Hanscom Field Advisory Commission ~ Short Takes for September 2019

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Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) met September 17th to discuss matters of concern at the airfield and to hear Massport updates on flight operations, aviation noise levels, capital projects, and development.

Discussions included: making HFAC information more accessible to the public; recent increases in early morning jet departures; a sharp uptick in the volume of small aircraft traffic during summer months; flight instructor logs; and mysteriously high sound levels recorded by the Massport noise monitor at Bedford’s DeAngelo Drive.

New HFAC member Susan Bates of Concord, and new Massport Airport Data Specialist for Hanscom Field, Mark Wimmer, were both welcomed by Commission members.

Efforts to Increase Public Access to HFAC Information

HFAC Chair Christopher Eliot of Lincoln announced that the official webpage for HFAC, hosted by the Lincoln Town website, is now up and running.

The public is welcome to access the site and sign up for HFAC meeting notices, read meeting agendas, minutes, and other important documents currently being scanned and entered.  (Click this link to visit the site, https://www.lincolntown.org/AgendaCenter/Hanscom-Field-Airport-Commission-58).

Eliot agreed with Commission member Margaret Coppe’s suggestion that an easily accessible electronic repository for the Massport statistics on monthly Hanscom Field flight operations and air noise measurements should also be created if possible. Currently, the only complete archive of HFAC documents (going back to its creation in 1980) is stored in the Massport office at Hanscom Civil Air Terminal and at Logan Airport.

Amber Goodspeed, Massport Airport Administration Manager for Hanscom, and Anthony Gallagher, Massport Community Relations, explained that members of the public are welcome to view these records if they follow this protocol:

  • Submit a request to Gallagher at Logan Airport (agallagher@massport.com, 617-568-3716)
  • The request will be forwarded to Goodspeed (and the Massport Legal Dept)
  • Goodspeed will reserve a conference room at the Hanscom Civil Air Terminal, and assign a Massport staff member to monitor the viewing of the documents.

More Early Morning Jet Departures and the Price of Sleep Disturbance ~  $813,743

A Bedford resident noted that she had been hearing frequent early morning jet departures between 5 and 6:30 am in September and inquired about night flying fees. The fees are assessed to discourage flight operations at Hanscom Field between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am because of the noise impact on local communities.

Goodspeed explained that Hanscom Field night flight fees are being collected from aircraft owners and deposited into Massport general funds rather than shared with Hanscom area communities. Night flight fees at Hanscom for FY2018 totaled $813,743:  http://www.massport.com/media/3115/state-of-hanscom-2018.pdf, Table 2, Page 7.

Increase in Small Aircraft Flight Operations Despite 2018 Closing of Flight School

Commission member Mike Rosenberg of Bedford inquired about the more than 25% increase in small plane traffic for July and August compared to the same time last year despite the closing of one of the flight schools in 2018. Thomas Hirsch, Commission member and representative of the Hanscom Pilots Association, explained that a number of flight instructors of the closed school (Executive Flyers) had transferred to another Hanscom-based flight school, and business has been good.  Goodspeed observed that area flight school air traffic generally increases during good weather.

Local Flight School Instructor Logs

A question was raised about the possibility of having local flight school instructor flight logs posted online or on a notice board in a public space at the airport.  At present, although it is relatively easy to identify N-number registrations of specific low-flying local flight school planes or helicopters that trigger repeat noise or air safety violation complaints, it is more difficult to identify the flight instructors who are actually piloting the planes or supervising the student pilots.  Trade-offs between pilot privacy and public good were discussed.

The Mystery of Massport’s Site 34 Noise Monitor Deepens

Sustained high-level noise readings in June, July, and August detected at the Massport noise monitor on Bedford’s DeAngelo Drive remain unexplained.  Goodspeed believes the extremely high noise levels are due to community noise, rather than aviation noise, and suggests local environmental spill cleanup operations relating to a broken transformer or construction activity to be the most likely cause of the high readings.

However, calls by a Bedford Citizen writer to Mass Department of Environmental Protection and the Bedford Fire Department indicate that environmental remediation of the Easter Sunday transformer spill on DeAngelo Drive was completed well before June.  Representatives of two nearby companies who were contacted also seem unaware of any noisy environmental remediation or construction or landscaping activities in their area during June and July, although one of the companies had obtained a permit for some construction to begin around mid-August.  A Bedford DPW representative observed that no town construction projects had been scheduled near the monitor during June and July.

When asked if this increased the likelihood that the monitor could be recording actual aviation noise from overhead jet, plane, and helicopter flights, Goodspeed said she has requested that the monitor be inspected and the recordings be further analyzed to identify the source of the sustained extremely high noise levels (23 to 26 decibels higher than the previous summer).

Projects and Developments  

  • Runway 5/23 repaving is due in 4 to 5 years. Goodspeed explained the construction work and truck traffic would be restricted to daytime hours, unlike the 24/7 schedule of the 2017 Runway 11/29 project. However, because of shorter work hours, the project will last much longer than the 6-week 2017 project.
  • East Ramp pavement repairs are ongoing.
  • Massport Fire Rescue is now in its new quarters at the combined Airfield Rescue and Firefighting Facility (ARFF) and Customs and Border Protection Facility. Customs has not yet moved into the new space.
  • Massport plans meetings with local Conservation Commissions of Bedford, Lincoln, Lexington, and Concord this fall to share information about its updated Vegetation Management Plan. Any required tree-cutting will likely be scheduled during winter months to minimize damage to the land surrounding the targeted trees.
  • A new contract for Hanscom Field noise and operations monitoring has been signed with the previous provider Harris, now known as L3Harris.
  • Massport’s 2017 Environmental Status and Planning (ESPR) report for Hanscom Field was certified in July by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs for compliance with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MGL c.30, ss. 61-62H, also known as MEPA). Provisions of the MEPA certification letter can be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/2ITr4hB

Next Meeting October 15, 2019

HFAC will meet again on Tuesday, October 15th, at 7 pm 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.