On May 14, Eastern Airlines and New York Air, two major operators on the New York-Washington route, told Southwest Washington residents they would stop flying over their heads on New York-bound departures from National Airport.
Two weeks later, Barbara Heil, an aide to D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy's office, tried to find out if the flights had, indeed, ceased.
"Have they stopped?," she asked the more than 200 Southwesterners crammed into the room of St. Matthews Lutheran Church.
"Nooo!," they yelled.
"Have they decreased at all?," she continued.
"Nooo!," "Well, some!," "No!," they shouted.
Representatives of the two airlines had insisted at the earlier meeting that their carriers had been instructed to stop requesting and taking a sharp right turn off Runway 36 that caused northbound planes to roar over Southwest homes. June Farrell, a spokeswoman for Eastern, said, "The issue dealt with northbound takeoffs from Runway 36 and those have all stopped."
Although the turn has always been allowed, Southwest residents charged that the airlines had been taking the turn so frequently that the noise was seriously affecting the quality of their lives. Eastern and New York Air issued statements May 14 saying they would stop taking the turn. Residents say the noise has abated but has not stopped.
"It's outrageous," said Gottlieb Simon of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2D, which has organized much of the opposition to the noise. The group's most recent expression of outrage was the town meeting held at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church, 222 M St., SW, addressed by District politicians and representatives from the Faa, citizens' groups and athe ANC. FAA officials wre roundly booed.
"I saw one (plane) just the other day, a big red one," said Simon, "The wheels were practically on my roof."
But National Airport officials contend that Eastern and New York Air have both abided by their agreement not to take the so-called "Anacostia Departure."
"Our records indicate that Eastern and New York Air have stopped," said FAA Operations Officer Keith Barnett.
"It is possible that they are taking Runway 3 - which is 30 degrees away from yrunway 36 - and it is possible that another airline is taking the route occasionally. But the two that agreed to have stopped."
Runway 3 also sends northbound planes along the Anacostia River, but departure from that runway does not require that they take a turn soon after takeoff. Barnett said FAA air traffic controllers are now keeping records of request for the Anacostia departure from Runway 36 by yeastern and New York Air.
David Hess, airport spokesman, said other airlines are taking the Anacostia departure, and it is they who are sparking citizen complaints. On Tuesday, June 2, for example, Hess said control tower employes reported that four airlines took that departure route in a 24-hour period: American Airlines, USAir, Air Florida and Pan American. Those four flights engendered 13 recorded complaints to the FAA from the Southwest area, Hess said, noting that airline markings are difficult to decipher from the ground.
David Frailey, vice president, public relations, for American Airlines, said, "I'm not aware of any complaints. If it is us, it's an anomaly, an abberration, certainly not a normal situation. We're very careful to be sensitive to these things." Frailey is based in Dallas.
Hess also said that Eastern and New York Air may be using Runway 3, which "is sort of more aligned with the Anacostia River. They would go over Hains Point but not, I think, over Harbour Square," a group of cooperative apartments whose residents have complained. Hess said it was unlikely that Eastern or New York Air would use Runway 3 consistently because the runway is shorter and not as convenient for their large jets.
Eastern spokeswoman Farrell confirmed that the airline does use Runway 3, but said, "There will be flights taking off along the Anacostia, but we've been doing that for seven years. Everybody - Allegheny, Peidmont, corporate jets, general aviation, everybody - uses that runway. It's been going on forever. If you stopped it you'd have to close the airport."