In its first annual report, issued last month,
the DC Metroplex BWI Community Roundtable challenged FAA’s process of engaging communities in addressing noise impacts
of NextGen procedures, as well as the agency’s noise standards and methodology. “The noise standards used by the
FAA, which were adopted in 1971, are outdated and do not reflect the precise and unremitting effects of concentrated flight
paths over limited geography created by modern technology,” according to the report.
Members of the Roundtable used their
annual report to express frustration at the inability to persuade FAA to take measures that would provide significant relief
from noise attributed to NextGen procedures at Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI). “Previously unaffected communities are now experiencing high volumes of aircraft flying new
and concentrated paths. We believe that this is having a direct effect on public health, the environment, and individual property
values of residents under these new flight paths,” they wrote.
“The DC Metroplex BWI Community Roundtable was created at the insistence
of the FAA to act as the vehicle for addressing the harmful noise issues associated with NextGen/DC Metroplex project. Unfortunately,
it appears to be a largely unsatisfactory approach.” The Roundtable is composed
of representatives from eight affected Maryland legislative districts; Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Howard counties; the Maryland
Aviation Administration (MAA); and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s office (D-Md.). Non-voting members include representatives
of the air cargo, general aviation, and commercial air carrier sectors and FAA, including Jodi McCarthy, the agency’s
vice-president for Mission Support Services.
Roundtable members regret that they have been “unable to effect significant change”
to flight paths in the DC Metroplex. “FAA essentially disowns responsibility for the noise and other environmental harm
it causes by its decisions and refers these matters to the local airport operator,” the report concludes. “There is no federal legislative mandate requiring the FAA to consider or address the complete
noise effect of its NextGen plan, nor even to work in good faith with affected communities to reduce the noise to levels that
are compatible with established residential development.”
Roundtable members acknowledged that changes
FAA proposed to departures from two runways “are expected to be an improvement over the current paths,” but lamented
“we have made no progress on arrivals, raising altitudes, or restoring dispersion.” They concluded: “At this time, we believe there must be a change in approach in order to achieve broader results.
Without a major change in federal legislation or a successful lawsuit that creates mandatory incentives for the FAA to act
to dramatically mitigate the situation, the Roundtable will fail in its goal of returning to a reasonable facsimile of the
non-controversial airport operations that existed at BWI prior to the implementation of the NextGen/DC Metroplex project.”
For its part, “FAA is pleased to work with the DC
Metroplex BWI Community Roundtable…to consider the concerns from communities around BWI and proposed solutions…and
remains committed to transparency,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to Roundtable chair Lance Brasher late last year. “However,
FAA’s involvement [does] not constitute either a final decision or a re-opening of the record of decision for the…DC
Metroplex Project, issued December 30, 2013.”
Unanimously adopted at its first meeting in March 2017, the Roundtable’s main goal
remains “that the FAA immediately revert to flight paths and procedures that were in place prior to the implementation
of NextGen and the DC Metroplex plan.” McCarthy noted that FAA complied with all requirements of the NEPA environmental
review process and that the agency no longer maintains the previous flight procedures in its inventory.
“The original pre-Metroplex flight
paths, procedures, and altitudes are no longer published on navigational charts or loaded into aircraft navigation computers.
Therefore, for a host of reasons, FAA cannot go back to the conventional system in place prior to Metroplex.”