Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) members met December 17 to consider airfield matters of concern and hear Massport updates on monthly air noise, flight operations, current projects and planned development.
Topics of special note included how the airport tracks aircraft when the Air Traffic Control Tower is closed; classification of nonmilitary flight operations in Hanscom Aero Club planes; Massport mitigation; how to report jet exhaust fumes in residential areas to Massport; and how air noise monitors work.
Tracking Hanscom Air Traffic When the Tower is Closed
Hanscom Airport Data Specialist Mark Wimmer explained how aircraft are currently tracked at Hanscom Field after the Air Traffic Control Tower has closed for the night. He said that between 11 pm and 7 am, air traffic control is handed off to Boston Center (aka Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center in Nashua, NH), and that tail numbers of all arriving and departing aircraft are automatically photographed no matter their arrival or departure time. Multilateration sensors (MLAT) on the ground also help to track aircraft.
Curious readers may wish to consult https://www.massport.com/media/1046/surveillanceradar.pdf, which explains how MLAT works in conjunction with the Logan Airport radar system to help track Hanscom air traffic. Hanscom does not have its own radar system.
Classification of Nonmilitary Flight Operations in Hanscom Aero Club Planes
Some confusion arose when an Ayer resident asked Massport representatives whether flight training operations of Hanscom Aero Club aircraft are classified in the Massport database as civilian or military.
Massport Community Relations representative Anthony Gallagher said clarification would be beneficial and Commission member Margaret Coppe, South Lexington Civic Association representative, seconded that idea.
HFAC Chair Christopher Eliot also asked Gallagher to supply a breakdown of the inventory of Hanscom-based aircraft by corporate, private, and military sectors for the next meeting.
Additional Massport Mitigation?
Bedford resident Patty Dahlgren complimented Massport’s representative Jim Stolecki, Senior Environmental Project Manager, on his positive interaction with the Bedford Conservation Commission in discussing Massport’s proposed management (topping, girdling, or removal) of up to 189 mature trees in or near the Jordan Conservation Area last month. She noted the dialog was impressive but did not seem to include mitigation plans.
Note: Massport’s Vegetation Management Plan exists to control trees and vegetation that may create visibility and navigation hazards for aircraft.
Commission member and Chair of the Bedford Selectmen Mike Rosenberg explained that in earlier years Town officials had negotiated an arrangement with Massport to include public access to a trail network through Massport land that previously had been off-limits. The Massport paths allow residents to walk from several Bedford conservation tracts – Vanderhoof, Mary Putnam Webber, and Dellovo – to a trail which leads to Virginia Road in Concord or back to Concord Road (Rte 62) near Wheeler Drive in Bedford.
Click this link to see a map of the area https://www.bedfordma.gov/sites/bedfordma/files/uploads/concord_rd_massport_area_-_2018-12.pdf.
Note: According to its website, to date, Massport has spent in Logan area communities $170 million for noise remediation, $50 million for creation and maintenance of parks and green spaces, and $15 million for four airport edge buffer parks.
To Report Jet Exhaust Fumes in Residential Areas
When asked if there is a way residents can report incidents of jet fuel and aviation gas exhaust fumes in residential areas near the airfield, Massport representatives answered that air pollution reports may be filed on the same Massport webpage as noise reports.
Note: To file reports on the website, go to the Massport Hanscom Noise Report webpage at http://www.massport.com/hanscom-field/about-hanscom/airport-activity-monitor/hanscom-noise-complaints/, and follow the “Airport Activity Monitor” prompts to create an account, log in, and submit a complaint. The pulldown menu of the “Primary Disturbance” box has an “Air Pollution” option.
Mus ex Machina ~ The Mouse in the Machine
Wimmer explained that Massport noise monitors are programmed with an algorithm to recognize a noise spike that correlates to a normal aircraft flight pattern [approaching and then moving away from the monitor]. Ordinarily, he added, prolonged noise from lawnmowers, snowblowers, and similar equipment is ignored by the monitors, as are short, sharp bursts of sound like firecrackers or gunshot.
Asked whether a mouse in the monitor could generate a noise profile similar to that of a jet passing overhead, Wimmer seemed doubtful. HFAC members discussed scenarios of mouse/jet amplitude and distance, and a general consensus was reached that algorithms are not perfect.
Note: At some previous HFAC meetings, Massport representatives have ascribed high noise levels measured by monitors to nesting mice and other errant wildlife; grounds-keeping operations; local community noise; periodic firearm target practice by airport staff; malfunctioning equipment; and at times, aircraft.
