BWI neighbors form group in fight against plane noise

BWI-Marshall Airport neighbors and their political representatives met Tuesday with aviation authorities as they continued a bid to end lower flight paths that they say have created too much noise over their homes.

"This is our opportunity to make something that works for us," said Lance Brasher of Crownsville, who was elected chair of a roundtable group to submit the neighbors' recomnmendations to federal officials. "The burden should be on the" Federal Aviation Administration.

The new flight paths were part of a $35 billion NextGen nationwide air traffic overhaul intended to modernize routes and save the airlines tens of billions of dollars in fuel. The plan will save $160 billion in fuel and other costs through 2030, according to the FAA.

The program has drawn outcries from airport neighbors around the country, and some have filed lawsuits against the FAA over the noise. The lower flight paths were phased in at BWI in 2015.

The neighbors who gathered Tuesday in Linthicum questioned why it was necessary to form a group to tell the FAA what many of them have been complaining about for more than a year.

Paul Shank, BWI's chief engineer, said federal officials want to make sure recommendations are submitted in a public process that incorporates all of the community complaints. The roundtable process isn't mandated by law, but it's the way the FAA has decided to gather input from around the country.

"It can't happen next week," he said. "The FAA said, 'This is too big for us to snap our fingers and change.'"

Robert Owens, acting FAA district manager, thanked the more than two dozen people who attended and those who volunteered for the roundtable.

The NextGen program, he reminded them, was mandated by Congress.

"The FAA did what they could do to meet the demands of Congress," he said.

The aviation authority acknowledges mistakes were made and is committed to fixing the noise problems, Owens said.

"The FAA as a whole is committed to this process," he said. "Do not feel like we are disconnected or unconcerned."

The group went line-by-line though the proposed charter of the roundtable group, asking questions about open meetings and what constituted a quorum. Eventually they approved a charter to govern the roundtable.

"The New York Port Authority Roundtable met for three years before they did what you all just accomplished," said Mary Ellen Eagan, a consultant assisting with the meeting.

Jesse Chancellor, a member of the roundtable, compared the FAA to a surgeon telling a patient in the operating room, "I'll get to you tomorrow."

"This is a depressing process," he said. "I wish you'd been this deliberate in the first place."

The group passed a motion to ask the FAA to immediately return to the old flight paths to "provide relief as soon as possible to commmunities around BWI."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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