Hanscom Field Advisory Commission Chair Christopher Eliot asked during the March 16 HFAC meeting if Massport would be willing to test at least one soil sample near the end of each runway and around engine run-up areas to measure lead levels, since those sites are where research at other airports shows highest soil lead concentrations tend to occur.
Eliot observed that some residents have recently raised concerns about airfield neighborhoods being exposed to contamination from the burning of leaded avgas used by piston-engine aircraft. During HFAC’s January review of airfield environmental impacts on local air quality, it became apparent that Massport bases its estimate that there is no health risk to airfield neighborhoods on modeling. It has never actually collected air or soil samples on or near the airfield to measure lead concentrations from leaded avgas fuel emissions.
At that January HFAC meeting, Rep. Ken Gordon expressed an interest in seeking funding through the state’s budget for FY2022 for soil lead testing in airfield neighborhoods near the airfield, saying he believes that individuals should not be required to pay for the testing themselves. (https://www.thebedfordcitizen.org/2021/01/hanscom-field-advisory-commission-investigates-the-trouble-with-leaded-avgas/)
Eliot estimated [based on soil lead analysis fee information HFAC member Margaret Coppe gathered last month] that testing at least one soil sample for lead concentration near the ends of each of the two Hanscom Field runways could be carried out for about $200.
“That would answer some of the neighbors’ questions about what’s the maximum level of lead that might have contaminated the region,” Eliot pointed out.
Mike Vatalaro, Massport Community Relations representative, agreed to relay Eliot’s request to Sharon Williams, Massport airport director for Hanscom Field.
Massport Says it has No Control over the Sale of Leaded Avgas at Hanscom Field
Chair Eliot also asked Massport representatives during the March meeting for answers to two questions that were posed to them during the February HFAC meeting:
- What is Massport’s plan to replace the leaded avgas fuel at Hanscom Field?
- Is UL94 a viable option?
The answers to HFAC’s questions?
“Massport has no control over the development or approval of alternative aviation fuels. If something’s available, then—you know we don’t sell the fuel—the FBO [Fixed Base Operator] would sell the fuel. So it would be up to them if they want to invest that kind of money for whatever the return might be. But I think that’s something that’s quite a few years down the road,” said Amber Goodspeed, Massport airport administrative manager for Hanscom Field.
The three FBOs currently selling aviation fuel at Hanscom Field are Signature Flight Support, Jet Aviation, and Rectrix Aviation.
Note: The vast majority of flight operations at Hanscom Field are those of piston-engine prop planes which use leaded avgas. There were about 78,700 piston-engine operations fueled by leaded avgas versus around 32,200 jet operations during the pre-pandemic year 2019. Jet fuel is unleaded, but cannot be used for ordinary piston-engine aircraft.
UL94 is a type of unleaded avgas approved for use in many piston-engine aircraft. It is currently sold at 60 other airports in the U.S., but is not available at Hanscom Field.