Progress on Airplane Noise Reduction

The Wall Street Journal describes an idea coming out of our local efforts to reduce airplane noise.

National recognition for the contributions of Belmont’s Myron Kassaraba and a broad collaboration including Massport, Adriana Poole and the Boston West Fair Skies group, the 33L Municipal Working Group, local legislators and, importantly, Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

In case the Wall Street Journal article appears behind a paywall for you, here are a couple of key excerpts:

Urban airports like Boston’s Logan thought they had silenced noise issues with quieter planes. Now complaints pour in from suburbs 10 to 15 miles away because new navigation routes have created relentless noise for some homeowners.

It turns out engines aren’t the major culprit anymore. New airplanes are much quieter. It’s the “whoosh” that big airplanes make racing through the air. Computer models suggest slowing departures by 30 knots—about 35 miles an hour—would reduce noise on the ground significantly.

Your flight will last a few seconds longer, and airlines will burn a few more gallons of fuel. But “hundreds of thousands of people would get some reduction and for tens of thousands, it would go from problematic to not problematic,” says John Hansman, an aeronautics professor and director of the International Center for Air Transportation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Everyone was looking at the wrong problem,” says Thomas Glynn, chief executive of Massport. “It’s a concentration problem. It’s a frequency problem. It’s not really a noise problem.”

Mr. Glynn says he realized how serious this problem was when Myron Kassaraba, the Belmont, Mass., representative on the Massport Community Advisory Committee, showed him a map software engineer Kent Johnson put together with flight-track data. The flights before the navigation change were spread out all over with thin green lines. The flights after were bunched in a thick red line.

“The change before and after became apparent both visually and numerically,” says Mr. Kassaraba, a financial consultant. Belmont, just over 10 miles west of Logan, had never had a noise issue. Suddenly airplane noise was distracting conversations, work and backyard relaxing.

He calls the speed modification “a step in the right direction.”

For much more background on this issue, please see this thread.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

35 replies on “Progress on Airplane Noise Reduction”

  1. Does this mean that Logan will listen and change their flights in response to these findings? It’s ironic to read this post after last night, when planes flew over our house non-stop for hours, every few minutes.

  2. Will,
    Thank you so much for working on this issue. Seems like progress is being made, for which I am grateful.

    Last night, around 1:00-2:00AM, I was awakened by a plane flying so low and so loud I thought for a sleepy minute that something horrible was happening. So thanks again for your work and keeping us informed.

  3. I am surprised that flight patterns were bunched together. I had read that more accurate navigation was becoming available, making it no longer necessary to route flights along limited paths. We live in Winchester and notice days and times when flights pass over us. There is noise but nothing like having lunch one day at a friend’s house in Far Rockaway under a final approach route into New York City’s JFK airport. Those 747s were really noisy and low enough to cast a shadow over the lunch table. I don’t see anything like that here. True, engine power is lower on approach than on departure, but I think some perspective has been lost.

    Also, I’ve been concerned about safety both from the point of view of the aircraft occupants and those on the ground. Despite all the reassurances about testing, my informal understanding is that noise abatement regulations reduce the margin of flight safety. Steep climb angles and sharp turns at low speeds with reduced engine power are OK only if absolutely nothing goes wrong. Aircraft are safest with altitude and speed in their favor.

    Don’t cut it too close, folks.

  4. I’ve lived north of Boston and South of Boston and always lived with almost constant airplane noise for the first 40 years of my life. Finally I moved west of the city to Watertown, and about 5 years ago the planes have found me once again. Can’t watch TV in the summer with the windows open, or have dinner on the deck without the almost constant noise of airplanes. Where shall I move next? Ah suburban living.

  5. Congratulations, Will, for your successful work on this as well as on many other projects. I saw the article in the WSJ to which you refer.

  6. Even with windows closed at this time of the year, I’ve noticed audible airplane noise at some really odd hours of the day and night.

    It’s going to be another doozy in spring, summer, and fall, I’m sure.

  7. It will never be solved. The goal of any organization public or private is to grow. Masspork needs to pay off it’s bond issues so it needs more arrivals and departures to generate those fees they charge which requires more infrastructure to service them which needs more borrowed money. Where does it stop? “It’s a concentration problem. It’s a frequency problem. It’s not really a noise problem.”

  8. I live on the Woburn Winchester line since NEXGEN concentrated flight paths to save the Airlines a few dollars on fuel the night non-stop air traffic is brutal, I have added sound insulation, new andersen windows but the non-stop noise makes it difficult to sleep and it’s almost every night. Regardless of the standard MASSPORT reply regarding winds. Low, Loud & non-stop at 11,12,pm 1,2,3 4,sometime less than 2 minutes apart! The fastest easiest relief solution is revert back to PRE NEXGEN like many other cities have enforced FAA to do!!!

