Airplane Noise — Massport R-NAV Hearing/Forum

Massport Notice

Massport will host an informational and input hearing regarding the R-NAV Study.

Representatives from Massport, the FAA, the R-NAV Study MIT Team and the Massport Community Advisory Committee will be presenting.

WHEN: Wednesday ,February 22nd, 2017 6:00– 8:00PM

WHERE: State Transportation Building Conference Room, 10 Park Plaza Boston

This meeting will discuss the scope and methodology of the study on ways to reduce airplane noise announced in this post.

This is an issue that we have been working hard on for some time. For more background, please see this thread of my posts on the subject.

Presentation Materials from Meeting

I wasn’t actually to able attend the meeting myself, but I did previously have the opportunity to speak with the presenters.

In a nutshell, the study that they are conducting seeks to look at the possibility of reducing the concentrated impact of take off noise by (a) spreading planes around spatially (partially reversing the current trend towards concentrated navigation); (b) moving planes to routes that disturb fewer people (water); (c) keeping the planes up higher or getting them high earlier; (d) “speed drag management”. See page 30 of the presentation — link below.

They aren’t promising that any of these ideas will work, but they are going to give them all careful study.

Here is a link to their presentation.

Extended Comment from Myron Kassaraba

Thanks Senator Brownsberger for your steadfast support that has helped facilitate the Massport RNAV Study. For those of you who are just coming to this issue – this has been a long road for the past almost four years and progress has been slow and often frustrating. We are finally getting what we have been asking for – that the 33L RNAV SID procedure implemented in June of 2013 be reexamined and alternatives such as dispersion and getting planes higher faster are being explored and considered.

The 33L effort led by CAC Reps from Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge and Watertown has been focused, consistent, persistent, data-driven and supported by numerous local officials, State Legislators (thank you Reps Dave Rogers and Jon Hecht) our Congressional delegation and with the strong activism and advocacy from the Boston West Fair Skies citizen’s group (thanks to Adriana Poole and others) – not to mention the extensive data analysis and visualization by Kent Johnson and more recently Luke Preisner. The scope of the study is limited to looking at RNAV procedures at Logan. New RNAV procedures implemented in 2013 introduced the now well-documented “rails” of concentration of departing flights over populated communities to the west (R33L in June 2013) and south (R27 in March 2013) of Boston. Many communities and neighborhoods were in the footprint of these departures prior to the implementation of RNAV. Post implementation there are those in that previous footprint that now have the “rails” and are more impacted and those who don’t have the “rails” are less impacted. The lens of fairness and equity in the case of a specific procedure has to do with the distribution and sharing of the burden/impact in the footprint from that procedure.

As Chris Marchi from East Boston has mentioned – it did not change things appreciably for closer-in communities that have always had a rail over them. RNAV is also not all bad as the precision can be used to route planes away from land and over water or unpopulated areas. Residents in Hull are asking for flights to be shifted further over the harbor to avoid flying directly over their peninsula and that too is part of the study.

The RNAV Study is a major step taken by Massport with support from the FAA to respond to specific issues with procedures at Logan. There are many issues that were brought up at the meeting last Wednesday and in these comments here that are important but are not in the scope of the RNAV Study. These include noisy planes (A320 whine, old MD80’s), potential increases in flight volume – especially in the afternoon and late evening hours from more international flights (to be made more attractive by the expansion of Terminal E), increases in overnight operations that are encroaching on sleep and ways to decrease repetitive use of runway configurations. Health impacts of stress from noise, lack of sleep and air pollution are also very important considerations – especially to those with the greatest levels of exposure. For communities like East Boston – there are also on-the-ground impacts like traffic beyond just planes overhead.

Potential remedies for RNAV concentration may be challenging to implement. I am hopeful that the examination by the team at MIT will be comprehensive in exploring alternatives and that there will be more opportunities like last week for the study team to interact with the public and elected officials as options are considered. Once options are proposed – it will be up to the FAA to implement them.

Among the best things to come from the meeting last week was the realization that for every issue that one community or neighborhood is experiencing – there is another group of residents in the region that is experiencing their own issue. Looking at specific procedural issues introduced by new RNAV flight paths is important and necessary but should be pursued in parallel with the other concerns that are equally important that are having an impact on the health and quality of life for people in the region. We should all be working together to more fully understand these various issues and to seek solutions.

Myron Kassaraba
Town of Belmont Representative, Logan CAC & Massport CAC

Published by Will Brownsberger

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

40 replies on “Airplane Noise — Massport R-NAV Hearing/Forum”

  1. The R Nav system is causing contrated noise over the same route on a constant basis, The main reasons for implementing this procedure was to reduce delays and save fuel. This is only to benefit the airlines bottom line and cause bad noise pollution impacts on communities under the flight paths. Although this procedure doesn’t impact East Boston I oppose it ! ! !

