DCA Nighttime Noise Rule History:
Since 1941, Reagan National (DCA) has operated as a commercial airfield, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.
In the early 1980s, louder aircraft operating at Reagan National prompted the FAA - the original airport operator - to impose nighttime noise restrictions between 10 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. which became known as the DCA Nighttime Noise Rule.
- The DCA Nighttime Noise Rule is not an operational curfew at Reagan National. It was established to define:
1) Methodology to identify aircraft that exceed specific nighttime noise limits established for Reagan National.
2) Guidelines for imposing a civil penalty on airlines/owners for operating louder (non-compliant) aircraft that exceed the nighttime noise limits.
In 1987, Congress established the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority as an interstate compact entity to operate Reagan National and Washington Dulles airports pursuant to a lease from the federal government. The operational transfer included the DCA Nighttime Noise Rule which was allowed (grandfathered), by Congress, to remain intact.
In 1990, a new federal regulation, the Airport Noise and Capacity Act - ANCA (recodified 49 U.S.C 47521-47533), required airlines to transition to a quieter (stage 3) aircraft fleet by January 1, 2000. Due to the multi-billion dollar investment required by U.S. airlines to meet the new federal regulation, ANCA also limited U.S. airports from imposing additional, noise-based operational restrictions. Consequently, the federally grandfathered DCA Nighttime Noise Rule remains a unique U.S. noise rule since it still classifies some stage 3 aircraft as non-compliant based on the nighttime noise limits established for Reagan National.
- Note: It is important to note that an operational curfew has never existed at Reagan National. From the late 1980s thru early 2000s, civil penalties for louder (non-compliant) aircraft and a low demand for early morning and late evening flights resulted in fewer aircraft operating at Reagan National during the nighttime hours. Some local communities and organizations incorrectly interpreted the DCA Nighttime Noise Rule as a curfew on airport operations.
Due to advancements in aviation technology, the majority of the aircraft currently operating at Reagan National between 10 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. comply with the DCA Nighttime Noise Rule.
However, the Airports Authority still audits, investigates and enforces the Nighttime Noise Rule to ensure aircraft are in compliance. Non-compliant aircraft may be fined up to $5,000 per violation by the Airports Authority.
DCA Nighttime Noise Rule Enforcement:
The DCA Nighttime Noise Rule is based on aircraft noise data generated during the FAA's Noise Certification process for each aircraft type. The noise certification data is published in FAA Advisory Circular 36-3H which allows airlines/owners to pre-determine whether an aircraft complies with the DCA Nighttime Noise Rule.
Federal rules prohibit aircraft noise measurements obtained outside the FAA's noise certification process to be used to enforce the DCA Nighttime Noise Rule. Specifically, real-time noise measurements obtained while aircraft arrive and depart Reagan National can not be used to enforce the policy.
FAA Noise Certification Process:
During certification test conditions, as defined in Federal Aviation Regulation Part 36 – Noise Standards: Aircraft Type and Airworthiness Certification, measurements are required at:
- Approach: 2,000 meters from runway end
- Takeoff: 6,500 meters from start of takeoff roll
The Airports Authority enforces the DCA Nighttime Noise Rule based on the approach and takeoff noise certification data published in FAA Advisory Circular 36-3H for aircraft type, model, weight and engine. Compliant aircraft must generate noise certification levels that are equal or less than:
- Approach: 85 dBA
- Takeoff: 72 dBA