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Howard County petitions FAA to reduce flight noise at BWI

A plane flies over Dorsey Road as it prepares to land at BWI airport. Neighbors say lower flight paths have contributed to greater noise near the airport.
A plane flies over Dorsey Road as it prepares to land at BWI airport. Neighbors say lower flight paths have contributed to greater noise near the airport. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

The debate over flight patterns at BWI Marshall Airport continued Wednesday, with Howard County petitioning the Federal Aviation Administration to take immediate action to reduce noise in the area.

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said the sound of low-flying airplanes has disrupted the lives of people around the airport.

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“Even programs at our Robinson Nature Center have been negatively impacted by the noise, and that facility is 10 miles from the airport,” Kittleman said in a statement.

In the petition, Howard County argues that the FAA violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, portions of the Department of Transportation Act and FAA policy in implementing new routes under the “NextGen” GPS-based system in 2014. The new system came with navigation procedures that resulted in lower flight paths.

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The petition comes just days after the FAA pulled out from a community roundtable created to discuss the issue of noise created by the NextGen system. In a statement, the agency cited “pending litigation” as the reason they could’t continue the talks.

The Federal Aviation Administration has cut off talks with Maryland and a community group about increased flight noise at BWI Marshall Airport, after Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a pair of petitions last month asking the agency to readjust flight paths to reduce the noise.

Last month, Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a pair of petitions asking the agency to readjust flight paths to reduce the noise.

Howard County Councilman Jon Weinstein said the FAA’s withdrawal from the roundtable gave the County no option but to pursue legal action.

“Dealing with the FAA has been a nightmare since the noise issues started,” Weinstein said.

An FAA spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

The state of Maryland filed two petitions Wednesday requesting that the Federal Aviation Administration readjust flight paths that have upset neighbors of BWI Marshall and Ronald Reagan airports by causing “greater community noise concerns than the FAA predicted,” according to one of the petitions.

The FAA’s $35 billion NextGen system, which employs satellite navigation and advanced digital communications to direct flight paths, has been implemented at 30 of the nation’s largest airports, the agency says. They include the three in the Baltimore-Washington area.

The agency has billed the system as “a monumental, historic shift to modernize the U.S. air transportation system” to reduce time, save fuel and improve safety. But its implementation has brought complaints about noise at airports around the country.

Baltimore Sun reporters Michael Dresser and Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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