  2. I’m unable to attend that night, but I’m so glad to see that this meeting is happening. For the last couple of months in particular, the noise over my home in Belmont (on the edge of Cambridge and Watertown) has increased. It is particularly noticeable at night and has even woke me up from sleep a few times. I don’t know what has changed, but airplane noise never used to be a problem in this area. Sure, you had the occasional airplane, but nothing like in recent months. Please advocate for changes back to the old flight paths, to better benefit the communities.

  3. I will be out of town this week and not be able to attend the meeting. But feel free to speak for me: the airplane noise has been awful — a major impediment to enjoying life in North Cambridge. Also, please notify me if there’s anything I can do to help your efforts to address this problem. I’m ready, willing, and able.

    Thank you for your work on this issue.

  4. Sorry. I have to please ignorance on this matter. I’m bothered more by the noise of students shouting at night in the streets of Brighton where I live. I don’t hear excessive airplane noise. I’ve visited Queens, NYC and walked along the busy streets in early evening, and the airplane noise there is frequent. Tough to live with that. I don’t find this area to be like that though. However, if the airplane noise bothers some people in East Boston, South Boston then certainly they have the right to speak out.

    1. Anne, If you look at this

      you’ll see that Brighton is not at all close to this path. What you see is the southernmost path used in the new configuration; there are two small similar ones that impact E. Arlington but none further to the south or south east from what you see.

      Its a kind of all-or-nothing situation. Luckily you’re not in the “all” pathways they created

  5. I have become extremely sensative to the increased noise & frequency of planes over my house in Belmont. On days when the planes depart Logan to the west, they fly over every 60 seconds – I’ve timed them – for hours on end. On days when planes arrive at Logan from the west, they fly over late into the night/morning, waking me up – and I am a relatively sound sleeper. The result on my temperment and well-being range from annoyance to anxiety to crazy-thoughts…I would never act on this, but I have literally had moments when I stop seeing planes as conveyers of innocent people and instead as an enemies to my sanity and objects that I’d like to see disappear in a rather immediate and drastic way. I mention this only for Massport to understand what that kind of repetitive noise can do to normal people, those of ud well outside their [very small] designated perimeter/radius for subsidized noise mitigating house insulation.

  6. I will not be able to attend the meeting, but I would like to strongly voice my concern about the increased noise from airplanes over Belmont in the past few years. Having moved here 10 years ago from Somerville, where the flyover noise was deafening, I was so glad to be in a town that felt quiet and peaceful–until the change in flight patterns. It’s a constant source of background stress all year and is particularly invasive in the summer when windows are open. Affects quality of daily life and health in a very detrimental way.

  7. I will not be able to attend the meeting but I am also very concerned about the increased airplane noise. When I bought my house in East Boston 7 years ago I heard an airplane perhaps once every two weeks. Now I hear it early in the morning and late at night (11:30 PM – 2 AM)every day. The only solution is a regional airport away from heavily populated areas and this has been the only solution for the past 25 years. Lacking this solution, Lacking this solution, in my opinion there should be no flights after 11 pm and before 6 am.

  8. I am a Belmont resident and so far the airplane noise has not been a problem. The planes are usually flying at a high altitude. The flight patterns often depend on weather, wind direction etc. I accept this as a consequence of having an easily accessible international airport. Other communities nearer the airport have much more reason to complain.

    1. The fact is, a change was made. That change was for the convenience and benefit of the airlines. Prior to the change, there was a typical level of urban airport related flyover noise. After the change, selected populations bear the very large brunt of the noise.

      That is what is at issue. It not whether airplanes make noise when flying out of an urban airport. It is the change that was decided, de facto, that certain neighborhoods were to be subject to highly concentrated noise levels and extended duration, whenever routine N/ NW wind conditions exist.

    2. Yes, residents in on-close neighborhood’s literally get hundreds of times more noise, but we support our further our neighbors! Nobody deserves to shoulder an unfair portion of the Health and environmental impacts of airports.

      We need to reconsider our approach here! Air travel should be seen as a sometimes necessary evil. Air pollution and noise from Logan has ALREADY been oroven to cause 360% increase in Probable Childhood Asthma (basically undiagnosed Asthma) and 200% increase in COPD. Other research connects airport pollution to stroke, hypertension, autism, heart disease, sleep interruption, depression, anxiety, stress…

      Massport and FAA should pioneer procedures to fan out RNAVs to provide relief for residents impacted by them AND they should stop making excuses and AGGRESSIVELY seek to promote travel through Manchester Boston and TF Green. Addition of the CAT III landing system at Worcester might help, but that airport only handles about 300,000 flights a year and is not well-served by ground access…

      The key is to reduce flights overall.

