Sustained indifference by the Federal Aviation Administration to months of complaints about noise from takeoffs and landings at Baltimore-Washington International Airport has pushed more elected leaders to call for a lawsuit to force changes to flight patterns.
Howard's county executive last month joined his counterpart in Anne Arundel County and the governor in asking Maryland's attorney general to sue the FAA, noting that some airport neighbors are living with "an unprecedented level of noise that has been life-changing."
Lawsuits should be used sparingly, as a last resort. It's apparent that the situation has reached that point.
Maryland's congressional delegation, which last spring called the noise "unacceptable and unsustainable," has been impotent in prodding the FAA to make changes.
A regional advisory group, the DC Metroplex BWI Community Roundtable, also urged revised flight paths into Washington National Airport because of noise complaints. Replies from the federal agency have been pablum – the most recent saying that administrators are "committed to hearing the community's concerns."
Before a new air traffic system, branded as NextGen, was phased in, noise complaints were a fraction of today's. Neighborhoods in Columbia, Elkridge and Ellicott City are suffering from the FAA's intransigence, years of inaction and feigned concern.
Instead of a dismissive answer that Next Gen patterns can't be changed, the FAA needs to explain why not. If legal action is the only way to force an answer and unearth scientific studies to back its argument, so be it.
In one of the first lawsuits challenging NextGen, a federal appeals court has agreed with arguments by the city of Phoenix that the FAA didn't do enough to study the noise impact on neighborhoods before rolling out NextGen. That seminal case remains unresolved as appeals are considered.