Congestion in the Washington area is no longer limited to its roadways. In parts of Northern Virginia, it's taken to the skies.
Helicopter traffic over the region is adding to the noise and residents' irritation at all hours, Northern Virginians said. There are choppers from the region's two busiest airports. Military and Homeland Security copters add to the assault on people's senses. So do the helicopters of myriad police departments and medical emergency teams.
"It goes on day and night, often at inconvenient hours when people are asleep," said Behram Shroff, a board member of the McLean Hamlet Community Association. "The helicopters are low enough to rattle windows."
Shroff said the helicopters come regularly, sometimes late at night and early in the morning, and follow the same pattern, making him think they are federal choppers following a regular flight pattern. Private and medical helicopters can add to the noise, he said, but aren't the main problem.
The helicopters will be the subject of a public meeting Thursday in McLean. Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the Department of Defense, Fairfax County police and medevac will be there to meet with local lawmakers and residents. It's unclear whether the meeting will lead to a solution. Officials held a similar meeting several years ago, but the problem continues.
"Our hope is that they would limit the hours of operation and that they would fly higher," Shroff said. "That's about all that we're hoping for."
The meeting is being hosted by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., whose office has been fielding helicopter-related complaints for some time.
"We get complaints pretty regularly," said Wolf spokesman Dan Scandling. "This is a meeting to allow citizens in McLean to hear from the groups and organizations that fly, what their flight patterns are, how they try to avoid flying over neighborhoods."
But there may not be much more that lawmakers can do to stop the noise.
"A lot of it is not within our control," said Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, D-Dranesville, who will join Wolf at the meeting. "We can't direct them, but we can keep trying to sensitize them to the impact it's having and hopefully work with them to mitigate the impact on neighborhoods."
The meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the McLean Community Center at 1234 Ingleside Ave.