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BWI roundtable asks for state legislation action to combat impact of low flying planes

A Southwest flight comes directly over a home on Jones Road in the Queenstown neighborhood. Arriving airplanes approach Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to land on Tuesday afternoon.
A Southwest flight comes directly over a home on Jones Road in the Queenstown neighborhood. Arriving airplanes approach Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to land on Tuesday afternoon. (By Paul W. Gillespie / Capital Gazette)

Representatives from the BWI Roundtable asked state lawmakers Wednesday to file legislation addressing issues related to new flight patterns at BWI Thurgood Marshall airport.

Since 2014 the Federal Aviation Administration has faced local and state opposition because of a new air-traffic control system, NextGen, that was hailed as a way to modernize flight patterns and save billions in fuel.

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Critics, however, say low, new flight patterns negatively impact day-to-day life and that NextGen has exacerbated noise in neighborhoods including Hanover, Columbia and Elkridge that are now under the new BWI flight paths.

Mary Reese, who chairs the roundtable, told lawmakers representing Howard County in Annapolis that residents have reported an uptick in health problems because of “commercial aviation exhaust,” and said some as far as 20 miles from the airport can walk outside and draw “a line in a black soot-like dust” on their property.

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The petition filed in November comes on the heels of what the county's called a disregard for FAA's own policies.

The FAA in July stopped engaging with the roundtable after Attorney General Brian Frosh filed a petition requesting a change in flight patterns to reduce noise.

The lack of re-engagement coupled with “very limited” legal outcomes has prompted the roundtable to ask lawmakers to pass legislation to help mediate the situation, said Jesse Chancellor, vice-chair of the roundtable during his testimony before Howard County state representatives in Annapolis.

Chancellor requested legislation ask the Maryland Aviation Association to refrain from expanding operations at the airport until the problem is resolved and, through the federal process, restrict hours of operation.

In a January letter to the FAA, the roundtable wrote that “residents are entirely dependent on the FAA to design and implement flight paths and procedures that protect them. They have no ability to protect themselves, their families and property from harms caused by aircraft overflights.”

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Local officials in Howard and Anne Arundel counties have voiced displeasure with NexGen.

Two lawmakers on the Howard County Council have rescinded a resolution that would have reiterated support for ongoing civil action against the FAA. The resolution had been filed by Councilwoman Deb Jung, who represents the five villages of Columbia, and Christiana Mercer Rigby, who represents Savage, North Laurel and parts of Jessup.

Jung in an interview said it was rescinded because of concern over wording. They are in the process of refiling another resolution.

“The council has elevated its participation in advocating on this issue by having a councilperson serve as a voting member on the roundtable,” said Jung, who serves as a voting member at the roundtable.

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