A 229-passenger airbus landed as quietly as had been promised at National Airport yesterday and local government officials said afterward that they hope the wide-bodied jet plane will become a catalyst for standards at the airport.
Officials and others concerned with congestion and noise problems at National Airport said that if the wide-bodied planes are allowed to land on a regular basis there, as has been proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration, they would expect the total number of flights to be reduced.
"We won't have these monsters in without they're taking two other (smaller jets) out," said Sigurd Rasmussen, vice president of Virginians for Dulles, a group that has long urged that some flights be transferred from National to Dulles Airport.
The jet plane that landed at National yesterday was an Eastern Air Lines A-300 airbus (Eastern prefers to call it a Whisperliner) and the purpose was to convince local officials and the press that the plane could be a good neighbor.
To that end four busloads of aviation and government officials were taken to the end of a runway to hear for themselves the difference in noise made by the A-300 as compared with the Boeing 727 and 737, the jets most frequently used at National.
The difference was noticeable. While the 727s roared overhead, the A-300 sounded more like an old-fashioned propeller plane.FAA officials said the faster climb of the wide-body jet as well as the noise-insulated engines accounted for the quieter take-off. The new jet is about as noisy as other airplanes on landing however.
"The takeoff was of short duration and quieter, but to say it's noiseless would not be accurate," remarked Fairfax County Supervisor Martha M. Pennino.
Others were a bit more cynical. "I'd like to have my spy at Key Bridge now and see what it sounds like there," Arlington County Manager W.V. Ford said, as he sat in a bus shortly after having watched the A-300 take off. Ford added that the airport was an important part of the Arlington economy "so our principal interest is how do we make National a good neighbor."
In fact the FAA has installed sensoring devices to measure airplane noise levels in Georgetown, Old Town Alexandria, Rosslyn, and at Fort Foote south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Maryland side of the Potomac River. According to the FAA, yesterday's results showed that the A-300 is about 50 percent less noisy on take off than the Boeing 727 and 737 jets.
Yesterday, for instance, the A-300 recorded readings of 79 decibels at Rosalyn and 76 decibels at Georgetown on its takeoff at 11:57 a.m. a 727 jet that had taken off just before that recorded decibel readings of 89 at Rosslyn and 87 in georgetown.
James T. Murphy, director of the FAA owned and operated Washington Metropolitan Airports (National and Dulles), said the government did not intend to allow more than the current 40 scheduled take-offs and landings per hour from National and he said that with the introduction of the wide body jets it is "highly conceivable" that the number would decrease.
Murphy said that allowing wide body jets to use National will not mean that airport will be permitted to handle more than the 18 million passengers that has been set as the limit in 1990. Currently about 13.5 million passengers use National each year.
FAA and Eastern Line officials said yesterday that the bigger plane could replace many of the 8,000 extra flights that were necessary last year to accommodate passsengers on the Eastern shuttle to New York.