Hanscom Field Advisory Commission ~ Short Takes, June 2019

Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

The Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) members met on June 18 to discuss several important airfield issues, including:

  • The June 6 HFAC letter sent to the MassDOT Aeronautics Division in response to State Representative Sheila Harrington’s April allegations that some Hanscom Field flight school aircraft have been operating negligently over the towns of Ayer and Groton in her district;
  • A Concord resident’s suggestion that Massport revise and update its noise complaint data collection and reporting process to be more transparent, as well as his  inquiry about the safety of night flights in and out of Hanscom Field between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am, when the Hanscom Field Air Traffic Control Tower is closed;
  • The large private charter jets (including a 767) which Bedford and Lexington residents have seen recently, or identified by Airnoise button and other flight tracking apps, as the aircraft arrive or depart from Hanscom Field;
  • The opening of two new aviation operations at Hanscom Field this summer: Jet Linx and Fly Louie;
  • The monthly noise report; and
  • Other projects and developments.

Commission Letter to MassDOT Aeronautics Division in Response to Rep. Harrington Allegations of Hanscom Flight School Aircraft Operating Negligently Over Ayer and Groton

HFAC Chair Christopher Eliot announced the Commission sent a letter dated June 6 to the MassDOT Aeronautics Division requesting clarification on three issues:

  • The history of the Division’s response to years of allegations by Ayer and Groton residents of negligent operations by aircraft over their towns, originally noted in an HFAC letter sent to the Aeronautics Division in March 2015;
  • Designation of proper regulatory agencies with authority to handle such allegations; and
  • Potential Massport authority to require its aircraft operator tenants to limit their impact on communities as a condition of leasing at Hanscom Field.

The 2019 letter was spurred by the April request for Commission aid and counsel brought to HFAC by State Representative Sheila Harrington and two of her Ayer constituents.  They allege years of harassment, specifically frequent low-altitude flyovers by Hanscom Field flight school aircraft in the Ayer and Groton area.

Click this link to see  HFAC’s 2019 letter to MassDOT Aeronautics Division, as read at the June 18  meeting.

Read The Bedford Citizen‘s coverage of Rep. Harrington’s visit to HFAC in April 2019 and in May 2019.

Resident Asks for More Transparency in Massport Response to Noise Complaints and Queries HFAC about Safety of Night Flights When Hanscom Air Traffic Control Tower is Closed

Mark Gailus, a Concord resident, noted a recent increase in nighttime jet operations using the flightpath over neighborhoods near the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, in particular between the hours of midnight and 7 am.  He explained his concern did not involve any medical or military flights, but rather, the corporations and individuals chartering the early morning and night jet flights into and out of Hanscom Field.

Gailus encouraged the Commission to advise Massport to revise its gathering, reporting, and publishing of air noise complaint data to be more specific and transparent, and to include maps of the particular flightpaths that generate the most noise complaints.

He cited the air traffic/noise abatement program in use at another general aviation airport near Lake Tahoe as an example of the type of information gathering and presentation that allows the visualization of patterns of flight traces and noise complaint clusters that are useful for noise abatement programs. (The Truckee Tahoe Airport uses Vector Airport Solutions VNOMS Intuitive Noise and Operations Management System and Vantage Automated Aircraft Identification and Tracking System.)

Suggesting that aircraft identification, flight paths, and noise complaints be consolidated by Massport into a similar transparent and comprehensive forum and database, Gailus added, “I don’t think it should be on the individual citizen to have to be the noise police.  I just don’t think that that’s what noise abatement means.”

Gailus also asked Massport representatives and HFAC members if night flights at Hanscom are at higher risk of an accident since the Hanscom Field Air Traffic Control Tower is closed between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am.  Commission member and Hanscom Pilots’ Association Representative Thomas Hirsch explained that pilots have access to other reliable remote communications for IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight clearance for night landings and departures at Hanscom Field, even when the Hanscom Air Traffic Control Tower is closed.  Hirsch summed up, “The simple answer is no, there’s not less control.”

Large Civilian Jets Using Hanscom Field are Private Charters, Not Commercial (Even a 767!)

A Bedford resident residing near the east end of Runway 11/29, asked Massport representatives about the jets she had recently identified both visually by their logos, and by her Airnoise button, as belonging to UPS, Delta, JetBlue, and Wells Fargo.  Margaret Coppe, HFAC member from Lexington, also noted that she had recently identified a chartered 767 jet leaving Hancom Field heading to Shannon, Ireland.

