The Hanscom Field Advisory Commission learned from Massport at its February 16, 2021 meeting that the pandemic continues to depress air traffic at Hanscom Field, with all categories of flight operations down for January as compared to last year.
January 2021/2020 Year over Year Flight Operations:
- Total daytime flight operations down 13.7%, from 8,904 to 7,685;
- Total nighttime flight operations down 11.2%, from 152 to 135;
- Local, pattern work and touch-and-go practice flight operations down 12.2%, from 3,167 to 2,780;
- Other single-engine piston aircraft flight operations down 17.3%, from 1,704 to 1,410;
- Jet flight operations down 10.9%, from 2,461 to 2,193;
- Helicopter flight operations down 6.8%, from 774 to 721;
- Turboprop flight operations down 36.9%, from 523 to 330;
- Twin-piston engine aircraft flight operations down 3.9%, from 232 to 223;
- Military flight operations down from 43 to 28.
Military flights typically average less than 1 percent of yearly flight operations activity at Hanscom Field. The Air Force relinquished control of the airport and airfield to Massport for civilian general aviation operations 47 years ago in 1974.
Amber Goodspeed, Massport’s administrative manager for Hanscom Field, reported noise complaints about Hanscom-based aircraft decreased from the previous year, falling from 228 in January 2020 to 204 in January 2021, made by 16 separate callers from Ayer, Bedford, Chelmsford, Concord, Groton, Lexington, Lincoln, Needham, and Winchester.
Chair Christopher Eliot of Lincoln repeated an earlier HFAC request to Goodspeed that Massport provide a breakdown for which flight operations correlate to noise complaints. Goodspeed explained that when the ongoing upgrade of the Hanscom noise complaint system is completed, residents will be informed individually if an aircraft has been matched to their specific complaint, but does not know if a similar report can be generated for HFAC.
The new Hanscom noise complaint response system phased in during August 2020, now omits information that the old system routinely provided to residents about aircraft type, registration, operator, altitude, and type of operation.
Thomas Hirsch of Bedford, an HFAC member and Hanscom Pilots Association representative, suggested that it should be relatively simple for Massport to filter the HFAC monthly flight operations report to flag only those flight operations associated with noise complaints.
Hirsch also observed that groundbreaking is nearing for Signature Flight Support’s new facilities [near the Civil Terminal], but the commission has not yet received any proposed designs for the project or potential construction impacts on traffic. Goodspeed confirmed the Signature FBO project is set to begin on March 1, and agreed at minimum to try to provide some project drawings for the commission.
HFAC and Bedford Select Board member Emily Mitchell pointed out, “I do think we’ve had other examples of projects of Massport that had negative effects on our communities – that maybe could have been handled differently. And so that’s got people nervous about similar things happening in the future. I know that the construction a couple years ago, in 2017, where trucks were coming through all hours of the day and night had negative impacts on our communities. So now when we look at new capital projects, people are nervous with the renovations on the North airfield, with the T-hangars that are coming in. You know, we’re not getting a lot of information and I think the information that is being received skeptically. There’s been kind of a breakdown in that relationship and I regret that.”
However, Mitchell also mentioned airport director Sharon Williams has been in regular contact with Bedford’s town manager and public safety department regarding projects that will impact Hartwell Road and surrounding neighborhoods.
Mike Vatalaro, the new Massport community relations representative for Hanscom Field, was asked if the steady stream of 18-wheeler dump trucks residents observed traveling on Bedford Hartwell Road and turning east on Concord Road from midnight to 5 a.m. on Feb. 4 and 5 might be related to Massport snow removal operations. Vatalaro answered, “I don’t think we would put any trucks through a community, just from my experience in and around Logan Airport.” He volunteered to confirm that the midnight convoys were not related to Massport activity.
In other news, Chair Eliot announced the death of fellow HFAC member Hank Manz, who passed away in December. “Hank was, I would say, one of Lexington’s treasures,” added Margaret Coppe, a commission member and South Lexington Civic Association representative. She cited Manz’s long years of service to Lexington as a former Select Board member, representative to HFAC, Town Meeting member, scoutmaster, and supporter of youth hockey.
Commission members will meet again via videoconference on Tuesday, March 16 at 7 p.m. Discussion at that meeting will focus on:
- Airfield impacts on local cultural and historic resources
- Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 (aka as ANCA)
- Mass General Law, Chapter 90, Section 35: regulations applying to airports in the state
The March agenda and Zoom login information will be posted on the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission website hosted by the Town of Lincoln at https://www.lincolntown.org/AgendaCenter/Hanscom-Field-Airport-Commission-58