Hanscom Field Advisory Commission – Short Takes – May 2019

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

The Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) met May 21st to discuss issues related to L.G. Hanscom Field Airport activities.

The Commission will write to the Aeronautics Division of MassDOT concerning allegations of airspace safety violations over Ayer and Groton by Hanscom Field flight school pilots; the public comment period for the Massport 2017  Hanscom Field ESPR is open through July 11; monthly statistics for flight operations and noise monitoring show rise in night flights and air noise complaints; Fly Louie opens new summertime air service between Bedford and Nantucket; and HFAC’s next meeting will take place on June 18.

Commission to Draft Letter to MassDOT Aeronautics Division Concerning Allegations of Serious Flying Misconduct

Topping their list was the request State Representative Sheila Harrington, and two of her Ayer constituents made to HFAC in April, asking for help addressing long-term issues with frequent low flyovers by Bedford-based flight school instructors using Ayer and Groton as a training area.  Rep. Harrington and her constituents allege serious airspace safety violations have taken place in her district and are not being addressed by federal or state regulatory authorities.

HFAC members agreed to draft a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Aeronautics Division, saying the Commission has received allegations of potentially serious flying misconduct. The letter asks for follow-up to a letter HFAC sent to the Aeronautics Division in March 2015 regarding similar complaints; the earlier letter, which asked for enforcement of State statutes governing flights exhibiting “negligent operation,” was never answered by the Aeronautics Division.

The State statutes cited in it were subsequently redacted from the Massachusetts Code of Regulations.  The Commission will seek clarification from the Aeronautics Division about state versus federal responsibility for enforcing airspace regulations.

Chairman Eliot stated about the flight school pilots, “They should be flying safely and respectfully of everybody else.”  Tom Hirsch, Hanscom Pilots Association representative and HFAC member, agreed, saying, “I believe the pilots should fly safely and, in fact, that’s why the Federal Aviation Administration has the rules they have about altitudes.”  However, Commission member Margaret Coppe of Lexington pointed out, “Rules or regulations that come down from on top are only as good as the people who enforce them on the ground level.”

Upon learning from Goodspeed that the Massport tenant lease specialist the Commission wished to attend an HFAC meeting had declined the request, Eliot then asked that copies of Massport lease agreements with the two Bedford flight schools be provided to HFAC.  He and Commission member Mike Rosenberg are interested in learning whether or not the lease agreements contain any performance-based repercussions or criteria for renewal other than payment.  Anthony Gallagher, Massport Community Relations liaison, suggested, “You could send a request to Public Records and see where that goes.”

Public Comment Period Now Open for 2017 Massport Field Environmental Status and Planning Report for Hanscom Field

Amber Goodspeed, Massport’s Hanscom Field Administrative Manager, announced the long-awaited  2017 Environmental Status and Planning Report (ESPR) for Hanscom Field has been submitted to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office (MEPA).

The public comment period is open and will extend until July 11th.  This interesting 560-page document includes an outline of present and future airfield development projects; discussion of current and predicted impacts of airport operations on surrounding communities; and Massport responses to questions and comments from state and local officials and citizens about an earlier draft version.

Paper copies of the 2017 ESPR have been placed in the public libraries of Bedford, Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord.  An online version can also be viewed at the Massport website (https://www.massport.com/massport/about-massport/project-environmental-filings/hanscom-field/.)

Written comments about the 2017 ESPR should be submitted by July 11, by email or letter, with email being preferred by MEPA.

Email comments to MEPA environmental analyst Alex Strysky at  alexander.strysky@mass.gov, with “2017 Hanscom Field ESPR, EEA No. 54/8696” referenced in the subject line.

Mail comment letters to:

Secretary Kathleen Theoharides
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn:  MEPA Office, Alex Strysky
EEA No. 5484/8696
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA  02114

All comments made to the MEPA Office may also be copied to:

Stewart Dalzell, Deputy Director
Massport Environmental Planning and Permitting
One Harborside Drive, Suite 200S
East Boston, MA  02128-2909
Email address:  sdalzell@massport.com

Massport ESPR Public Meetings

Airport impacts on local communities’ ground transportation, exposure to air noise, and air pollution; as well as effects on cultural and historical resources, wetlands, and rare species are covered in the report and will be discussed during a series of three public meetings. (Link to June 3, 2019, Bedford Citizen article.)

