A good news item on plane noise

Starting on January 16, most communities will experience a reduction in plane traffic late at night. This is the result of the reinstatement of a noise abatement procedure that had been suspended since June. Many of us were unaware of the suspension of the procedure, so the good news is unanticipated.

Basically, late at night, weather permitting, the airport tries do all of its landings and departures over the water. That means planes are flying in opposite directions onto adjacent runways. The traffic has to be timed to separate them adequately and maintain safety. This is feasible only late at night when traffic is low.

The FAA has been concerned about safety in “opposite direction operations” since at least January 2013, when it issued a policy statement requiring the development of new procedures. Last August, as a result of a near miss at Reagan International on July 31, the FAA decided to suspend opposite direction operations nation wide.

The following statement that went to the Citizens Advisory Committee last August was something that many of us did not become aware of:

. . . [O]ne noise abatement procedure in place at Boston Logan is aircraft departing R15R and landing R33L during the late night period- same runway with opposite direction operation. This procedure requires extensive FAA Air Traffic coordination and aircraft separation to maintain levels of safety. It is for this reason that this noise abatement procedure is limited to when aircraft demand is at its lightest (typically midnight to 5AM) and when weather conditions are appropriate.

In June, the FAA suspended these types of operations at various facilities across the country so that a review of existing procedures could be evaluated. Initially, we were not sure whether this was just a short-term operational decision or more of a longer term change. Recently we were notified by the FAA that this suspension will probably continue through October and maybe beyond. As a result, Massport’s Noise Abatement Office has been coordinating with the FAA Air Traffic Control Tower (similar to the coordination that occurred during the closure of R33L Safety Area Project) and seek to continue to use, during the late night period, either the R33L-end for arrivals or the R15R-end for departures when possible while alternating the use of the second runway end to avoid overflying the same communities.

. . .

Bottom line: On January 16, Logan will resume opposite direction operations, weather permitting. ODO is not always possible, so we will still hear planes at night from time to time, but we should hear less than we have over the past 6 months..

Thank you to Myron Kassaraba for passing this information on.

Published by Will Brownsberger

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

17 replies on “A good news item on plane noise”

  1. This is great news! The night and early morning noise has been really annoying. I live in the Fresh Pond area of Cambridge.

  2. Thanks for this update and the good news. If the ODO procedure is followed consistently it will provide significant relief.

  3. Thank you to both you and Myron for passing this information. It will bring some relief. But if I read this correctly it is not sure it will be permanent. Am I correct? The statement’s language is somewhat confusing and vague.

    I am looking for some permanent changes that will allow us at least to sleep at night. This is good for now but will it last? The FAA seems to change the rules as it suits their needs without investing much thought into how much noise we are exposed to.

    The FAA is due to re-accreditation (not sure of the correct term) this fall so it’s clear they are doing more about noise reduction than they would normally do on a regular basis.

    The QuietBelmont group has a meeting on Wednesday January 28, 2015, 7:00 -9:00 p.m. at the Belmont Public Library, Flett Room. Anybody interested is welcome to join us.

    Will — thank you for your continuous support and effort with this issue.

  4. The FAA and Air Traffic Control (ATC) at Logan Airport are tasked with the safe and efficient operation of the airport. Logan does not have an overnight curfew which means that flights are allowed 24/7. ODO procedures were adopted at Logan and other airports as part of ongoing noise-abatement efforts to try to minimize over-land noise from arrivals and departures during the overnight time period (12 midnight to 6 am).

    As with all procedures – their use is dependent on factors such as wind, weather, safety, airport maintenance, etc. Procedures such as ODO or the Runway Use Trial are used by the ATC when possible. As Senator Brownsberger stated – once ODO resumes, we should see fewer late night and early morning departures from 33L than we have been experiencing. ODO (a.k.a. head-to-head) procedures have been the subject of safety concerns in the past (http://cnn.it/17g8H0Y) because of close-calls and we should expect that the FAA will be monitoring this closely not only at Logan – but nationwide.

    We can hope that the new protocols being put in place on Jan. 16th will allow ODO to continue to be used as a standard operating procedure.

  5. Will,

    Thanks for this. The bigger problem in Watertown remains the days when flights are relentless, from 5am to midnight, sometimes every 90 seconds, such as today.

    Can you let folks know what is happening re: addressing this? It is really intolerable for those of us directly under the flight path.


  6. I am in complete agreement with Andrea Cohen and her note here. Midnight to 5am – well, most actual human beings need more than 5 hours of sleep. Aircraft roar overhead relentlessly from 5 to midnight! Surely with the sophistication of computer guided travel (Nasa driving a rover around Mars, ESA landing a probe on a comet, Google driving cars without a driver!) the FAA can think more creatively than simply making every single aircraft take off and follow the same line over and over and over again. I’m sure they can evolve and use a more sophisticated system than this? Use the RNAV, but why not offset the flight patterns in a predictive way on a daily basis, such that we are spared the continual noise? Urge them to continue to think creatively and solve this problem. I am sure then can continue to safely ensure good and efficient take off procedures, use the RNAV, and vary the patterns to share the impact amongst all communities. Surely?

    1. Change is slow in a system as big as the FAA’s national traffic control. RNAV was a long time coming. It has barely arrived. My take, having studied it a bit is that the next thing will be decades in coming. Our best hope is in the continued improvement of aircraft technology. They are much quieter than they used to be.

      1. Thanks for the reply Will

        I really don’t think though that this makes for a good argument. Just because something took a long time to put in place, does not make it correct nor the right solution. Someone at the FAA needs to be mature enough to stand up and say ok, we tried this but it is not the right solution. I know that you and all of us are trying to be reasonable – but we are dealing with something that is completely unreasonable – the constant aircraft, one after another, every 2 minutes, all day. Is that a good solution? I’m sitting here listening to one roar overhead right now and wondering how much quieter that will need to be before it actually makes a difference – I reckon greater than 50%, more like 75-80% quieter. Is that reasonable – to hope in vain that aircraft could ever be that quiet – and sit here hoping for ‘decades’ before FAA do anything? Before this happens, then can evolve their narrow view on flight paths and move the noise around to be fair and reasonable to all. Please keep up the pressure and voice these thoughts to FAA. I’m sure they would like to continue to improve and strive for the best solution!

        1. Got it. The FAA has definitely heard these thoughts. We are doing what we can and have published a lot on it. Feel free to call anytime if you’d like to talk it through in more depth. 617-771-8274 is my cell.

  7. Hi –

    Thank you, Will, for continuing your work on this issue.

    However, I don’t understand why ODO not being used until 16 Jan doesn’t invalidate the first few months of BLANS. (and therefore BLANS should be extended by that amount of time, and the initial data not used for the evaluation.)

    Can you please explain it?

  8. I’m not a constituent, but I’d still like to thank you for your work and for making this information so accessible. Assuming the overall flight path is not likely to change, ODO is a good start. Statistics to monitor use of ODO would be helpful, as there do still seem to be cases where it could be applied as of May 2015. For example, according to the Passur app, an Airbus 340 routinely takes off on 33L around midnight, sometimes later (even with no wind)

    Another tweak to extend sleeping hours would be limiting take-off of the largest/loudest/lowest/stage III aircraft in the flight schedule when ambient noise is lowest, e.g. after 11 or before 6, or at least make some attempt to do so.

Comments are closed.