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U.S. House Directs Pentagon, FAA to Address Aircraft Noise After Complaints of Rattled Nerves Around D.C.

By Frank Wolfe | July 16, 2019
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VH-3D "Marine One" over Washington, D.C.

Residents in and around Washington, D.C., have complained that frequent helicopter flybys interrupt their sleep, shake their homes and drown out conversations, prompting the House of Representatives to address the issue of aircraft noise in two separate pieces of legislation.

Last month, the House passed H.R. 3673, the body's version of a fiscal 2020 funding bill for the Department of Transportation.

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In the House report on the bill, lawmakers urged the FAA "to respond fully and completely to the requirements in the FAA Re-Authorization Act (P.L. 115–254) pertaining to noise reduction."

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., the co-chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus in the House and a member of the House Appropriations Committee's aviation panel, introduced the language to get the FAA to prioritize "combating airplane and helicopter noise," according to her office. As part of that effort, she and other Washington, D.C.-area legislators have gotten the Government Accountability Office to agree to study helicopter noise in the National Capital Region.

Regular flights in the D.C. area include VIP transport by military helicopters, such as Marine Helicopter Squadron One's (HMX-1) fleet of Sikorsky VH-3D “Marine One” Sea Kings and VH-60 N White Hawks and Bell-Boeing MV-22 tiltrotors.

Norton has said her constituents have complained that airplane and helicopter noise have interrupted their sleep patterns, shaken their homes, and made hearing conversations difficult or impossible at times.

On July 10, the House also passed an amendment by Rep. Don Beyer, D-Virginia, to the House's version of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to require the secretary of defense to submit to Congress a report on the "number of helicopter trips used for executive transport, including the number of such helicopters from each branch of the armed services, in the National Capital Region."

“Despite widespread complaints from residents across the National Capital Region and our engagement with the Pentagon on this issue, every indication suggests that helicopter noise keeps getting worse,” Beyer said on July 11.

The report on the House bill also directs the secretary of defense to submit a study to the House Armed Services Committee by March 1 next year "on the available programs and  authorities to mitigate the effects of military aircraft noise on private residences, schools, and hospitals" nationwide.

The study "should address specific programs and authorities that are  available for such mitigations, the process used to provide for  such mitigations, a list of military installations where such  mitigations have been made to private residences or other  entities outside the installation within the last 5 years, and  a list of military installations where there are currently  private residences or other entities being considered for such mitigations in the future," according to the House report.

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