HFAC Short Takes for May, 2021

The Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC) met on May 18 to hear and discuss updates from Massport on air traffic, air noise, airfield projects, as well as concerns brought to it by the public.  Massport representatives were questioned about the Taxiway November “rehabilitation” construction project due to begin in late summer or early fall, and likely to use Bedford streets for the truck haul route.

Chair Christopher Eliot of Lincoln announced that the FAA has agreed to begin attending HFAC meetings several times a year to continue dialog with the commission and members of the public about Hanscom Field air noise and other aviation issues. FAA officials also offered to arrange a special public outreach meeting for surrounding communities to share information about aviation matters. (Click this link for coverage of the meeting)

April Flight Operations Report

April 2021 is the first full month that allows the comparison of current Hanscom flight operations to the historic lows created by the Covid-19 pandemic a year ago during April 2020.  The percentage rebounds are extraordinary because the drop in air traffic last year was so devastating.  Total flight operations for April 2021 (9,061) are now only 4% lower than the pre-pandemic numbers of April 2019 (9,439), indicating continuing recovery of general aviation air traffic at Hanscom Field.  Amber Goodspeed, Massport’s airport administrative manager for Hanscom Field, presented the monthly report on flight operations, as well as air noise, and airfield projects to commission members.

April 2021/2020 Year over Year Flight Operations:

  • Total daytime flight operations up 284.3%, from 2,358 to 9,061;
  • Total nighttime flight operations up from 49 to 136;
  • Local, pattern work and touch-and-go practice flight operations up 374.2%, from 624 to 2,959;
  • Other single-engine piston aircraft flight operations up 1797.1%, from 102 to 1,935;
  • Jet flight operations up 319.2%, from 605 to 2,536;
  • Helicopter flight operations up 25.9%, from 640 to 806;
  • Turboprop flight operations up 209.3%, from 150 to 464;
  • Twin-engine piston aircraft flight operations up 83.6%, from 177 to 325;
  • Military flight operations down from 60 to 36 *.

*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.

Monthly Air Noise Report

April aviation noise disturbance reports increased 203% compared to the same month last year.  The reports came from 22 residents from the 10 towns of Ayer, Bedford, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Concord, Groton, Lexington, Lincoln, Waltham, and Winchester.  However, noise complaints dropped 19% from March to April:  from 232 down to 188.

Eliot inquired about the status of Massport’s automated air noise response system.  Goodspeed explained that the vendor updated the program in May, but the new software has problems which Massport is currently troubleshooting.

Taxiway November

Bedford South Road resident Patty Dahlgren asked Goodspeed about the Taxiway November “rehabilitation” project, which Massport has stated will begin in late summer or early fall of 2021.  “How long is this project going to take?  Is this the same type, but scaled down to what we experienced with the [2017 runway] repaving?”

Goodspeed assured that although the taxiway needs to be repaved, “Not only is it smaller in scale, but it’s not something we feel that needs to be accelerated in terms of timeline.  So construction will take place during normal business hours.  But until I have a plan, I don’t really have an update for you.”

Dahlgren pressed Goodspeed, “I’m just trying to understand the scope of this project and whether or not it’s going to impact South Road in Bedford, and Concord Road in Bedford since in the past all the access points for repaving are funneled through the town of Bedford.”

Goodspeed explained that Taxiway November is located in the northwestern quadrant of the airfield and “construction traffic will not access that site through South Road at all.”  However, when Dahlgren asked again about Concord Road, Goodspeed said she was not prepared to provide further information at the meeting.

“Okay, I’m just trying to understand the scope, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable,” Dahlgren responded, adding, “We are already close to June.  Whatever we’re talking about, nobody in our town should be surprised about, come August.  That’s all I’m trying to ensure.”

HFAC and Bedford Select Board member Emily Mitchell reassured Dahlgren that Massport has already been in touch with the Town Manager, and the Departments of Public Works and Public Safety and that the Town is aware of the project.

“At what point are you and our Town Manager going to share the nature of these conversations,” Dahlgren asked Mitchell.  “There is a purpose to HFAC.  That’s as an advisory committee and for everyone to understand what’s happening.  If Massport’s having a separate conversation with our Board and our town, and you are not sharing that with the residents, we’re sort of beating around the bush in not going through HFAC.”

“Our town let us down last time,” Dahlgren continued.  “I want to ensure that is not going to happen again, even with a smaller project.  I don’t think this is unreasonable.”

Goodspeed assured, “We plan to bring this to the next meeting or the meeting after that as soon as we have all the information available,” adding, “This is certainly an appropriate place to bring the information, but I just don’t have that today.”

Other News

Thomas Hirsch, Bedford resident and Hanscom Pilots Association representative, noted he finds HFAC minutes are not detailed enough:  “It’s like, ‘Here are the baseball scores:  three to two, five to six, seven to eight.’ ”

Eliot agreed and requested Mark Wimmer, Massport’s airport data specialist, to begin adding more detail to HFAC minutes, as well as a link to Bedford TV videos of the meetings.

Commission members also expressed their hope that the State Legislature will find a way to continue online or hybrid online/physical public meetings after the governor lifts the state of emergency on June 15.

“If we provide the best we can, we’re making it more available, rather than less,” Eliot said, adding that the current online public meeting system is more open and inclusive to people who have difficulty with attending in person due to travel time, disability, or mobility issues.

Eliot also asked HFAC to compose a summary of primary community goals related to the airport.  He observed that three factors are negatives: aircraft noise, environmental issues, and construction disruption.  However, the fourth factor is positive:  economic benefits, consisting of revenue distributed to Bedford, Concord, Lexington, and Lincoln from a percentage of the sale of aviation gas, and jobs created by aviation support services and companies.

Next HFAC Meeting

Commission members will meet again via videoconference on Tuesday, June 15 at 7 p.m.  Discussion at that meeting will focus on:

  • A presentation on the Airnoise button and system by its inventor, Chris McCann. McCann, a former USAF U-2 test pilot, has created an electronic system linked to a small one-touch Wi-Fi device that allows residents to instantly file detailed aviation noise complaints with the nearest airport authority.
  • An ongoing chapter by chapter review of the 2017 L.G. Hanscom Field Environmental Status and Planning Report. For June, the Commission will cover Chapter Two:  Facilities and Infrastructure pages 2-1 through 2-36.  Readers may click here to access the full report: https://www.massport.com/media/3182/2017_hanscom_espr_web.pdf)

The June 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


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