Not in our air space

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It really is OK to be a NIMBY. And pretty much ev- eryone becomes one when something they dislike threatens their quality of life.

That’s one takeaway from today’s page 1 Times story “U.S. House grounds DCA flight amendment.” The frequency of flights into and out of Reagan National Airport, and the noise generated by those constant flights, adversely impacts pretty much everyone who lives in Alexandria.

But almost everyone else in the DMV and the country would benefit from more frequent long flights being available at DCA. Area residents not directly impacted by airplane noise would benefit from the convenience of flights to places not currently served nonstop out of DCA, such as Tulsa, Oklahoma; Albuquerque, New Mexico and Colorado Springs, Colorado – as would residents of those cities who need to travel to Washington, D.C.

There are other fascinating facets to this tussle about whether to add more and longer-distance flights at DCA. One is how self-interest promotes bipartisanship. Thus states thought of as “red,” like Texas and Georgia, have joined with one of the “bluest” states, California, in lobbying for the DCA Perimeter Slots Provision, as the amendment that was defeated in the U.S. House of Representatives last month was called.

Another fascinating aspect, also driven by self-interest, is how the various airlines themselves come down on the topic. United Airlines and American Airlines oppose the slots amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, while Delta supports it.

Delta’s headquarters is in Georgia, which likely ex- plains that state’s lobbying efforts for the bill. American Airlines is already the dominant airline at DCA, so adding seven daily round trips of which American only gets one would actually dilute their DCA market share. And United stands to gain more if long-distance flights continue to be mostly from Dulles Airport, which is a main United hub.

Safety is the most compelling reason to oppose additional fights, or ones using larger planes, in and out of DCA. There are already 62 slots per hour for takeoff and landings at the airport, making the main runway at Reagan National the nation’s busiest. There is little margin for error on that short main runway before adding more large planes into the mix.

Given how densely populated the area around the airport is, and its proximity to many of our nation’s most iconic buildings, a strong argument can be made – and has been made by Alexandrians Rep. Don Beyer and Sen. Mark Warner – that additional and long-distance flights need to be placed at Dulles International or Baltimore-Washington International airports.

There is nothing wrong with being a NIMBY on the issue of noise pollution from DCA. There’s also nothing wrong with Alexandria residents opposing redevelopment projects in or near their neighborhoods. The issue – in both cases – is protecting one’s quality of life.

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