To the editor:
The noise starts before dawn. For the next 16 to 18 hours, well past dark, it continues, loud and invasive. It is the sound of airplanes landing or taking off over residential areas of Alexandria. Decibel levels recorded for flights over Old Town regularly exceed 75, which, according to the city noise code, would be illegal at street level.
This is a fairly recent development in our city, within the last year or so, ever since the Federal Aviation Administration, without public comment, switched from radar to satellite-based GPS for its navigation system. The result has been to create a rigid conveyor belt of flights, hundreds a day, flying over Alexandria from Reagan-National airport, as frequently as every 30 seconds at peak times.
The piercing drone is impossible to ignore, whether one is sitting outside, walking on the streets, studying in a classroom, eating at a restaurant or having a conversation inside a house. Studies reveal that regular exposure to the noise of low-flying airplanes affects physical and psychological health. It’s happening here. Not to mention impacting property values. Try marketing a house if it’s known that you live pinned under a flight path.
Living near an airport obviously requires a certain tolerance for flight noise. But the new flight path has amplified this to distressing levels. I have lived in Old Town for more than a decade and never before has flight noise been so incessant and loud. People say, ‘Get used to it.’ No.
An area-wide working group (www.flyreagan.com/dca/dca-reagan-national-community-working-group) has proposed flight path changes that would keep ascending planes over the river longer, instead of allowing them to quickly veer out over residential areas. That is encouraging. But public pressure is needed to speed up changes. File complaints with the airport (www.flyreagan.com/dca/dca-reagan-national-submit-noise-complaint.) Write your state and national legislators, your city council members, and ask that this issue receive attention on the public agenda. See what other communities are doing — in Phoenix, Arizona, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, lawsuits against the FAA have brought relief to neighborhoods.
Alexandria admirably wants to become a certified eco-city. But that’s a pipe dream unless something is done about the noise pollution from above.
-Tom O’Neill, Alexandria