Washington area citizens spotted instantly yesterday the critical flew in a proposal that would distribute more widely the nose from jet airplanes flying to National Airport: It would require them to agree to suffer.
"This is nonsense," Sigurd Rasmussen of North Arlington told the Federal Aviation Administration and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. "Do you really believe any community will agree to receive more noise than they do now? Come now, an honest answer."
Not only that, other citizens said, the proposal for scattering airplanes from National all over the Washington area (except for some Very Special Places) does yet drawn the central question of whether flights should be diverted from downtown National Airport to rural Dulles International.
Their comments came at the first of six public meetings in which the FAA and COG are explaining to residents of various Washington area jurisdictions what the share-the-noise proposal means.
The FAA is paying COG $52,000 to "obtain a community recommendation regarding the dispersion of noise effects associated with the operation of Washington National Airport," according to the contract.
That contract grew out of a political blunder in 1975 when the FAA decided to move the some airplanes flying up Potomac the Virginia side of the river to the Virginia side of the river, but forgot to tell Virginia's congressional delegation and locally elected officials.
After the predictable public storm the FAA went back to the drawing board. About a year ago, in a small meeting room at COG, FAA heavy hitters told COG representatives, in effect, "you tell us where to put the National airplanes, and we'll tell you if we can do it." Everybody smiled and shook hands.
The $52,000 contract was the result. After some meetings of technical staff, a proposal was born at FAA to see if it would fly. Both FAA and COG officials are very careful to disclaim ownership of the proposal or to label it a recommendation. Just a proposal.
Today, most planes taking off to the north from National fly up the Potomac about 10 miles to the Cabin John Bridge, and then are turned toward their destinations. When planes take off to the south, they fly about five miles, just beyond the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, before turning.
Under the proposal, planes would be directed to turn earlier. Thus, the band in which the planes move would be widened considerably, and the noise impact on present overflight.
"Someone should ask the President areas would be lessened.
Under both present procedures and any future ones, planes are forbidden from flying over the Mall area, including the White House and Capitol, and over the Naval Observatory. That has the effect of saving much of Upper Northwest Washington from air traffic.
"Someone should ask the President if he would like to share," Arthur Markowitz of Silver Spring suggested yesterday.
Explanations of noise get technical very quickly, so a technical study to explain it to the people was needed. The Mitre Corp., a consulting firm that works frequently for the FAA, was hired for about $60,000 to do that.
Mitre's Paul Sternfels showed up at the hearing in the Departmental Auditorium yesterday with a 45-minute slide show, maps, charts and technical explanations of what it all means.
Mitre's study says that the alternate flight paths proposed would reduce by 6,000 the number of people most heavily impacted by airplane noise. That would be achieved by adding 35,000 people to the list of those who get lower evels of aircraft noise today.
However, the study notes, "noise impact along the Potomac corridor would be generally unchanged within a distance of about five miles from the airport." In other words, those people living in Old Town Alexandria and Georgetown in expensive town-houses get no relief.
Cabin John would get some relief, as would Mount Vernon and Fort Hunt, but there would be noticeable increases in Springfield and Franconia and parts of Oxon Hill and Far Southeast Washington.
Sternfels explained yesterday that the noise measurements be presented were in a unit called "L&N," which is an average 24-hour noise impact on a give day in decibals
His figures were attacked. Robert Eisenburg, who said he lives in Oldn-Town Alexandria, suggested that since National Airport operates only 17 hours a day for big jets, a 24-hour average noise load would make the numbers look lower. "If your data are not correct, then your conclusions cannot be correct," said Eisenburg.
Lindsley Williams, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission member from Woodley Park, complained about the whole concept of using average noise measurements. "What bothers people are the peaks, not the averages," he said. We're forgetting about the roar that stops conversation. If the sound my alarm clock makes were averaged, it wouldn't wake me up."
This proposal "is an effort to divide and conquer citizens of the Washington area," Leslie Logan of the Arlington Civic Federation charged. "The real solution to the National noise problem is to divert planes to Washington's primary jet airport - Dulles."
After the public meetings are concluded this Friday, COG will compile a record and send it to the area's local jurisdictions for comment. Then, perhaps by late summer, a recommendation can be sent to the FAA, according to COG's Philip Clark.
The other public meetings will be at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Key Bridge Marriott; at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the auditorium of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School; at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Springfield's Lee High School auditorium; at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria at Oxon Hill Junior High School, and at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the auditorium at Minnie Howard Intermediate School in Alexandria.