IN HIS ARTICLE ON NATIONAL AIRPORT {"The Airport Washington Loves to Hate," July 1}, William Prochnau significantly underestimates the noise pollution generated by the airport and the contempt for the public interest exhibited by Congress, the airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration. He appears to accept the notion that the river run is the only route taken by commercial jet traffic into and out of the airport. This is simply not so.

The airlines are still regularly using flight paths that were employed in the early 1980s in the infamous Scatter Plan Test and that were declared off-limits when the plan was officially terminated in 1984. Notwithstanding this official determination, commercial aircraft continue to use the Scatter Plan paths, cutting off more than two-thirds of the river run. On departure, they turn west at Roosevelt Bridge, less than two miles from National Airport, and continue overland above densely populated Arlington and Fairfax County. Incoming flights follow the same route.

As a result, large areas of Northern Virginia have been turned into a sonic slum, with residents of once-pleasant communities now subjected to the incessant roaring, rumbling and screaming of aircraft overhead.


WILLIAM PROCHNAU'S ARTICLE ON NATional Airport failed to mention that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has ignored the Council of Governments' unanimous vote for a complete night curfew at National. Control of the airport should be taken from the airports authority as it seems to have no accountability to local government.

The article does not go far enough in describing the environmental problems due to the aircraft noise over the Washington area. Our house rumbles from "quiet aircraft" well past midnight. Maybe if our nighttime quiet were restored, we might hate the airport a little less. PAUL ENGELSTAD Bethesda

JUST LAST WEEK, AFTER A SERIES OF flights across the country, I found myself sitting in the Detroit airport waiting for a 10 p.m. connection to National. At 5 minutes to 10, they announced that the flight had mechanical troubles and would be delayed. They offered us seats on a flight to Dulles, with ground transportation to National.

Everyone deserted the gate, opting for the sure flight to Dulles, except myself, another Washington-based consultant and a gentleman who screamed, "I AM NOT FLYING TO DULLES!" We were warned that we might be sleeping in Detroit if the mechanical problem could not be fixed. To the chagrin of the counter agent, we held our ground and remained loyal to our "neighborhood" airport. The thought of riding a bus from Dulles was more than we could bear after a long week on the road.

At 11 p.m. they put us on the plane. Our loyalty paid off, and even though we were an hour late, we arrived at the gate before the bus from Dulles.

While many airports are bigger and more advanced, there are few that can put you 10 minutes from the center of town. To those who bought expensive houses in Potomac under the flight path, may I recommend some nice parcels of land over in Prince George's County or Gaithersburg. To those of us who live and work in the city, National Airport is a gem. Funny how we never complain about the traffic noise as the suburbanites commute past our houses every morning and night.

I will never tire of the view you get when approaching Washington nor the thrill of a safe landing. Now, about those cabs . . . NEIL KOPIT Washington

Please address letters to: 20071, The Washington Post Magazine, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Letters must include name, address and daytime telephone number and are subject to editing.