Federal Appeals Court Will Hear Case Over National Airport Landing Patterns

Federal Appeals Court Will Hear Case Over National Airport Landing Patterns

Montgomery County residents have complained about airplane noise

| Published:

The new proposed flight path for arriving planes into National Airport

Courtesy of Ken Hartman

A federal appeals court has agreed to hear a lawsuit by the state of Maryland against the Federal Aviation Administration over changes to the flight paths in and out of National Airport.

The FAA implemented its NextGen air traffic procedures five years ago to create “superhighways” in the air by streamlining flight paths in and out of National Airport in Arlington, Va, with the goal of reducing fuel costs.

The change meant more planes would fly over neighborhoods in Montgomery County, resulting in more noise for residents close to the Potomac River in communities such as Cabin John, Bethesda and Potomac.

In 2018, in response to the noise complaints, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a lawsuit against the FAA in the U.S. Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit.

The court issued a notice on July 30 that it agreed to hear oral arguments in the case and set Oct. 15 as the date when the arguments would be heard.

But Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Brian Frosh, said the office asked the court to postpone due to a scheduling conflict on their end. On Tuesday, the court issued a notice that the argument date would be delayed.

As of Thursday, a new date had not been set.

The new flight patterns led neighbors to form an advocacy group called the Montgomery County Quiet Skies Coalition.

The organization has recently protested a proposal by the FAA to implement “GPS” landing procedures, in which pilots use geographic waypoints to guide them, instead of using the Potomac River as a guide. These procedures have been proposed due to concerns from the Secret Service that planes have been flying too close to restricted airspace over the District of Columbia, including the White House and the National Mall.

Residents worry that the new landing procedures would increase the noise.

The new procedures were scheduled to be implemented this month. But the FAA announced in June that it would delay the implementation of the flight procedures. Montgomery and Arlington counties have allocated a total of $250,000 to hire an aerospace consultant to work on an alternative to the landing procedures.

Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com

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