DC Fair Skies Update

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


As a result of lobbying by Montgomery County the FAA has announced that it is deferring implementation of the new southbound approach for an indefinite period to permit it to consider other changes in that flight path that the County has been seeking for over two years. Accordingly it now seems likely that no flight path changes will be made until Jan 2020.


Major New Development at National Airport

At the last meeting of the Community Working Group on aircraft noise at National Airport on May 23 the FAA made a surprise announcement.  At the request of the Secret Service (SS) the FAA is planning to implement changes in the northbound departures from National on January 2020 and the arrivals from the North effective August 15, 2019.  (Most ( 65%) planes depart National heading north  and land from the south but some of the time when the wind is out of the south they fly south down the river to land.) The SS is concerned about multiple incursions into  Prohibited Zone 56 which includes the White House, Mall and the Capital and have prevailed upon the FAA to move the northbound flight path further away from  P 56.  The FAA will also create a new special procedure for planes landing from the north that do not have the most advanced navigation equipment that will require them to follow GPS coordinates along the river instead of flying the river visual approach.  Both developments are likely to  reduce aircraft noise in NW DC by a significant but unclear amount at this point. 


Some background:  In 2015 the FAA implemented a new northbound departure procedure called LAZIR which moved the traditional flight path over Rosslyn to ta waypoint called ADAXE in the center of the river-to reduce aircraft noise in Roslyn.  However planes on that route of necessity had to fly close by or over Georgetown and NW DC.  Another negative of the LAZIR flight path was that it forced planes to fly very close to the P56 resulting in a greater chance of incursions in sensitive airspace.  A plane flying into P 56 is only seconds away from the White House.  Another negative is that planes turning left at ADAXE were pointing their engine exhaust at the monuments on the Mall which caused unhappiness from the National Park Service and the Architect of the Capital.  Despite all those foreseeable problems the FAA went forward with LAZIR and a lawsuit by the communities making up the DC Fair Skies Coalition challenging its implementation was unsuccessful.  However the incursions into P56 have recently increased and the SS has demanded that the northbound flight path be moved further west, closer to VA and further away from DC.  The net result should be a small but noticeable reduction in aircraft noise in DC.    The impact of eliminating the river visual option for most planes landing from the North is harder to predict but it should be favorable by reducing use of the existing low ceiling LDA approach that routes planes over NW DC.


There is considerable unhappiness among the members of the Working Group from VA and MD at the lack of notice and suddenness of this move by the FAA which normally moves at glacial speed on all requests for improvements in flight path and procedures from the Working Group.  While those are valid complaints the change in the northbound flight path is a national security issue and partially rights the 2015 flight path change which occurred without any notice to DC residents. 

Prohibited Area 56 National Security Project Briefing Presentation

Richard Hinds, Ward 2 Representative to the Working Group

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