Massport Dismisses Residents’ Complaints about Hanscom Field Aircraft Noise

The Massachusetts Port Authority pushed back Tuesday against area residents contending that recent aircraft noise connected to Hanscom Field has become intolerable.

Amber Goodspeed, manager of airport administration, told the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission at its virtual meeting that total operations at the airfield in October 2021 were more than 5 percent below the number for the same month in 2019.

The total number of operations for October was 12,277, which Goodspeed said was a 24.5 increase over the 9,860 recorded during the same month in 2020. At last month’s HFAC meeting, three residents—of Bedford, Concord, and Lexington—asserted that aircraft noise is a disruptive problem.

“It was quite the rebound for operations in October,” Goodspeed said. “Despite that, our calendar year-to-date operations are still down 5.2 percent compared to 2019. We still have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels.”

Goodspeed said airport activity was at record lows here and nationally because of the impact of the coronavirus. “I honestly don’t think traffic will ever be lower in our near future.” As traffic returns to normal levels, she continued, many area residents are still spending more time at home “and they are noticing these things a lot more.” This also is a national phenomenon, she stated.

The most dramatic categorical increase between this year and last was for jet traffic: more than 60 percent, from 2,057 to 3,394.

This represents one of the highest, if not the highest, October jet total in recent years. The 2019 October jet total was 2,589, which means last month’s number was more than 800 higher than the last “normal” year. Other recent October jet counts were 3,003 in 2018, 3,066 in 2,017, 2,521 in 2016 and 2,526 in 2015.

Even back in 2006, when total aircraft operations were 50 percent greater than 2019, the October jet traffic was 3,152, which is 242 fewer than 201, an average of almost eight takeoffs and/or landings a day.

Goodspeed also reported that there were 824 noise complaints registered in October 2021, and 85 percent of them were posted through the electronic Airnoise device. Two individuals combined complained more than 500 times in the 31-day period; the total number of individuals who filed complaints was 31 from 12 cities and towns, she said.

Heather Patterson, whose house on South Road is closest to the airport on that street, said Massport responded to her noise complaint with an aside suggesting that residents who live especially close to Hanscom should expect noise from aircraft. She asked whether every response is worded this way.

“Just because you live close to the airport, you still have the right to complain,” said commission chair Christopher Elliot of Lincoln, who said any written reply should have “professional tone.” Long-time member Margaret Coppe of Lexington said such a comment reflects “a characterization of her motive and intention. Why someone makes a noise complaint is not the role of the person responding.”

Goodspeed said she concurred and will investigate. “All of the complaints are taken into consideration. We still record those noise complaints and research them.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763

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