After viewing a presentation last night about proposed flight plans out of Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Howard County officials said they would push for an option that would reduce airplane noise for nearly 45,000 Maryland residents - most of them in Howard County.
The federal government has final say over the flight plans, but "if we get enough support, they will have to listen," said Del. Shane Pendergrass, a Howard Democrat.
"People are already suffering [because of noise]," she said. "To reduce noise is a no-brainer."
The option favored by county officials, one of four being considered by the Federal Aviation Administration, would reduce noise for residents living near Elkridge by having planes take a tight approach to BWI from the northwest. Currently, planes take a more circular route to the airport.
The move would increase noise for about 15,000 residents living near the Swann Hill area of southern Howard County.
While FAA officials will not make an official recommendation for several months, they are "leaning" toward agreeing with Howard officials, said Barbara Cogliandro, air traffic manager for the Potomac TRACON, a facility that would control flight patterns out of all major airports in the Baltimore-Washington area.
Two other options could each reduce noise for more than 150,000 people in Howard but would also increase noise for up to 75,000 other suburban Baltimore residents. The fourth choice would be to maintain current flight patterns.
The FAA is considering changing flight paths to several area airports as it prepares to open its new TRACON radar control facility near Warrington, Va.
The facility will centralize radar controllers from area airports, giving them control over all planes entering the region. The move should help reduce costs by allowing planes to fly higher, which saves fuel and reduces noise, according to FAA officials.
The new unified facility would enable better coordination of approaches to area airports.
The three major passenger airports in the area - BWI, Reagan National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport - each have separate radar controllers and airspace, making it difficult to track planes that move among them.
About 2 million planes a year operate in Baltimore-Washington airspace, making the planned control hub the third-largest in the country, after southern California and New York City.