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Former astronaut files 1,000s of noise complaints against Reagan National

Eric Berger

Roberto Vittori, attired in a training version of his shuttle launch and entry suit, in 2010.
Roberto Vittori is no stranger to noise or excessive vibrations. A former astronaut, he rode a rocket into space three times—a remarkable number of flights for an Italian-born astronaut. While in space, he coped with, at times, uncomfortable background noise levels on the International Space Station, where dozens of fans move air around, and pumps and electronics constantly whir.
Following his retirement from NASA after riding the penultimate shuttle flight into space in 2011, Vittori moved to the Washington DC area, where he now works on space policy issues. He found a home near Georgetown University that was perfect... except for the fact that it was located five miles from Reagan National Airport.
Since then Vittori's life has become a waking nightmare due to aviation noise, something like a verse from The Grinch Who Stole Christmas: "And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! That's one thing he hated! The NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!"
To reach Reagan National through the congested and closely monitored DC airspace, flights must basically follow the Potomac River. The problem for Vittori's neighborhood is compounded by the fact that the airport recently adopted a new flight navigation system known as NextGen to help cut carbon emissions and reduce fuel consumption. This brought planes directly over his Georgetown neighborhood.
Vittori, however, is a man of action and did not stand still. According to a report in The Outline, Vittori filed 6,500 detailed noise complaints against Reagan National with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority in 2015 alone. He disputes that figure and says the number is only about half of that. The Italian told the publication that Boeing 737s are the worst offenders. “Can you sleep when a vacuum cleaner is turned on?” he asked. “You cannot. You wake up.”
The former astronaut also tried installing half-inch-thick windows at his house. No luck. He complained that noise levels still reached 80 decibels at times—about the same as standing 100 feet away from a freight train—which is far above the nighttime noise limit in DC (55 decibels). Still, his complaints fell on deaf ears.
Vittori said he has finally given up the fight. No more complaints to a seemingly uncaring bureaucracy. Instead, he is looking to move.

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