Goodspeed explained she believed that the UPS, Delta, and JetBlue aircraft were Logan commercial flights passing at high altitude over Bedford, “They’re either arriving to or coming from Logan,” adding “They’re just flying over.  Just passing through.”

When the resident protested she could actually see the jets as they landed or took off from the runway, and her visual ID matched the Airnoise button report, Goodspeed at first insisted, “Well then, the button must be misreporting them.”

Goodspeed complained that at times high altitude Logan air traffic has been tagged as a source of Hanscom Field air noise by Airnoise buttons.  Several Bedford residents explained that the relatively new Hanscom Field Airnoise buttons (available since January 2019) are specially calibrated to ID only local aircraft below 2000’ altitude and within a 1-mile radius of the owner’s home WiFi router.   The older Logan Airnoise buttons, on the other hand, do not have a similar altitude restriction, so they are capable of tagging and ID-ing high altitude aircraft.  They suggested that confusion between high altitude Logan air traffic and local Hanscom Field flights could result if some owners of Logan Airnoise buttons mistakenly assume they can also accurately ID local Hanscom Field aircraft.  Goodspeed concurred, saying, “That actually makes sense to me.  Because we have some folks that live in these towns that are only ever complaining about Logan noise.”

HFAC Chair Eliot suggested it would be helpful if Massport included a brief message in its routine noise response letters to alert any Logan Airnoise button owners to contact Airnoise.io to reregister their buttons for the Hanscom Field-specific calibration.

After further discussion about the matter, Goodspeed acknowledged that Delta, JetBlue, and Southwest Airlines all operate large charter jets which may use Hanscom Field.

When asked about the 60-seat limit on commercial flights specified in the Massport regulations adopted in 1980 (Part F of the General Rules and Regulations for Laurence G. Hanscom Field), Goodspeed explained that the 60-seat limitation only applies to commercial aircraft, not private charter jets.

Two New Companies Begin Flight Service at Hanscom Field This Summer

Goodspeed announced that Jet Linx has begun operations at Hanscom Field.  According to its website https://www.jetlinx.com/faq-overview/, Jet Linx allows members to charter light, midsize, super-midsize, and heavy jets.  Additionally, the company offers management services for private aircraft owners, explaining,

Jet Linx can manage your aircraft, provide a turnkey Flight Department, and oversee all ownership responsibilities, including pilots, training, maintenance, fuel programs, hangar operations, FAA compliance, and insurance. You can spend your time enjoying the ownership experience rather than dealing with tedious managerial tasks.

Another company, Fly Louie, is also due to begin seasonal scheduled weekend charter service to and from Nantucket, July 19 through the end of August.  Their company website: https://www.flylouie.com/boston/.

Monthly Air Noise Report

Overall Hanscom jet traffic decreased by 1.8%, turboprop activity fell by 11.9%, and helicopter traffic decreased by 6.7% in May, compared to May of 2018. Some other aircraft operations increased in May compared to the same time last year, with single-engine piston aircraft flights going up 8.1% and twin-piston aircraft flights going up 36.5%.  Nighttime flight operations increased by 7.1% compared to May 2019.

All six Massport noise monitors were fully operational during May, including the troubled Bedford airfield monitor (Site 32) at the east end of Runway 11/29, near South Road.  No noise levels above 70 decibels DNL (day-night average sound level, a weighted average of sound measured over a 24-hour period with extra emphasis on night noise) were recorded during May.  The measured noise levels stayed between 57.5 and 63.4 decibels DNL at all six monitors.

FAA has adopted DNL 65 dBA as the threshold of significant noise exposure, below which residential land uses are compatible:  https://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/policy_guidance/noise/community/  (dBA = decibels adjusted to reflect the ear’s response to different frequencies of sound.)

Other Projects and Developments

Construction on the replacement Air Rescue and Firefighting Facility and Customs and Border Protection Facility at the Civil Terminal is now expected to be completed by the end of July 2019.

The Nagle Aviation lease for Hangar 12, near the Terminal, expires in November 2019 and Massport expects to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the hangar sometime this summer.

Massport plans to meet with Bedford, Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord Conservation Commissions in July to discuss its Vegetation Management Plan (VMP), which is an ongoing operation to control airport trees and vegetation that may create visibility and navigation hazards.

Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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