  9. While I appreciate the work being done on this problem, I wouldn’t call this progress yet. When solutions are implemented it will be progress. As others have noted, last night was brutal, and early this morning also. But yesterday was only the latest of many brutal days and nights this fall and winter. And, as people say, this is with all the windows closed tightly. Outside, I often can’t take a walk around the block at any time of day without incessant droning overhead.

    If you haven’t done it yet, please register at the Massport website ( and start making written complaints. The more people they hear from, the more likely they’ll be to take the problem seriously. Their replies are basically worthless; they make me think they don’t even read the comments, just the date and time of the complaint, but anything we can do to push them toward alleviating this problem is helpful.

  10. I am not an MIT Scientist, but did well enough in Belmont High School Physical Science Class to offer an opinion. I believe for safety and to attain max altitude, planes must be in full throttle until they reach cruising altitude where they then can cut back on speed. Any reduction in speed would reduce altitude climb. Lower altitude would increase not only noise, but effect more areas away from the airport. Lower equals louder! I suggested to Massport 10 years ago, and still believe, that planes should attempt to gain maximum altitude as quickly as possible, creating more distance from the ground, thereby lowering noise. I referred to this as Maximum Safe Climb Rate(MSCR). Distance equals less noise. I wouldn’t want to be in a plane taking off that isn’t attempting to gain altitude as quickly as possible! I am frequently near Logan Airport and notice noise is mostly due to the different engine types and altitude, and not the whoosh! Takeoff routes are guided by wind direction for aerodynamic reasons. My opinion.

  11. Will,
    Thanks for all your efforts, but I know nothing has changed, will likely change, and it continues to worsen. Weekends have grown to be intolerable. Flights are non-stop. This goes on from the very early morning until very late in the evening. They used to be spaced out about two minutes apart but are now far less than that. Multiple runways must now be using the same flightpath over Belmont and Watertown. They are less than thirty seconds apart right now at 7:15 PM on 3/11/18. It really degrades the quality of our lives when late spring and summer arrive and our windows are open. It’s horrible! Why can’t they take a fly over Lexington, Bedford, Concord, Lincoln, Wayland, Weston or Wellesley once in a while?? This is not right.

    1. Just FYI, I was at Elm Bank State Park, on the Wellesley/Natick/Dover line on Sunday and planes were flying over constantly disturbing the otherwise quiet landscape. There was less than one minute between flights. I was hoping to escape the noise here in Boston, but was not successful. So it’s happening everywhere.

  12. Beginning early Friday evening (3/9) Air Traffic/Noise was relentless, with departures on Runway 33L continuing all day Saturday up to 11:30pm and all day Sunday beginning at 6:30AM up to 12:44am on Monday (3/12). Your report suggests that progress is being made to lessen the noise. If so, it hasn’t affected North Cambridge. Other areas of the country , such as Seattle and Phoenix , have gotten relief only through litigation

    1. The progress here so far is on paper. It hasn’t been implemented. The news is that a proposal for progress is being favorably viewed.

      Once it is in place we’ll see how much difference it makes. My own take is that it will be noticeable, but not transformative.

  13. indeed the concentration of jet traffic over very small areas of w. somerville, where i live, has caused a far greater increase in traffic when the winds are W and NW. 30+ jets an hour are not uncommon, and they last for hours.
    it’s torture and 100% unnecessary to boot.

  14. Sorry,was cut off. Meant to say havn”t even traveled to Belmont yet and I have so much info, I promise your faith in me will be rewarded. With God”s blessing this book will succeed. As you mentioned Vicksburg isn”t done because it”s probably a 10 year project. I”m on military pay due to my injuries, so I will have the time if my first book (Belmont and the lessons Grant learned) succeeds. Vicksburg as I”ve mentioned to you several times is my pet peeve due to the tremendous shortage of info. on it. If we can get people into the first volume the next 2 should sell great, but I know I”m getting ahead of myself. Again thank you so much sir for the Tribune, I will do all in my power to not let you down. Afterall, Michigan Men don”t fail diploma online

  15. Again this is like putting a band aid on a major wound. The first step to solving this issue can be to disperse and ban flights at night so that people can sleep. They can do that if they want to be humane till they find a solution.
    Can anyone explain how it is safer to fly over one path only? and why that path cannot be changed on hourly basis? What is the science behind concentrating the flights over one area? I asked repeatedly and never got an answer.

    1. A big part of the case for the NextGen approach is that it simplifies operations.

      Changing flight patterns when you have a lot of planes carrying people in a dense airspace is something you want to minimize if you can.

      1. Making the planes quieter will not solve the problem for those of us who endure over 100 planes flying over our house in a day (every 60-90 seconds during parts of the day/evening). I’m sure they can adjust flight paths with GPS technology. It used to be more spread out with the old system, and we never noticed planes bothering us.

