By: Davis Kennedy
Helicopter noise, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton reported, is negatively affecting the quality of life in parts of Wards 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8. Studies show a correlation between airport noise and the risk of high blood pressure and heart problems.
Residents of California Street and some other parts of the city, she reported, said helicopters appear to be flying lower than they used to. She quoted D.C. National Guard Lt. Col. G. Jeffrey Wingblade as saying much of the flying is due to pilots’ need for frequent flights to accumulate more hours as they work toward Pilot in Command status. Nighttime flying is necessary for them because they must become proficient with night-vision goggles.
Furthermore, the U.S, Air Force’s Col. Scott Grundahl reported nighttime area Air Force flights decreased by 14 flights a week. The Air Force uses two-blade helicopters, which some members of the public said was noisier than single-blade planes.
George Washington University Hospital successfully got the City Council to change a law that prohibits helipads in residential areas so it can use its helipad for airlifted trauma patients. They currently are being dropped off near Nationals Park and taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Local constituents complained that the hospital refused to pay for studies about the affect the resultant noise would have on the community. They also expressed concerns about the safety and possible damage to nearby buildings.
Moreover, Norton agreed to request a Government Accountability Office report on the issue of helicopter activity and noise in the District. One possible remedy, she mentioned, would be for agencies operating helicopters in the District to reduce training hours in the District, especially at night.
Nighttime flights could be banned after 9:00 p.m., which means residents’ could sleep without interruption. Flights currently last as late as 10:30 p.m. She agreed to have her staff look into the possibility of more soundproofing near George Washington Hospital.