Living in Bedford, one of four towns contiguous to Hanscom Field and Hanscom Air Force Base, residents are used to a certain amount of aircraft noise, from takeoffs and landings, training flights, and occasional helicopters from Boston MedFlight.
But sometimes, aircraft noise moves beyond what’s typical for our area, in frequency, duration, timing, or volume. Maybe it’s the roar from a low-flying single-engine plane when you’re outside doing yard work, or a large charter jet rumbling on the runway near your house, or the unmistakable fwap-fwap-fwap of a helicopter in the middle of the night.
If you’re bothered by unusual aircraft noise, what can you do?
Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), the quasi-public agency that operates Hanscom Field and Logan Airport in Boston, provides several options for residents to submit noise complaints.
Massport maintains a phone line with a 24/7 answering machine at Hanscom Field to report noise complaints. Residents can call 781-869-8050 at any time to leave a message describing the disturbance, or 781-869-8018 during normal business hours to speak with someone in the noise office. If you want to receive a response by mail, please include your name and address when filing the complaint.
Airport Activity Monitor/PublicVue
Hanscom’s Airport Activity Monitor, also called PublicVue, is an online portal for submitting noise complaints.
All submitters must have an account with the portal. First-time users should “Click here to register” on the login screen. Once a user has an account, they can click “Complaint” and login with their email address and password.
To submit a new complaint, click “Submit New” on the left-hand navigation menu. The portal asks for the time of the complaint, the airport in question, the type of disturbance (with an allowance for multiple types), and a comment field to provide more specifics. Residents can opt out of receiving a response if they choose. Be sure to click “submit” to send the complaint to Massport.
Residents can also use the portal to review previous complaints.
Airnoise.io is a private company that has developed a small Wi-Fi device (similar in size and shape to a key fob) called the Airnoise button, which transmits noise complaints automatically to the nearest airport using your home Wi-Fi network. Users can create a free account without a button, logging complaints on the airnoise.io website, or choose a paid subscription with a button at $5/month and a one-time $40 fee for the rechargeable button.
When a user clicks the button, the Airnoise system identifies the aircraft closest to the user’s home address and submits a complaint to the nearest airport authority (in our case, Massport), including the aircraft type and registration number, time of day, and location at the time the button is pressed.
What information should you provide when submitting a noise complaint?
Regardless of which method you use, the more information you can include, the better!
- The date and time of the disturbance. This is particularly important for disturbances between 11 pm and 7 am, which could incur a fee for the operator.
- Your location, as precisely as possible: either your home address, if you experience the disturbance at home, or the address or area you’re in if you’re not at home.
- A description of the type of noise that’s disturbing you. Is it a dull roar? A high-pitched whine? Did the noise get louder or softer overtime? Information like this can help narrow down both the type of aircraft and the type of activity (takeoff, touch-and-go, circling, etc.) that’s causing the disturbance.
- The type of plane. If you are able to see the aircraft that is causing the noise disturbance and can identify the type of plane (single-engine piston, small or large jet, helicopter, etc.), that’s ideal. Some people are familiar enough with aircraft or with various flight-tracking websites, such as FlightAware.com, Flightradar24.com, or ADSBexchange.com, to be able to identify the specific aircraft as well.
What happens after you submit a complaint?
All noise complaints are logged by Massport and reported on a monthly basis to the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC), a regional committee comprised of representatives from Bedford, Lincoln, Lexington, Concord, and various aviation-related organizations. The monthly reports are tallied by the number of complaints per resident, and the number of complainants by town.
Complaints submitted via PublicVue or Airnoise receive an automated response via email confirming the information provided. Phone complaints will get a letter of acknowledgment from Massport if specifically requested.
Massport’s website states that the complaints it receives are shared with the FAA Tower manager. Complaints related to military aircraft (which make up only around 1% of flights at Hanscom Field) are shared with the community affairs office at Hanscom Air Force Base.
Do pilots receive warnings or punishment from Massport for noise disturbances?
Massport’s jurisdiction for aircraft activity and pilot actions is restricted to the ground. Once a plane takes off, its activity is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Massport cannot impose rules on pilot actions in the air, though it can and does encourage and discourage particular behaviors. You can find more information about the shared responsibilities around aircraft noise on the Hanscom Field website: https://www.massport.com/hanscom-field/about-hanscom/airport-activity-monitor/roles-responsibilities/
Massport’s “Fly Friendly” noise abatement program for business, commercial, flight school, and private aircraft includes restrictions on overnight flight activities (11 pm to 7 am), limits on activity by aircraft weight, and guidelines to avoid flights over portions of Minuteman National Historic Park. It also includes specific recommendations for piston-engine planes and helicopters to avoid flying over residential areas and to reduce speed to minimize noise from rotors and propellers.
Where else can you register a noise complaint?
The FAA maintains its own noise complaint and inquiry policy. The FAA’s Noise Complaints and Inquiries page includes a detailed list of information that is helpful to provide when submitting a complaint directly to the FAA.
FAA also has a national Noise Ombudsman and regional ombudsmen at its nine regional offices. Bedford is part of the New England Region. Our ombudsman is Mike Lynch, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-238-7400.
FAA maintains Flight Standards District Offices throughout the country. The Boston FSDO is in Burlington and is the place to address any concerns about low-flying aircraft or other aircraft safety issues. The manager of the Boston FSDO is Ron Curtis, (781) 238-7500. Office hours are 7:30 am to 4 pm, and appointments must be pre-arranged.
Hanscom Field’s Community Connections: HATS, and HFAC
Hanscom Field has been Bedford’s neighbor for decades. Bedford is a member of two regional committees concerning Hanscom-related issues: the Hanscom Area Towns Committee (HATS), which meets roughly every other month to discuss issues of regional concern including transportation and airport development; and the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission (HFAC), which meets monthly to review noise reports, construction projects, and other issues of interest to the local community.
Residents who are interested in learning more about our ongoing relationships with Massport and the Air Force are welcome to attend regular meetings of both committees.