  16. Dear Will – thank you so much for your work on this very important quality-of-life issue. I’m wondering if helicopters are included. Here in the Fenway, and in adjacent Brookline, helicopters fly around at very low altitudes all year long. It is especially bad in the spring and summer. From a meeting with the FAA about 12 years ago about small planes circling Fenway Park with banners, , I learned that all aircraft must be at least 1000 feet off the ground. The small planes are never that that high and these helicopters are all flyinglower than the Prudential Center, which means they are lower than about 500 feet. Calls to local TV stations with helicopters sometimes helps. FOXNews is a common culprit. But the noise of these helicopters is just unbearable sometimes. I was told that I should call Hanscom field and not Logan about helicopters, but I couldn’t find any additional information. If your office has any information about phone numbers to call or websites to contact about helicopter noise, I’d be very grateful. Thank you again for all your diligent work on this issue and others.

    1. Helicopters are a whole different animal. Completely different rules and considerations.

      We periodically try to run this down in cases of egregious hovering, but don’t get very far otherwise.

  17. Since this posting, around Mar 8th, flights from Logan have started once again to fly non-stop over our house (Payson Rd in Belmont). They say it’s not a noise problem, but a frequency problem, and yet the frequency has increased dramatically (after a while without AS frequent airplane noise) I’m complaining again to Massport (as we all should, especially if they’re only tracking unique complaints?) but not confident it’s going to do any good. Bottom line is the bottom line, and it seems money always wins.

    1. Just keep in mind that most of the variation is about weather patterns.

      You’ll experience it non-stop for a few days and then it will go away.

      On a year-round basis, we get it 15% of the time.

      Those days are tough for some people and we’re continuing to work to make it better.

  18. Thanks for this update.
    Do you know when will these changes be implemented? The noise is still a problem even with our windows closed.

    1. It will make a modest difference. It may not make enough difference for people in previously quiet neighborhoods to really feel.

      It is still some months away. The timeline is unpredictable as major agency decisions are involved.

  19. I won’t judge the efforts of those that studied the issue; however, inner-Boston area has better alternatives: expand high speed rail to reduce the number of planes flying 200 to 400 miles; using other airports such as Hanscom Field, T.F.Green, Worcester, Pease AFB, and Manchester. Most are very near highways and some train lines. Another option is to charge a premium for those who MUST use Boston. That’s no different than charging more for parking inside Logan as opposed to satellite parking lots.

  20. The flights are flying so low and the noise is tremendous around Medford Square area

  21. Is this site still active?

    If so, I lived in Belmont in 1992 for a year in a basement apartment near Cushing Square. Even then the noise affected me.

    It’s simply when the winds are north or northwest in that area. Believe me, I’ve studied it. It’s not all day, all night as some here claim. It just seems so on certain days. There’s a curfew of 11 pm or a bit later but planes always slip thru after that cutoff, though not as frequently. I monitor when I’m at Logan driving Uber and waiting for fares.

    You can go days without plane noise in Belmont, admit it. Summer months seem best as there seem to be fewer times with north or northwest winds!

    Most here must have OCD. That’s my issue and why I’m constantly monitoring plane noise and paths even when driving in parts of the region.

    I’ve lived in North Quincy for 15 years and there’s a major issue with noise from landings, coming over the Blue Hills, Milton and North Quincy, Neponset and into U-Mass and South Boston. Starts around 4:15 am until past 1 am when certain winds are present. The Patriot Ledger even had a 3-part front-page story two years ago about the plane noise complaints in Milton. The stories seemed to state that most complaints are generated by a vocal minority there, as some claim they don’t notice it or even care, one claiming Milton has much bigger issues than plane noise.

    I saw stickers at that time in the North Quincy MBTA station with #saveourskies from some/a Milton residents. Haven’t seen them since so they likely gave up, at least with posting stickers.

    Even worse, one can’t simply move away to avoid it, in most cases. It’s either landings or takeoffs. South Boston gets both depending on which area. Seaport is terrible!

    Parts of Lynn and Salem have landing noise even at 1 am before they then fly over Revere.

    Watertown has issues as I sit in the parking lot at Planet Fitness.

    As I said, the issue is likely with you and me, as we’re ultra sensitive, and you all may have a touch or more of OCD like me.

    Most people I’ve spoken to over the years in South Boston, South End, Roxbury, JP, West Roxbury have no issue or didn’t notice, claiming you get used to it or it’s just background noise or they don’t notice. A friend in Winthrop decades ago would need to stop our phone conversation occasionally but otherwise it wasn’t always present, depending on winds. And overall, living there with some noise was never any issue for her.

    I don’t even want to to SEE planes landing or taking off, even when in the distance with little or no noise Yes, my OCD is so bad and unreasonable to most people, I know.

    Some here could look to and maybe benefit from therapy or medication? But I tried both in 1995 or so but gave up after six months.
    The same South End in Boston flight path I noticed in 1989 still has the sameplane noise, despite complaints from some residents but it hasn’t helped. Sound familiar?

    And…where could the planes possibly go without bothering residents? Nowhere, as it’s too densely populated around Logan, right?

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