Flight School Touch and Go Practice Session Draws Attention

The Flight Aware app captured the path of an August 16 practice session over Bedford neighborhoods

Patricia Dahlgren of South Road has been a close neighbor of Hanscom Field for more than 25 years. “We know our airport.  We know the rhythms.  It’s part of our daily life rhythm,” she told members of the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) at its virtual meeting on August 18.

But the recent repeated figure-eight flights for an hour-and-a-half over South Road, Concord Road, and the center of town on Sunday, August 16 was cacophonous.

Dahlgren asked the commission and Massport for assistance with what she said is a recurring issue with certain planes registered to Plane Nonsense, Inc., which is affiliated with a local flight school.

She showed members a recent screenshot image captured from FlightAware.com illustrating the flight path of one of the Plane Nonsense aircraft to confirm her concern.

HFAC Chair Christopher Eliot of Lincoln suggested local flight schools be asked to set a reasonable time limit, perhaps under an hour, on touch and go practice sessions.

“By law, we cannot ask them to do anything special like that,” explained Amber Goodspeed, Massport airport administrative manager at Hanscom Field.  “There’s not a lot that I could do other than ask them nicely, which I’m happy to do if there’s something amiss.”  Anthony Gallagher, Massport’s community relations representative, also volunteered to follow up on the issue.

Dahlgren recalled that at last February’s HFAC meeting she had also asked for help from the commission with Plane Nonsense-owned aircraft repeatedly circling directly above her home and neighborhood.

At this month’s meeting, Thomas Hirsch of Bedford, HFAC member representing the Hanscom Pilots Association, told her that the plane she had identified is typically used by primary students learning to fly and that the tight repetitive circles and runway touch and goes are called pattern work.

Asked if it might be possible for the practice circles to be widened or varied in order to provide some relief to neighborhoods exposed to the repeated overflights, Hirsch explained, “Unfortunately, there are safety issues, because if the engine quits, you have to be able to get back to the airport.  So traffic patterns typically are not that far from the airport because from 1,000 feet [altitude], you’re not going to glide very far.”

“I understood they were supposed to be doing this over the Town Forest so that it didn’t adversely impact residents,” Dahlgren persisted, “It’s a Sunday afternoon and everybody’s already under tremendous pressure with everything that’s happening.  This seems abusive to me.” “

Dahlgren asserted that “There has to be some kind of a compromise.  I feel for the students and businesses and the flight schools.  But we pay a lot of taxes and I think that we have a right to expect some kind of reasonable accommodation.

“I’m bringing this to you because this was not typical,” she added. “I just want to make sure that it doesn’t escalate and encroach on more and more neighborhoods.”

On a related topic in the HFAC agenda, Eliot said that the Commission still has not received a response to its June 2019 letter to the MassDOT Aeronautics Division seeking clarification on responsible authorities for regulation of local flight school and aero club activities, despite two follow up efforts. This stems from years of complaints by residents of Ayer and Groton. Eliot said he will try again to get in touch with the Aeronautics Division office about the matter.

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