"We have lived in Cabin John for 29 years. My husband and I have planted 45 spruces and pines here, but we're going to leave if there's not going to be a change. The airplanes from National Airport fly over my house, bumper to bumper, 400 to 500 a day," said Klara Buchmann.
Juanita Williams, who has lived in the Gardens section of Cabin Jon for 35 years, said the constant noise and vibration from the planes turning as they reach a point over the Gardens made the dishes shake in her cupboard and her carport rattle.
"I feel like those planes are going to swoop down my chimney," said Williams. "I'm supposed to rest in traction part of the day, but I can't because of the planes."
William and Buchmann were among the 60 residents and government representatives at a Cabin John Association meeting on April 26, called to discuss the present status of their overflight noise plight and to decide on tactics to take at the share-the-noise hearings planned by the Council of Governments for May 14 to 20.
Overflight noise and its attendant pollution have ben an old, frustrating problem for Cabin John residents. Since 1967 they have been petitioning the Federal Aviation Administration, which has jurisdiction over National Airport, to implement noise abatement procedures and to use a shared or fanned out flight pattern for National. Neither form of relief poses a safety hazard or requires nw technoligical expertise.
Association officers reported to the members and to Neal Potter of the County Council, Judy Toth, the state delegate and Philip H. Clark, chief of air transportation planning for COG, who attended the meeting, that in the ten years of petitioning, Cabin John has gotten no relief and that the situation has gotten worse.
"New flights have been channeled over us without our consent or even formal notification," said Mary Wezel, who chairs a transportation committee for the association. "Not only the noise by the jet pollution has increased. We are getting more than our fair share of the burden. If Washington wants a close-in jet-port for the convenience of citizens, others should share in the environmental impact."
Flights go over Cabin John every one and a half minutes at peak times, and 25 per cent of the flights have been measured at 80 to 90 decibels, said Wetzel. (Montgomery County standard for residential noise levels is 55 decibels.)
"When we first asked the FAA for relief, they denied we had a problem. It wasn't until one of our residents, Erich Buchmann, an acoustician by profession, brought his instruments home and measured the noise that FAA admitted we might have a problem," reported Wetzel.
In October, 1975, the FAA proposed a share-the-noice plan which would have reduced Cabin John overflights of 400 to 500 a day to 40 to 50 a day. Areas in Virginia with proposed new flight channels protested and the FAA never implemented the plan.
Instead, FAA asked the Council of Governments to study the situation. The hearings set for six days at six different locations are part of that study. COG could recommended to the local jurisdictions then could recommend to the FAA that a share-the-noice plan be implemented.
In order to get their point across at the hearings, the association voted to have members attend all six hearings and present testimony. Several of the residents pointed out that by its nature a share-the-noice plan sets one neighborhood against another and that Cabin John should approach other neighborhood associations and the umbrella group, the Civic Association, to work together at a fair solution and unified position.
"That way," said one resident, "the FAA can't play one neighborhood off against another."
"We're going to write our congressmen and other representatives," said Wetzel. "We will ask them to speak out on our behalf. We already have a strong letter of support from our congressman, Newton Steers. But, if COG doesn't recommend that FAA spread the flights out, we aren't taking that as a final answer. We feel we are a minority and that we're being maltreated. We have plans to do more, but we're not going to make them public now."