Helicopters have fascinated humankind since ancient times, but it was only in World War II that the successful modern helicopter, designed by Igor Sikorsky, began to find its place in the skies. Today, helicopters are a fact of life in most urban areas, and more so in the Washington metropolitan region. Helicopters fly routinely over our area – peacetime military missions, medevac flights to hospitals, news and traffic reports, crime fighting, and ordinary commerce. Accompanying all this necessary work is the noise produced by helicopter overflights, which can affect the quality of life in some neighborhoods.
All helicopters in the metropolitan area’s regulated airspace have to be in communication with airport control, and adhere to any special restrictions imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration. The route a helicopter flies depends on its mission, and medevac activities have priority over everything else. There’s no helicopter joy-riding here! With National Airport to the east, Fort Belvoir to the south, Pentagon to the north, and INOVA Fairfax Hospital to the west, Mason District is in the center of a lot of helicopter activity, even though none of those facilities are located in Mason District. A recent briefing by FAA personnel discussed a proposal for a public meeting about noise mitigation strategies in the February/March time frame. Meeting specifics are still being worked out. The Helicopter Association International has information about noise abatement and other community issues on its Web site, www.rotor.com. Click on Operations at the top of the homepage, and scroll down to the Fly Neighborly Program.
Chairman Sharon Bulova and I hosted a meeting last week for Fairfax County residents to discuss the anticipated effects of BRAC 133 on local neighborhoods near the Seminary Road location in the City of Alexandria. The new building is expected to house 6400 workers next September, unless legislation introduced by Representative Jim Moran (VA-8) to address parking and missing transportation links is adopted by Congress. The potential for overflow parking on local streets, and “cut through” traffic in many neighborhoods adjacent to the main transportation corridors connecting with I-395, are issues that must be addressed jointly by the Department of Defense, the City of Alexandria, and Fairfax County. During discussions at the meeting, I suggested formation of a regional traffic task force from neighborhoods that could look at current traffic flows and impacts on the local street network around BRAC 133. A few residents already have volunteered, and I hope to have the task force appointed by the beginning of the year.
In late November, the Bailey’s Crossroads Health Access Partnership (BxHAP) celebrated the third anniversary of the Culmore Clinic, which helps provide medical care to uninsured patients. Nearly 2000 patient visits have been handled, mostly by volunteers, and more than $2.5 million in medical and in-kind services leveraged by the non-profit group. BxHAP is an alliance among faith-based institutions, which organized in 2005. The Culmore Clinic provides basic health services, including physical therapy, to uninsured adults one day a week in the Bailey’s Crossroads community. The clinic is a member of the Virginia Association of Free Clinics. BxHAP’s Culmore Clinic has been issued a challenge: if the clinic can raise $5000 by December 31, an unnamed donor will match every dollar up to $5000. What better offering during the holidays than the gift of health? Support your local community and get a tax deduction, too. Checks may be made payable to the Culmore Clinic, c/o St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, 3305 Glen Carlyn Road, Falls Church, VA 22041.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at [email protected]