Noise over East Columbia HOWARD COUNTY


Most of us have experienced the sight and sound of a low-flying airplane. It can be deafeningly loud and equally unnerving. That is why there are protections in the law for those who live within a flight path and must endure turbo-thunder on a routine basis.

It is unclear at this point whether residents of East Columbia have a legitimate complaint regarding nighttime air traffic from Baltimore-Washington International Airport over their homes.

But the residents who live in the villages of Long Reach and Owen Brown deserve to be heard. There is a question of why these home owners did not come forward in the past. That might be explained by the fact that Kendall Ridge, from which many of the complaints have come, is a relatively new neighborhood.

The State Aviation Administration should be commended for responding to residents' complaints by placing noise monitors at eight sites around the community. This was done despite the fact that earlier tests showed the noise levels at permissible levels near Interstate 95 and Route 100, even closer to the airport.

Possible solutions, if they are deemed necessary, might involve the state retrofitting some homes with soundproofing. Del. Virginia M. Thomas, a Democrat who represents the area, said it is doubtful that the state will have to purchase any properties. She is hoping for other remedies, short-term and long-term.

The first would involve getting the owners of cargo planes to cease flying after 11 p.m., which won't be easy. Cargo fliers are collecting packages all day and must get them to their destination city the following day, reminded Mike West, BWI's associate administrator for planning and engineering. "It's the nature of their business. We can't do much about it."

Unfortunately, it is the cargo flights that involve older and larger planes, which are inherently the noisiest.

The longer-term solution would take seven to 10 years; by that time, federal law will require noisier commercial jets to be replaced with quieter ones. This may ultimately be the only solution that flies.

But more rapid remedial action is necessary if the noise test results due next month confirm serious problems.

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