THOUGH SOME of the long-suffering residents who live under the flight paths of National Airport had serious reservations about the transfer of National to a regional authority, many of them now hope that the noise issue may get a better ear from local officials than it did from Congress. While they're not likely to see National boarded up -- or even restricted to shuttle and commuter flights -- the civic groups and coalitions that have been grappling with aircraft noise may be in new position to negotiate some relief.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has selected one of these coalitions to act as an official liaison between the authority and the neighborhoods in dealing with the issue, at both National and Dulles airports. The National Airport Noise Abatement Committee, an offshoot of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, has been designated as the channel for individual and group concerns about noise. Former D.C. Council member Polly Shackleton, who is now a member of the new airports authority and who proposed the selection, cited the committee's combination of members: six locally elected officials, three area residents and five representatives of the airline industry.

National Airport will -- and should -- continue to carry its share of air traffic, subject to existing limits and hours of operation. Capital improvements to the airport are planned and can't help making a better terminal; and the use of newer, quieter aircraft should make a difference. In turn, reports and recommendations from those most directly affected by any of these changes deserve the authority's consideration. This kind of attention, after all, is supposed to accompany the transfer of airport operations from the federal government to a regional group. Congress didn't have to care a whole lot about the sufferings of locals; the new authority won't satisfy all the complainers either -- but it should be a better listener.