Fighting FAA NextGen – small steps, continuous pressure is the key to victory.
If you’re reading this in Howard County, chances are you are also trying to ignore the distracting sound of an airplane overhead on it’s approach to BWI. In a minute or two, there will be another…and another…and another.
It’s been like that since 2014. So, its no secret Howard County residents are pressing their elected leaders to do something – anything – about the intrusion of non-stop airplane noise coming from flights arriving and leaving Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
That’s when County Executive Allan Kittleman got involved..and he hasn’t stopped since.
A little background:
Several years ago, the Obama Administration directed Federal agencies to update their operations as a means of increasing efficiency and reducing waste. One of the top targets was reductions in fuel consumption, and as a result, agencies such as the FAA took steps accordingly.
In the FAA’s case, implementation of its 2014 NEXTGEN initiative represented a modernization of flight operations at airports all over the United States.
But for residents living near BWI, including many families in Columbia, Elkridge, Hanover, and Ellicott City, the FAA’s modernization efforts meant flight approach traffic would be routed directly overhead leading to endless flight noise. These changes were made without even consulting the communities they impacted.
What’s even more frustrating is the FAA has proven itself entirely unwilling to recognize noise complaints or institute new procedures to provide immediate relief.
But that didn’t stop Allan Kittleman.
After trying to work with the FAA for over a year, Kittleman sent a letter in the spring of 2016 to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, demanding the unacceptable noise levels be addressed. This led to a meeting with FAA staff in Washington, D.C., in which the FAA explained that a community roundtable would have to be formed in order for action to be taken.
When the creation of the community roundtable slowed, Kittleman pressed forward again to expedite its establishment. Even when the roundtable was formed, members continued to express concerns about the slow pace at which the FAA was addressing the community’s concerns.
In the summer of 2017, Kittleman began working with colleagues including fellow County Executive Steve Schuh of nearby Anne Arundel County to increase pressure on the FAA.
Soon Kittleman and Schuh joined Governor Hogan’s calls for the State Attorney General to file a lawsuit in federal court.
In separate letters to Attorney General Brian Frosh, Executives Kittleman and Schuh made it clear that with the implementation of NextGen, the FAA failed to take careful consideration of the adverse impact to the local communities surrounding BWI.
Said Kittleman: “…flight paths have subjected residents to an unprecedented level of noise that has been life-changing.”
Within days, Governor Larry Hogan formally directed the State Attorney General to sue the FAA over the flight patterns.
In his letter to the State Attorney General, Gov. Hogan noted residents have become “miserable in their own homes with louder and more frequent flights which now rattle windows and doors.”
In a promising development, on October 31st, 2017, Frosh announced the Attorney General’s Office hired an outside firm to bring forth a suit against the FAA. That firm recently won a suit against FAA over NextGen traffic patterns in Phoenix, Arizona.
This is a good next step, but the issue is by no means resolved.
Thousands of residents living in BWI flight paths continue to have their dinner table conversations interrupted, and their windows rattled each time a plane flies overhead.
As far as the Kittleman Administration is concerned, the pace at which the Federal Government has moved to address the damaging consequences of a program it failed to fully vet is nothing short of unacceptable.
“The NextGen program is wrecking the livelihoods of families in our community, and we won’t let this stand.”
– Allan Kittleman
Stay tuned to Kittleman.com for developments on this and other important issues handled by County Executive Allan Kittleman here in Howard County.