The Department of Transportation proposed stringent noise-control limits for busy National Airport yesterday that would bar in 1986 almost all commercial jets currently serving the facility.
To meet the new requirement, airlines would have to purchase a new generation costly, quiet and more fuel-efficient airplanes such as the McDonnell Douglas DC9-80 and the Boeing 757 and 767, or modify some existing planes with new engines.
The new noise limits were part of an overall policy announced yesterday for the Washington area's two government-owned airports that is designed to reduce noise and congestion at National while promoting increased use of the more distant Dulles International.
A similar plan offered by the Carter administration was blocked in Congress last year, and there were indications yesterday that the DOT's new plan will run into similar squalls on Capitol Hill. Airline officials also denounced the DOT plan, which is scheduled to go into effect in October after public hearing July 28.
The proposed policy would:
Reduce the number or takeoffs and landings by the commercial airlines at National from the current 40 to 37 an hour and bar jet flights before 7 a.m. or after 10 p.m., which would trim the number of scheduled commerical flights there by about 13 percent. Commuter airlines would pick up the the extra three "slots" -- the industry term for takeoffs and landings -- an hour.
Extend to 1,000 miles the socalled perimeter rule that now generally prohibits nonstop flights from National beyond 650 miles. Among the cities eligible for new service from National would be Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans and Kansas City.
Eliminate a provision in the current airport rule that allows New York Air and three other airlines to operate more flights than the number of slots they have. The proposal would keep intact a provision that allows airlines to fly unlimited extra sections of flights, used daily by Eastern's Air Shuttle, New York Air's major competitor.
Limit to 16 million annually the number of passengers who could use National in the future from the current level of about 14.5 million a year The DOT said the 16 million-level would be reached by 1984.
Seek to make the use of Dulles more attractive by improving ground transportation. The DOT proposed to accelerate construction of a 2 1/2-mile road linking the Dulles Access Road eastward with I-66 so that it would be completed by 1984. Also to be explored is the feasibility of free or lowcost bus service.
The DOT plan was greeted with enthusiasm by eara legislators. In announcing the proposal, DOT Secretary Drew Lewis and Federal Aviation Administration chief J. Lynn Helms were flanked by three area senators and two Virginia congressmen who expressed their support.
But others on Capitol Hill, whose constituents would gain less direct access to Washington as a result of the plan, are expected to oppose it and seek to stop it. After the news conference, Lewis was asked how he plans to get this package through Congress. "With great difficulty," he replied.
"On this kind of an issue, you can't win totally," Lewis told reporters earlier. "The local community would like to have fewer slots than we presently have. Congress would like to have their specific cities served so they have access. The airlines would like to have 50 slots an hour. So we recognize that if everybody's equally dissatisfied, we're probably done a reasonably good job. We don't expect everybody to be totally enthused with this package."
While supportive of the "serious and responsible effort" made by the DOT to come up with a plan, House aviation subcommittee Chairman Norman Y. Mineta (D-Calif.) noted that there could be "specific and limited problems within the overall policy . . . Those with concerns over specific problems should work to correct them through the public comment process rather than attmepting to delay or scuttle the entire policy."
Airlines officials were generally unhappy with the proposal plan and were convinced that one of two things would happen: either it will be cut down in Congress or the government will allocate slots because the airlines may not be able to agree on a formula for National. There already are 200 more requests for slots than could be accommodated by the plan.
"We're convinced that this thing is so ludicrous on its face and will go nowhere that we will go ahead and inaugurate Newark-Washington services on July 19 as planned," said James O'Donnell, New York Air's senior vice president for marketing. With the six round trips a day planned for the Newark service, New York Air would be flying about 15 more round trips a day than it has slots for.
Another airline official said that the administration's "much-heralded regulatory review process" had failed to first major test when the Office of Management and Budget waived the White House-mandated requirement that major rulemakings like this one -- those having a $100 million or more impact on the economy -- be accompanied by a regulatory-impact analysis.
If the proposed noise-control limits for National are made a permanent part of the policy, they could set the standard nationwide because managers of other congested airports are watching to see what the federal government does with its two airports. The policy also has implications for the aircraft industry because the policy could accelerate sales for the new-generation airplanes, at least from the airlines that can afford them.