Attorney General Karl A. Racine has sent a letter to leaders of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asking them to reconsider newly implemented flight paths that bring planes taking off to the north from Washington National Airport low over residential neighborhoods in Wards 2 and 3 -- sometimes at early-morning hours. The new flight patterns shifted such air traffic east of the Potomac River.
“These new flight paths, implemented in 2015, permit aircraft departing Reagan National to the north to fly over Foggy Bottom, Georgetown University, Canal Road, and MacArthur Boulevard,” Attorney General Racine wrote in the letter, addressed to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and FAA Eastern Region Administrator Carmine Gallo. “The District residents in those areas have been seriously and adversely affected by the aircraft noise from these new flight paths.”
Neighbors and institutions in the area have expressed concern to officials about the new flight paths for months, and several District officials – including Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton – have raised the issue with federal leaders. Attorney General Racine’s letter noted that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) is monitoring an appeal of the FAA’s implementation of the new flight paths filed by Georgetown University and a coalition of community groups in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Attorney General Racine urged the FAA leaders to reconsider their decision in light of residents’ concerns, citing a 2013 case (Helicopter Association International, Inc. v. FAA) in which the agency responded to Long Island residents’ concerns about increasing helicopter noise by requiring use of a flight path that avoided residential areas. The D.C. Circuit upheld that decision, confirming that the FAA had authority to change flight paths in order to reduce the impact of aircraft noise on residents living below them.
A copy of the Attorney General’s letter is below.
Mr. Huerta and Mr. Gallo:
I am writing to urge the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reconsider the implementation and use of flight paths out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport ("Reagan National") that have shifted air traffic east of the Potomac River. These new flight paths, implemented in 2015, permit aircraft departing Reagan National to the North to fly over Foggy Bottom, Georgetown University, Canal Road, and MacArthur Boulevard. The District residents in those areas have been seriously and adversely affected by the aircraft noise from these new flight paths.
My Office is aware that a collection of Community Groups and Georgetown University have challenged the FAA's implementation of these new flight paths in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and we continue to monitor that litigation. Rather than wait for that litigation to play out, the FAA should instead reconsider the use of these new
flight paths in light of the serious noise concerns from the District residents they affect. The FAA has taken similar steps in the past, see Helicopter Ass 'n Int'l, Inc. v. FAA, 722 F.3d 430 (D.C. Cir. 2013), and should rightly do so again now.
Karl A. Racine
Attorney General for the District of Columbi