The Washington Post

Norton asks FAA to reroute late flights at National Airport

[This post has been updated]

Late flights into Reagan National Airport are rattling windowpanes and scaring the daylights out of sleeping D.C. residents, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said Thursday in asking the Federal Aviation Administration to reroute the planes.

Residents have been complaining about the problem for months. Norton wrote to the FAA. She has been fielding grievances from constituents who say they have been shaken from sleep since last spring when runway construction altered the approach planes take to the airport.

“What I continue to hear from D.C. residents are not complaints about the usual air traffic noise, but about the deafening, terrorizing noise and lights from planes flying directly over their roofs in the dead of night, which appear dangerously close to their bedrooms, wrecking their sleep and their health,” Norton wrote to acting FAA director Michael P. Huerta. “Some homes shake every time an airplane is approaching the runway.”

The FAA said it was reviewing the letter.

The runway work is expected to be completed by spring of next year. The airport’s main runway is closed from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. That runway more closely parallels the adjacent Potomac, allowing planes to make their approach above the river. When it closes, or under certain weather conditions, planes are routed onto runways at an angle to the river with approaches over Southeast and Southwest Washington.

The last scheduled weekday flight into National arrives at about 1 a.m. Flights resume at 6 a.m.

“During the week there are eight flights during that period,” said Kimberly Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. “There are fewer on the weekend.”

In writing to Huerta, Norton acknowledged that the aging runway needed repairs.

“However, we need to think again and more deeply about how these projects can be accomplished consistent with the safety of all concerned, and not at the expense of disrupting the lives and health of nearby residents,” Norton wrote.

She asked Huerta to consider whether there were alternatives, including doing the work on weekends or during business hours. Airport officials have said that in January the work will shift to later hours, beginning after 1 a.m and allowing the late flights to land on the main runway.

The airport handled 271,000 flights last year, or an average of about 740 a day.

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.


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