Hanscom Field Advisory Commission Update – November 2018

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

The Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) members met November 20, 2018, at 7 pm in the Civil Air Terminal to discuss the Massport monthly air noise and traffic report, as well as developments on Hanscom Field.

The meeting was chaired by Bedford Selectman Michael Rosenberg.  Also in attendance were Christopher Eliot, the citizen representative for Lincoln; South Lexington Civic Association representative Margaret Coppe; and Bedford resident and helicopter pilot, Thomas Hirsch, of the Hanscom Pilots Association.  Hanscom Airport Administration Manager Amber Goodspeed and Airport Data specialist Kassandra Marin spoke on behalf of Massport.

Monthly Air Noise Report

Comparisons of flight operations data from October 2018 to the same period last year showed a significant decrease in single-engine plane activity (-24%) and a small decrease in jet activity (-2%).  In contrast, helicopter flight operations increased by 17%, turboprop flights were up 6%, and night flights increased 29%, from 214 to 277.

Although October noise complaints from residents increased by 64% (from 50 to 82) compared to this time last year, 5 of the 6 Hanscom noise monitors actually registered decreases of 0.7 to 4.1 decibels in the DNL (Day-Night Sound Level – a weighted average of sound measurements).  The sixth monitor, located in Bedford near DeAngelo Drive, did show a DNL increase of 1.9 decibels.  Also, one of the airfield monitors within the Concord town-line recorded 3 days with DNL in excess of 70 decibels.  (FAA considers DNL above 65 to be incompatible with land used for residential and recreational purposes, parks, schools, churches, wildlife refuges, and places of cultural or historical significance per 2015 FAA Desk Reference, Section 11-7). All noise monitors were functioning properly during the month, except for the Lexington monitor near Preston Road, which was down on October 31st due to a hardware issue.

The Bedford Commission member noted the consistent increase in helicopter flights and night flights over the past year.  The Data Specialist mentioned that improved software has allowed more accurate identification of helicopter vs plane flights over time.

Monthly Air Traffic Report

Hanscom tenant Linear Air reported no inbound or outbound flights for October.  None of the other Hanscom tenants submitted air traffic data reports for the HFAC meeting.

Massport Hanscom Projects and Third Party Development Report

Older storage hangars for aircraft (T-Hangars A-C) near the Airport have been demolished and foundation work for the new hangars has begun.  Construction should be completed over a 19-week period.

Massport is evaluating additional information it has requested from bidders interested in the Bedford North Airfield and Pine Hill (on Concord side of the airfield) new storage T-Hangars, Corporate Jet Hangars, and associated facilities projects.  It anticipates financial/business/construction terms could be presented to the Massport Board as early as January 2019.

A survey and photo documentation of plant species on the airfield is due to be completed by the end of this year.

General Discussion and Citizen Comments

One Commission member suggested that noise complaint calls made by any single caller in excess of 2 standard deviations above the overall average complaint per person should be deleted from the air noise statistics.  This generated a noisy discussion.  The South Lexington Civic Association representative emphasized the value of all noise complaints and explained that residents in different locations may experience very different levels and types of air noise (and sometimes airfield related ground noise as well.)  Massport representatives confirmed their commitment to include all pertinent noise complaints in the data.  They explained that the only complaints that are not counted are those related to aircraft flying in and out of other airports besides Hanscom. The Lincoln Commission member then suggested noise reporting levels might actually increase if more residents were made aware of the Air Noise Report Line.  A Bedford resident in the audience commented that they hadn’t filed a Noise Report in over 15 years until the previous week when a yellow helicopter began repeatedly flying 8-minute loops directly along Concord Road.  (For comparison with Bedford, Massport records show that over 62% of the Hanscom noise complaints filed for 2017 came from Lincoln residents, and most of the 2018 October complaints actually came from Chelmsford.)

It was noted that the Massport Hanscom Air Noise Report Line was not functioning for several days in November when the voice mailbox filled up and stopped accepting messages.  One Commission member asked if Massport might be able to invest in more message space for the phone line.  (The Massport website shows the annual budget for 2019 is projected to be $823 million.)  An audience member suggested that Massport could instruct callers to talk fast so that all calls could be recorded in the limited time allotted.  Massport representatives showed interest in the suggestions but remained noncommittal.

Any resident curious or concerned about air noise is always encouraged to call the Massport Hanscom 24/7 Noise Report Line (781-869-8050) … and talk fast.

Upcoming Meeting

The next HFAC meeting will take place Tuesday, December 18, 2018, at 7 pm in Room 308 of the Civil Air Terminal at 200 Hanscom Drive, Bedford, MA.  All residents of Hanscom area towns are welcome to attend.

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