New flight patterns for BWI

FAA considers changes in traffic control merger

April 28, 2002|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

Residents in Anne Arundel and Howard counties could hear more - or perhaps less - noise from airplanes rumbling overhead under a plan that the Federal Aviation Administration is considering that would change flight paths at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

The move, the first change in flight paths at the airport in more than a decade, comes as the FAA consolidates radar control rooms at Washington's three major airports and Andrews Air Force base at a new facility in Virginia.

The agency says none of the three scenarios it proposes for new flight paths would affect the communities within five miles of BWI, where takeoffs and landings are known to rattle windows and sometimes make talking over backyard fences nearly impossible.

But, depending on which plan the FAA chooses, residents in communities such as Severn, Glen Burnie, Laurel and Clarksville in Howard County could see noise levels increase or decrease slightly, according to FAA maps.

The agency might, in the end, make no changes in existing flight paths. It will decide in September which path to pursue.

The FAA has been holding public hearings in Northern Virginia and Washington to discuss the changes, and convened its last one at the BWI Marriott last week. The few residents who attended pored over maps and magenta blips on a computer screen to discern what the changes would mean for their communities.

"We're trying to figure out where we're at, but we can't do that," said Charles Levay, president of Peach Orchard Improvement Association in Severn, as he and a neighbor looked at a map.

Levay said that he still hears airplanes overhead at his home, but said his windows stopped rattling when U.S. Airways discontinued its MetroJet service.

The FAA is mulling the changes in flight paths out of concerns that airspace is becoming too crowded and that the lower and longer flight paths are too expensive for struggling airlines.

When the flight paths were designed in the 1960s, Washington National Airport boasted 1,000 flights a day and was the area's busiest, compared with 250 flights daily from BWI and 100 flights daily from Washington Dulles International.

Forty years later, National's flights remain at the same level. Dulles has eclipsed National with 1,600 daily flights, and BWI has about 1,000.

With both BWI and Dulles poised to handle yet more traffic, the FAA decided it needed to consolidate each airport's radar rooms - facilities where controllers track planes once they are flying at high altitudes.

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