Hanscom Field Advisory Commission – Short Takes for July 2019

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Compiled by The Bedford Citizen

The Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) met July 16th to hear and discuss important airfield issues.   Among the subjects covered:  the creation of a webpage for HFAC; potential North and Northeast Airfield development implications for traffic on South Road and Hartwell Road; relevance of Hanscom Field 1980 air noise exposure baseline standard for present-day communities; helicopter noise; flight paths for local Boston MedFlight helicopters; Massport’s monthly air noise and flight operations report; Massport’s projects and development report; and the planned August departure of the Airport Data Specialist for Hanscom Field, Kassandra Marin.

Official HFAC Webpage in the Works

HFAC Chair Christopher Eliot announced that he is planning to create an official webpage for the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission. Presently, HFAC meeting agendas are shared with neighboring towns, which vary in their handling of the information, and copies of the approved final minutes are stored in a binder at an unspecified Massport site.

Eliot intends for the new HFAC webpage to streamline signup for email meeting notification and to provide a more accessible archive of important HFAC documents.

Editor’s Note:  A preliminary version of the new HFAC webpage hosted on the Lincoln Town Website is now operational.  Go to   https://www.lincolntown.org/1117/Hanscom-Field-Airport-Commission-HFAC and follow prompts to be added to the contact list.

Potential North and Northeast Airfield Development Implications for South Rd and Hartwell Rd Traffic

Bedford resident Karl Winkler brought up the subject of FamCamp on the Northeast Airfield, which may revert to Massport in 2027 if the Air Force does not renew its lease on the land parcel.

“The question I think that Bedford residents certainly would like to know is what kind of development are you planning for a place like that?”

Amber Goodspeed, Airport Administration Manager for Hanscom Field, explained, as she had during earlier Hanscom Field Environmental Status and Planning Report meetings in June, that there are no current Massport plans for development of the FamCamp land; however, she added that if Massport ever does develop the parcel, access will be through South Road.

She then elaborated, “So if we were to receive that land from the Air Force in 2027 as planned, or even earlier – if we wanted to put the property out for bid, we’d have to do environmental assessment on the property.  So there would still be a notification process and an opportunity for public comment.”

When Winkler asked Goodspeed if the small width of South Road could limit potential development of the site, she answered, “When it gets to our property, we do what needs to be done in terms of if it needs to be widened or anything like that.”

Emily Mitchell, Bedford Selectman and HFAC member, pointed out that beyond the Massport property line, “South Road becomes the Town’s and if the Town does not want to expand or anything like that, the Town doesn’t have to.”

Winkler asked if future development of the North Airfield near Hartwell Road (where Massport has marked three land parcels for proposed new corporate and T-hanger facilities) could generate more neighborhood traffic like that seen in the past during Raytheon days.

Editor’s Note: Raytheon operated a plant at 180 Hartwell Road, as well as the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant (NWIRP) on and across from Hartwell Hill for many decades.  Operations ceased when the NWIRP was mothballed in 2000, and Raytheon sold its plant on Hartwell Road in 2005.  180 Hartwell Road is now owned and operated by Instrumentation Laboratory, a subsidiary of Werfen, a privately held medical diagnostics firm headquartered in Barcelona, Spain.

When Goodspeed replied that she was uncertain of potential traffic impacts from the proposed Massport development projects, Winkler responded, “I just feel like this is a case where the burden of all this new development on the north side of the [air]field isn’t really well thought out once you get beyond your pavement.”

Relevance of 39-Year-Old Baseline Standard for Hanscom Field Air Noise Model Questioned

During a discussion of how community air noise exposure is modeled for the four Hanscom area towns, Mitchell asked if the 1980 baseline level originally calculated for Hanscom Field was still appropriate as a standard to measure against present-day air noise levels.   Goodspeed and Commission member Thomas Hirsch, a representative of the Hanscom Pilots Association, both explained that community air noise exposure levels are lower now than the original 1980 modeled baseline.

“But it’s still making an assumption that the 1980 number was a good number, or something valuable,”  Mitchell replied, adding, “There are a lot of things that we did and we were okay with in 1980 that we don’t do anymore.”

Goodspeed confirmed Mitchell’s conjecture that new legislation would be required if current FAA standards for acceptable community air noise exposure were to be changed.  She further explained that due to federal legislation passed in 1990, “It’s now considered illegal for airports to pass rules that are considered discriminatory against certain types of aircraft, certain types of operations, and certain times of operations.”

“So in effect, they discriminate for the aircraft against the communities,” Chairman Eliot observed.

Helicopter Noise

In answer to a query about helicopters coming to Bedford, Goodspeed replied that at least one helicopter currently housed in the old Pine Hill T-hangar complex slated for demolition would likely move to the new T-hangars Massport has proposed for the North Airfield.

Questioned whether the helicopter(s) would be landing and taking off in proximity to the hangars, which will be located about a thousand feet from the Kendall Court neighborhood and across Hartwell Road from The Edge playing fields, Goodspeed responded, “Helicopters don’t land on the T-hangars,” adding, “You can’t land between a bunch of buildings.”  However, Hirsch, a helicopter pilot and flight instructor, clarified, “There’s no reason you can’t land right in front of your hangar.”

