Bethesda and Potomac have complained over the past two years about jet engine noise from planes arriving and departing from Reagan National Airport after the FAA instituted the NextGen flight patterns in 2014.

The flight patterns were designed to streamline planes into airway superhighways and save fuel costs, but residents believe concentrating planes in the pathways has exacerbated the noise problem.

“Promoted heavily by commercial air carriers, [NextGen] has been controversial from its inception and widely criticized for insufficient study, notice, and outreach to the general public and affected jurisdictions,” Hogan wrote. “Notice to Maryland was inadequate and designated to ensure speedy approval rather than to promote community input and discussion.”

Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said Tuesday that Frosh has been concerned about this issue for a long time.

“He shares the governor’s concerns,” Coombs said, and added that the lawsuit is “certainly something that’s under consideration.

Residents near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport also have complained about increasing airplane noise after FAA made the changes.

Hogan’s letter notes that the city of Phoenix has prevailed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., with a similar legal challenge. In August, three judges ruled that the FAA’s 2014 decision to change flight paths from Phoenix’s airport was “arbitrary and capricious” and the FAA did not properly consult with affected communities before making the changes.

Montgomery County is also exploring a lawsuit against the FAA on similar grounds.

County Council President Roger Berliner commended the governor for pursuing the lawsuit in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.

"Our residents in Montgomery County have had their quality of life and their property values degraded by airplane noise starting as early as 5:30 a.m. and ending late at night," Berliner said. "The FAA failed to adequately notify residents and local governments of the changes brought about by NextGen, and failed miserably to assess the environmental impact on our communities."

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