Aircraft operations at Hanscom Field are leveling off after a partial recovery from pandemic-driven declines last spring. However, the November total is still almost 8 percent below the same month in 2019.
Members of the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission reviewed the data with Massport officials at their December 15th virtual meeting.
Although the November total of 9,679 overall daytime flight operations fell slightly from the previous month, they are still quadruple the low of 2,358 for last April.
Questions were also once again raised about how Massport handles daytime noise disturbance filings, with HFAC advising Massport on potential improvements to the process and State Representative Sheila Harrington asking both HFAC and Massport to be more proactive in finding a way to curb disturbing Hanscom-based flight school activities over her district, which includes Ayer and Groton. The Bedford Citizen coverage of these two topics to follow in early 2021.
The Commission’s planned discussion of leaded avgas issues was deferred to January.
November Flight Operations
Amber Goodspeed, Massport Airport Administrative Manager for Hanscom Field, updated Commission members on flight operations numbers for November as compared to pre-pandemic levels during November 2019. Overall operations fell by nearly 8 percent, mostly due to the fall off in jet traffic since last year. However, local piston engine (including touch and go practice) flights, twin-piston engine operations, and military flights all increased compared to the last year.
November 2020/2019 Year Over Year
- Total daytime flight operations down 7.8 %, from 10,497 to 9,679;
- Total nighttime flight operations down 49.4 %, from 243 to 123;
- Local, pattern work and touch-and-go practice flight operations up 5.6 %, from 3,376 to 3,566;
- Other single-engine piston aircraft flight operations up 4.2 %, from 2,398 to 2,498;
- Jet flight operations down 30.7 %, from 2995 to 2,077;
- Helicopter flight operations down 4.3 %, from 771 to 738;
- Turbo prop flight operations down 31.1 %, from 621 to 428;
- Twin-piston engine aircraft flight operations up 11.1 %, from 296 to 329;
- Military flight operations up 7.5 %, from 40 to 43.*
November/October 2020 Month to Month:
Compared to the previous month, overall November daytime flight operations were down 1.8% due to further declines in all categories except for jets and non-local single-engine piston aircraft arrivals and departures, which showed some increase from the October numbers.
- Total daytime flight operations down 1.8 %, from 9,860 to 9,679;
- Total nighttime flight operations down 27.6 %, from 170 to 123;
- Local, pattern work and touch-and-go practice flight operations down 5.0 %, from 3,754 to 3,566;
- Other single-engine piston aircraft flight operations up 10.0 %, from 2,271 to 2,498;
- Jet flight operations up 1.0 %, from 2,057 to 2,077;
- Helicopter flight operations down 6.6 %, from 790 to 738;
- Turboprop flight operations down 20.4 %, from 538 to 428;
- Twin-engine piston aircraft flight operations down 7.8 %, from 357 to 329;
- Military flight operations down 53.8 %, from 93 to 43.*
*Military flights typically average less than 1 % of yearly flight operations activity at Hanscom Field. The Air Force transferred control of the airport and airfield to Massport for civilian general aviation operations 46 years ago in 1974.
Goodspeed presented Hanscom Field’s 2018 Annual Noise Report and said she plans to present the 2019 Annual Noise Report in early 2020. She asked that all questions about the 2018 Report be directed to Massport’s Community Relations representative, Anthony Gallagher, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goodspeed noted that the six airfield monitors were all operational during November, although the Concord Site 31 monitor near the west end of Runway 11/29 was found to have a damaged windscreen, which has since been repaired. Goodspeed believes the three exceptionally high noise levels recorded at Site 31 on November 2, 15, and 23 were due to high winds and the damaged windscreen, rather than aircraft noise.
Airfield Projects and Developments
Gallagher told the Commission that construction work on the new Signature Flight Support FBO (Fixed Base Operator) building near the Terminal is set to begin on March 1. Emily Mitchell, HFAC and Bedford Select Board member, confirmed with Gallagher that the Massport-owned Ross-Rectrix funded T-hangar complex planned for land across from The Edge Sports Center on Hartwell Road in Bedford is still in the survey and design phase.
Gallagher explained that Massport has completed its vegetation management operations off Massport land along Hartwell Avenue in Lexington, but will continue to work on Massport land at both ends and sides of Runway 11/29.
A Bedford Conservation Commission member confirmed to The Citizen that the 100 to 189 trees originally tagged by Massport in the Jordan Conservation Area for trimming, cutting, or girdling in its 2019 Vegetative Management Plan have not yet been disturbed.
Amy McCoy, a resident of Ayer, reminded Massport staff that she has not received any Massport response letters to noise disturbance filings since 2019. Heather Patterson of Bedford noted she has not received any Massport response letters since last March. Massport representatives have repeatedly assured the Commission and a number of residents for the last 16 months that the long overdue response letters are just on the verge of being sent out.
Goodspeed tried to explain the tardiness, “We are at the mercy of the software and the releases that the software developers put up.” The August 2019 upgrade of Massport’s noise response software supposedly automated and streamlined the old response system. The new system has not been timely, falling more than a year behind in its responses to residents. In addition, it has stripped out the previously provided information about plane ID, type, flight pattern, weather, or other factors determining runway use in the few email responses that it has been able to generate.
“We’re trying, guys,” Gallagher seconded Goodspeed apologetically.
McCoy also asked Commission members why HFAC doesn’t have its own clerk to take meeting minutes instead of relying on Massport staff. She suggested it may be more appropriate for a Commission member to keep the minutes, rather than Massport, who comes to report to the Commission. Three Commission members responded, with Eliot and Margaret Coppe (HFAC member and representative of the South Lexington Civic Association) explaining the arrangement has been customary for years; Mitchell adding that in her experience, committee members who take minutes are not able to fully participate during meetings; and Coppe noting that the Commission does have a responsibility to ensure the minutes Massport staff records are accurate.
Coppe reminded Massport representatives of HFAC’s September request for more timely meeting materials. Going forward, Coppe would like Massport to provide all data reports for HFAC at least one week in advance, rather than on the day of the meeting. Eliot seconded Coppe’s request.
Next HFAC Meeting Set for January 19th
Commission members will again meet with Massport via videoconference on Tuesday at 7 pm, January 19th. Discussion of leaded aviation fuel (avgas) issues at Hanscom Field is planned for that meeting. People who would like to attend can find the agenda and Zoom login information by visiting the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission website hosted by the Town of Lincoln at https://www.lincolntown.org/AgendaCenter/Hanscom-Field-Airport-Commission-58
Citizens may also register on the Lincoln website to be added to a list of subscribers who receive advance email notice of HFAC meetings and agenda items.