Goodspeed then explained that helicopters generally land on airfield taxiways and taxi toward their hangars by hovering a few feet above the ground.  Asked if helicopter noise might increase for nearby Hartwell Road neighborhoods after the North Airfield hangars are built, Goodspeed answered, “If there’s going to be helicopters over there, then you’ll hear helicopters.”

When asked if the East Coast Aero Club flight school helicopters might move to the proposed North Airfield T-hangars, Hirsch speculated probably not, but Goodspeed cautioned, “I don’t know, I mean, they could do whatever they wanted.”

Flightpaths for Boston MedFlight Helicopters

Lincoln resident Elizabeth Coules was curious about how Massport tracks helicopter activity after 11 pm and wondered if recent almost nightly helicopter flights directly over her Virginia Road neighborhood were related to Boston MedFlight.  (In June there were 54 late-night flights classified as exempt from night fees, which Goodspeed and Marin agreed were almost all Boston MedFlight aircraft.)  Goodspeed explained that Boston MedFlight helicopters typically depart from their Hanscom Field facility near the Civil Terminal and fly along Hanscom Drive to Route 2A.  However, Hirsch conjectured, “It wouldn’t surprise me if they were coming from the west and aiming for Juliet [the taxiway adjacent to the parking apron behind the Boston MedFlight facility] that they would come in over the housing there.”

Goodspeed offered to review recent Boston MedFlight flight tracks and to speak to the Flight Operations Director if she detects a pattern of regular night flights over that particular neighborhood.  She explained that Boston MedFlight is very aware of helicopter noise issues, and holds regular discussions with residents in other towns such as Cambridge about community air noise exposure.  Goodspeed also mentioned that two new helicopters recently purchased by Boston MedFlight are the quietest helicopters on the market, although its older noisier fleet models remain in operation.

Monthly Air Noise and Flight Operations Report

Noise disturbance reports rose from 58 to 301 in June 2019 compared to the same month last year, continuing a trend seen during the last several months.

All six Massport noise monitors were operational during June, with four of them averaging between 56.1 and 61.9 decibels for June 2019.   However, there were 11 days of +70 DNL dB (Day Night Noise Level in decibels – a weighted average used to approximate human perception of noise) readings from Bedford’s Monitor 34 on DeAngelo Drive (85.3 dB), and Concord’s Monitor 31 at the west end of Runway 11/29 (68.5 dB).

Goodspeed believes the 8 days of high noise levels for DeAngelo Drive may have been due to emergency site work there, perhaps relating to an environmental spill cleanup operation, rather than actual aircraft noise.  Goodspeed also believes the three days of high decibel readings for the Concord monitor are due to unspecified local construction, rather than aircraft activity.

Editor’s Note:  Although there was an emergency response to a broken transformer near Monitor 34 on Easter Sunday, The Citizen was unable to confirm that the spill was still being remediated in June.  Calls to the business located next to Monitor 34 inquiring about June construction or landscaping activity that might have contributed to the 8 days of +70 DNL dB have not been returned.

Persistent levels above 65 DNL dB are considered by the FAA to be incompatible with noise-sensitive land use such as “residential, educational, health, and religious structures and sites, and parks, recreational areas, areas with wilderness characteristics, wildlife refuges, and cultural and historical sites,“  according to FAA 1050.1F Desk Reference, Paragraph 11-5.b(8).

The FAA chart below illustrates examples of typical community noise levels:

Overall daytime flight operations were up  0.1% (from 12,074 to 12,082) for June 2019 compared to June 2018, due to a 5.7% increase in jet flights (up to 2733), 4.6% increase in touch and go practice flights (up to 4282), and 13.5% increase in twin piston flights (up to 345).

Decreases were recorded in single engine piston flights, which were down 4.5% (total 3130), and helicopter operations, which were down by 7.1% (total 784) compared to the same period in 2018.  There were 42 military flights in June, comprising 0.3% of total flight operations.

Nighttime operations decreased 11.5%, dropping from 217 in June of 2018 to 192 this June.

Projects and Development Report

Construction of the combined Airfield Rescue and Firefighting Facility (ARFF) and Customs and Border Protection Facility has been completed, and staff and equipment are expected to transfer to the new building in August.

A Request for Proposals (RFP) for Hangar 12 was issued on July 12th, with a closing bid date of August 23.  Hangar 12 is adjacent to the new Boston MedFlight facility along Hanscom Drive on the south side of the airfield.  Bid documents and updates can be viewed on the Massport website at https://www.massport.com/massport/business/bids-opportunities/af-rfp-detail/872.

Airport Data Specialist Kassandra Marin Departing for New Position

Goodspeed announced the planned August departure of Kasey Marin, Massport’s Airport Data Specialist, who has collaborated on the monthly and annual noise reports for Hanscom Field for the last three years.  She thanked Marin for her service and, along with Commission members, wished her well in her new position with a financial planning and investment firm in New Hampshire.

Next Meeting ­ September 17, 2019

There will be no HFAC meeting in August.  The next meeting will take place on Tuesday, September 17th, in Room 308 of the Civil Air Terminal, 200 Hanscom Drive, Bedford.  Free parking is available across from the Terminal.  The meeting agenda includes a Citizen Comment period for the general public to ask questions and present matters of concern to the Commission.   Residents of all communities impacted by Massport and its tenants’ operations at Hanscom Field are always welcome to attend.