Monthly Flight Operations
Massport reported total Hanscom Field flight operations in November are up 18.7% — 8,843 in 2018, compared to 10,783 in 2019.
Daytime Air Traffic (7 am to 11 pm) — November 2019 compared to November 2018
- Local small aircraft touch and go practice flights up 25.6% (2,688 to 3,376);
- Jets up 9.1% (2,745 to 2,995);
- Single piston engine aircraft flights up 29% (1,859 to 2,398);
- Helicopters up 6.1% (727 to 771);
- Turboprops up 8.8% (571 to 621);
- Twin piston engine aircraft flights up 30.4% (227 to 296);
- and Military operations up 53.8% (26 to 40).
Note: military flights routinely average less than 1% of the annual total flight operations at Hanscom Field
Nighttime Air Traffic (11 pm to 7 am) for November 2019
General night flight operations up 18% (206 in 2018 to 243 in 2019)
Note: Night fee exemptions are granted to medflight operations, FAA flights, civil air patrol, and military aircraft, as well as aircraft delayed by weather, mechanical or air traffic control issues. The fees are imposed by Massport to discourage discretionary night flights likely to cause sleep disturbance for residents of surrounding communities. Night flight fees collected at Hancom Field for FY2018 totaled $813,743 and were deposited in Massport’s General Fund.
Monthly Air Noise Report
Massport Administrative Manager for Hanscom Field Amber Goodspeed reviewed the monthly noise report, which shows three noise monitors recorded slight increases in day/night noise level average in decibels (DNL in dB) compared to November of 2018:
- DeAngelo Drive Site 34 (61.2dB in 2018 to 62.0dB in 2019);
- Bedford airfield Site 32 (62.0dB in 2018 to 62.7dB in 2019);
- and Lincoln Brooks Road Site 33 (54.9dB in 2018 to 55.8dB in 2019).
The other three noise monitors recorded slight decreases in noise compared to November 2018:
- Concord airfield Site 31 (64.1dB in 2018 to 63.2dB in 2019);
- Concord Wastewater Plant Site 36 (62.2dB in 2018 to 59.9dB in 2019);
- and Lexington Preston Road (61.3dB in 2018 to 60.3dB in 2019).
Noise disturbance reports were up from 59 in November 2018 to 259 in November 2019.
Wimmer confirmed that the Site 34 monitor on DeAngelo Drive in Bedford had a high noise day on November 1st (70+ DNL dB) due to “multiple early morning [flight] events.”
Eliot and Rosenberg queried Massport representatives about the very high 80 DNL dB year to date average for the Bedford Site 34 monitor, noting that the number is puzzling since 8 of the previous 11 months averaged around 60 DNL dB. Wimmer offered to review the data.
Projects and Developments
Gallagher brought Commission members up to date on Massport and tenant plans, noting:
- The 2019 Massport Vegetation Management Plan has been presented to the Conservation Commissions of Bedford, Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord;
- Design plans for Signature Flight Support’s new FBO building and renovated hangars are expected to be completed by February 2020.
Dahlgren asked Gallagher if paperwork has gone out yet for the haul route, timeframe, and planning for the corporate hangar Massport has proposed for the North Airfield in Bedford.
“We’ve been promised a seat at that table and I’m not going to forget that,” Rosenberg told Gallagher, also noting there has been no news about the project for an entire calendar year.
Dahlgren then asked Gallagher, “How long a project is it? How many trucks? What are the routes that have been specified? Is Route 2 off the table on this one, too?”
Gallagher agreed to look into the status of the project.
Note: Rosenberg and Dahlgren are referring to the Massport Request for Proposals issued on February 28, 2018, to develop a 110,000 square foot corporate hangar complex across Hartwell Road from The Edge Sports Center and adjacent to the long-vacant former Navy Hangar.
To receive notice of future HFAC meetings and agendas, please register at the new HFAC website hosted by the Town of Lincoln: https://www.lincolntown.org/AgendaCenter/Hanscom-Field-Airport-Commission-58. Going forward, meeting minutes will be added to the website to increase accessibility for the public. Past HFAC meeting minutes and documents are currently archived in binders at the Civil Air Terminal and Logan Airport and residents require special permission from Massport authorities to examine them.
Next HFAC Meeting January 21, 2020
HFAC meets again on Tuesday, January 21, at 7 pm in Room 308 of the Civil Air Terminal, 200 Hanscom Drive, Bedford. Free parking is available at the Terminal lot. The meeting agenda includes a comment period for the public to ask questions or present matters of concern to the Commission. Residents of all communities impacted by Massport tenants’ operations at Hanscom Field are welcome to attend.