  • June 4, Tuesday, 6 pm: ESPR Background, Forecasts, and Ground Transportation Issues
  • June 6, Thursday, 6 pm: Air Noise, Cultural, Historical and Wetlands Issues
  • June 11, Tuesday, 6:30 pm: General Meeting with Officials of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office in Attendance.

These meetings all take place in Rm 308 of the Civil Air Terminal, 200 Hanscom Drive, Bedford, MA.  Town officials and residents are invited to attend, ask questions, participate in discussion, and offer comments for the public record.

Daytime Flight Operations Down, Fly by Night Operations and Noise Complaints Up

Overall daytime flight operations between 7 am and 11 pm decreased 4.9% in April (9439), compared to April 2018 (9929), with turboprop activity down 28.1%, jet activity down 4.1%, and helicopter activity down by 10.0%.  However, night flight operations increased by 14.4% compared to the same period last year (from 187 to 214).

Two Concord residents expressed their concern to Commission members and Goodspeed about the increase of night flights in April and asked if there was a reason for the shift in jet departure pattern.  Goodspeed explained that the Hanscom Field east-west runway 11-29, with flight paths over Concord and Lexington, was typically used for 80% of plane landings and departures, which are usually based on wind direction.  She also offered that extremely early departures are convenient for travelers “because people need to get somewhere.”

Despite the decrease in daytime flight operations, April noise disturbance reports increased more than seven-fold (from 29 to 221), compared to April 2018.  Commission members, Goodspeed, and Kassandra Marin, Massport Airport Data Specialist, discussed possible reasons for the increase in complaints, concluding it was likely due to a combination of factors.

Marin and Goodspeed mentioned the rise in night flight operations; sports charter flights; and military flight operations (although usually well below 1% of total flight operations at Hanscom, military flights rose to 1% or 99 flights of the 9439 total for this past April).

Commission members noted that, as in April, new technology may be contributing to the rise in air noise disturbance filings.  The Airnoise button, a small single touch wifi device that can identify nearby aircraft by their location broadcasting transponders and automatically upload a noise report to Massport’s data collection system became available to local residents when it was calibrated for Hanscom Field earlier this year.  (Learn more at Airnoise.io.)

Residents concerned about air noise disturbances should call Massport’s Noise Report Line at 781-869-8050.  Reports may also be filed on Massport’s website, using a recently streamlined 6-step process:  https://www.massport.com/hanscom-field/about-hanscom/airport-activity-monitor/hanscom-noise-complaints/.

Bedford Monitor Registers High Noise Levels for Fourth Consecutive Month

The Massport noise monitor nearest to the South Road and Summer Street neighborhood continued to record high noise levels, including 3 days with levels above 70 decibels DNL (weighted average of day and night noise level).   This trend started in January and continued in February and March.  Although Goodspeed initially considered the high noise readings to be anomalous, she admitted the monitor has been inspected by technicians and had its microphone replaced twice since January, but the high noise readings continue.  She conceded that some of the high decibel levels might be due to actual aircraft noise, rather than a monitor glitch.  The highest noise level days recorded for Bedford fell on April 3rd, 7th, and 26th.  Goodspeed noted that the readings for 7th and 26th coincided with “legitimate” or actual aircraft activity, so they were included in the noise report.  Some of the high levels recorded in earlier months had been excluded from noise reports because they were regarded as anomalous.

The FAA considers airport noise levels above 65 decibels DNL to be incompatible with residential and other sensitive areas, such as land used for educational, health, and religious purposes; as well as parks, recreational areas, wildlife refuges, and sites of cultural or historical significance:  2015 FAA Desk Reference 1050.1F, Chapter 11, Noise and Noise Compatible Land Use, page 11.7:  https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/apl/environ_policy_guidance/policy/faa_nepa_order/desk_ref/media/11-noise.pdf

New Nantucket Air Service to be Offered

Goodspeed announced that a new air service named “Fly Louie” would begin operating between Bedford and Nantucket this summer, using a twin-engine turboprop plane with 9 passenger seats.  Flights are scheduled for Fridays and Sundays (https://www.flylouie.com/nantucket/) from July 19 to the end of August.

Next Meeting ~ June 18, 2019

HFAC will meet again on June 18, Tuesday, 7 pm, Rm 308, Civil Air Terminal, 200 Hanscom Drive.  Residents of all Hanscom area towns and Hanscom impacted towns are always welcome to attend.  A Citizen Comment period is included in the Agenda for residents to ask questions and express their concerns.  Parking is free.



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