When the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) met via Zoom on July 21, after a five-month hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone noticed something missing from the skies near Bedford since mid-March: Airplanes.
Flight Operations Report
Massport data from April through July showed the severe impact of the pandemic on Hanscom Field’s general aviation arrivals and departures.
Amber Goodspeed, Massport airport administrative manager for Hanscom Field, confirmed what many residents have already observed. She described how air traffic began to fall off during the second half of March when the overall flight operations for the month finished at 25 percent below 2019. Much worse was to follow, though.
“The real grim news started in April of 2020, and the traffic for the whole month was down 75 percent compared to April 2019,” she reported. The raw numbers were total operations (departure and arrivals) 2,358, compared to 9,439 for the same month a year earlier – a drop of 7,081, or 236 flights per day. The most dramatic drop was in the category of single-engine aircraft, including those used from flight schools – down 86 percent. Jet operations fell by almost 77 percent.
“Unfortunately, it was more of the same in May…traffic was down 70 percent compared to May of 2019,” Goodspeed continued. The 2020 total operations of 3,652 showed more than 8,000 fewer flights than the same month in 2019 (12,013). The “singles” category, including flight school touch and goes, dropped 84%. The category of jets declined by almost 60 percent.
“June traffic was only down about 33 percent [compared to a year earlier],” she continued. “The first increase in any activity over the past few months was seen in helicopter activity, and that was … negligible. Our night activity also decreased from 192 operations in June of 2019 to 110 operations in June of 2020, and I think around half of those were medical flights.”
Total night operations for April through May was 224, compared to 646 a year earlier.
Preliminary July activity indicates a 28 percent decline, Goodspeed said, explaining, “What traffic can come in, really depends on what can go out in other states, and there’s a lot of other things at play, other than just our own local traffic.”
Historically, Massport has explained fluctuations in year-to-year operations as reflections of economic activity.
Air Noise Report
The number of air noise complaint filings closely tracked the percentage decrease in flight operation numbers for April, May, and June, as compared to the same period in 2019: April dropped from 221 to 60, May declined from 228 to 54 and June from 301 to 142.
Readings from the six noise monitors on and near the airfield also reflected the sharp decline in activity, with two exceptions: Bedford DeAngelo Drive monitor recorded higher noise levels during May, and the Lincoln Brooks Road monitor measured higher noise for June, compared to 2019.
Goodspeed announced that the provider of the software used for logging air noise and/or flight track concerns will make a new option available next month. It will allow Massport to email responses to complaints, rather than send letters through the postal system.
“Beginning in mid-August, we’ll utilize that method of reply in order to respond in a timely fashion, as well as obviously save time and resources. Initially, replies will be sent the following day after a concern is received. And the system will not inundate you with multiple emails. So if you send five concerns in a day, you will get one email the following day with a list of the five concerns.”
Goodspeed cautioned that the modification is a work in progress, so some glitches may be anticipated. She invited residents who experience problems with the new option to call Massport’s regular Hanscom Noise Line at 781-869-8050.
Commission members voted to re-elect Christopher Eliot of Lincoln to lead the Commission for another year. The election was originally scheduled for the postponed April meeting.
HFAC will meet again on Tuesday, August 18th at 7 pm via video-conference. The agenda includes a Citizen Comments period for members of the public to ask questions or present matters of concern to the commission. Residents of all communities impacted by Massport aviation tenants’ operations at Hanscom Field are welcome to participate.
Anyone seeking email notice of future HFAC meetings and agendas may register at the HFAC website: https://www.lincolntown.org/AgendaCenter/Hanscom-Field-Airport-Commission-58.