  9. I agree with the other Belmont residents who have commented on this topic. The plane noise is constant and unbearable, especially in fairer weather when windows are open and one is likely to be outside. And Belmont is 12 miles away from the airport! I’m sure it’s far worse for those closer. Can you put in a word about the helicopters too while you’re at the meeting? I heard that they are suppose to travel along the Rt 2 corridor, but they travel over my yard! They are worse than the planes because of their low altitude. I imagine surface to air missiles whenever they pass overhead.

  10. In the last two months the planes seem to be flying lower, creating even more noise. I do not remember hearing them inside an old, stucco house with very thick walls and all windows closed last winter. Now I hear them day and night and it will be worse in spring when we open the windows.

  11. In addition to the items mentioned here, a specific area for concern for me is late-night flights. This has abated since the fall, actually, but that may be a weather thing.

    With a wind out of the SW there are regularly planes flying loudly over Belmont (and I assume elsewhere) at 11pm. I love the goals listed in the other threads, but if nothing else happens besides reducing the number take-offs between 9pm and 6am I’d consider it a success.

    1. Massport plans to accommodate an average of 28 additional flights (almost all commercial jets) due to their expanded Terminal E, which was just-approved by EOEA. Combined with an additional expected 13 might flights at the other Terminals, we can expect 41 additional night time operations by 2030 or sooner every day. Grand total over the average year in the future?

      14,965 ADDITIONAL flights between 10:00 pm and 5:00 am per year

      Ocerall, Massport is planning on over 100,000 additional operations per year by 2030 or before

      This is a 30% increase in flights and it will bring a 30% increase in noise, air pollution and the associated health impacts.

      The source of this information is the Terminal E Modernization FEIR and the 2014 ESPR

    1. They schedule meetings and responses to documents arounf holidays and seasonally inconvenient times. Their modus operandi.

  12. I am a norther Cambridge resident, living in the flight path for jets headed over Belmont and Watertown. It remarkable how the flights are constant, often continuous as one plane passes overhead and another the roar of the next one coming can already be heard. This situation has developed within the past couple of years, and the first 12 years we lived here the plane noise was’t noticable. I understand the explanations but don’t understand how this could not be changed with a will to do so. this seems to be benefiting the airlines at the expense of the folks in the flight path.

  13. This is nothing short of building a highway next the selected sacrificial populations, without any input or hearings or public due diligence.

    What you will hear is that overall, the greater Boston population is being subjected to much lower, and less overall noise over past time periods. What this implies is that we, victims of the improved method should be understanding that though the quality of our lives have been significantly deteriorated, it is for the greater good. Further, it helps the overall quality of life for the largest number of people.

    This is simplistic governmental thinking at its worst. They do NOT like to admit errors or make changes once a decision has been made.

    Planes are passing over our heads at under 5,000 feet, and occasionally at under 4,000 ft. And at times as high as 8,000 feet at the same location, for the same flight path, which makes no sense.

    For those of you who are not hearing or bothered by the noise, the answer is very simple. You don’t live under one of the “highways” that has been designated by the FAA/Massport, and you are not one of the sacrificial neighborhoods.

    The entire thing is a disgrace and an arrogant use of administrative power over due process.

  14. This may be of help.

    It is the path that the large majority of flights take; it repeats over and over when winds are N/W/or NW.

    Note that at the point indicated, it is below 5,000 ft. They may be higher or lower than that, along the pathway indicated. If you live under or near this path, you know what its like to hear roaring jets at 7AM and 11PM, and at any time inbetween. If not, you are very lucky.

  15. The best way to handle the MassPort problem is to make the top dog of MassPort an elected position making that agency callable to the public. In a way they are callable to the Legislature, but they are too coward to confront them on the issue

    1. Careful what you wish for. Remember that a lot of the people traveling in and out of Logan vote and do not live under the flight paths. The real problem with Massport is that it depends on all of its revenue from air and sea traffic so is not motivated to use noise pricing on landing fees to push airlines to use quieter planes. The MA legislature could force them to do so.

  16. Is there a phone number to dial into this meeting? I am out of town this week and really want to hear this discussion.

    I live in Belmont and this is a constant annoyance. I have written to the FAA and massport with little to no help all. In Watertown about two miles from
    Waverly square you would think the jets are landing near boylston street it’s so loud.

    Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.

  17. Thank you for continuing to investigate possible changes to the unacceptable air traffic noise in the Watertown area.
    I do love my home and would hate to have to move due to late night and early morning flights…

  18. Thank you Will for keeping us all informed. I went but they cut off the speakers, several dozen people were left out of the process even though we signed in. The planes are so noisy, so low, and so incessant, day and night that we feel we are slowly going out of our minds. It’s intolerable.

    I have one thought: could they send those planes to some of the 7 new planets discovered- and also put Trump on one of them?
    Cynthia Tollen

  19. Massport provides “Flight Monitor [which] allows you to watch the time-delayed movement of aircraft within the Greater Boston area “. Go to and click the “Launch” button at the bottom of the page. Also contains info on how to use it.
    Flight Monitor shows a map of the Boston area, with identified planes taking off and landing from Logan. The view is delayed by 10 minutes, so if you hear a noisy plane, check what time it is, start up FM, and 10 minutes later you will see the “plane” going over, including airline and flight #, speed and altitude. You can also click on the “plane” to complain about its noise. Furthermore, you can pick any time in the past to replay who was flying where – like when you are kept awake from 5-5:30 am when the planes start flying.
    FM lets you easily see the 2 standard paths that planes using 33L take over W. Cambridge, Belmont, and Watertown….

  20. What I find fascinating about this as a former (lightplane) pilot is that RNAV, which should have made it easier to spread out paths compared to using fixed-in-place beacons, has been used to concentrate loud aircraft into narrow paths deemed most efficient (by some process not explained in this presentation). Paths for landing are traditionally straight for safety (although note that jets flying into DC must follow several bends in the river when it’s visible, suggesting that descent paths could sometimes be more flexible); for departures, why is it not possible to give slightly different routes to ~successive planes?

  21. Thanks Will. I’m glad that Massport et al. are making efforts to address residents’ concerns about aircraft noise.

  22. Thank you for posting. The airplane noise and frequency between 5-10am in my area is unacceptable. We cannot let our voices not be heard as airlines squeeze every dollar from consumers and the FAA and Massport trample over our concerns. I am concerned for my health, my children’s and my neighbors. As a lifelong resident of this area, the recent changes are unacceptable. To keep our city thriving, one must consider the health and living standards of the people living in it.

  23. Thanks, Will. Your tenacity is very much appreciated.
    In my neighborhood, the planes seem to start flying over at about 11PM and sometimes keep it up for a couple of hours. Not conducive to sleep, to say the least.

  24. Using a noise monitor, I have monitored the noise level generated by the planes that fly over Belmont between May 17th and May 18th 2017. As the planes pass, the monitor records noise levels in excess of 80dbA. The planes created noise that ranged from 66-90 dbA. The FAA acceptable noise levels for residential areas is 65 dbA (
    When a noise level in excess of 65 dba persists from 2pm to 12am none-stop, as happened on May 17th,there is only one way to describe it; abuse.

    I watched the planes pass between 6:30 and 7:30 and was able to see their logo, which means they were flying low over our heads.

    There were very few planes that did not generate a lot of noise while others had the monitor go all the way to 90 dbA.
    The planes generated noise above that acceptable by the FAA. How can that be permissible and by what right or procedure? What I recorded is not a fluke, I took the trouble of monitoring because the planes noise was above what I consider humane since last May. Is anyone thinking what could this be doing to children?

    1. Hi Abier,

      I know it has been bad. But there is some movement on the issue.

      As to the levels, I know this is no consolation, but they are not in violation (actually not close).

      The 65 DNL level is not an instantaneous measurement, it is basically a complicated average level on a 24 hour basis.

      So, in a 65 DNL area, there can be events that go above that level for a some seconds or minutes.

      For more on how the math works, please see this link.

  25. Thank You Senator,
    The average I got over the past 24 hours was 75 dba.
    I will not dispute or argue about how the FAA calculates the 65dba. The point I am making is that the planes generate a noise level above that deemed acceptable by the FAA which happens to be be 65 dba and not 70 or 80 dba.
    Based on that, I am wondering, how can exposing people to this noise level for hours on end be permissible? Isn’t waking people up at 1:00 am to a noise that exceeds 80dba a violation of the sanctity of their homes?

    How can it be permissible to expose children and adults for random sudden bursts of loud noise, exceeds 65dba, that have no predictable pattern? How is that different from torture?

    To consider the matter from another perspective, the FAA did not decide that the flight path will go over one corridor, the flight path designated by the FAA is 8 nautical miles wide— practically the entire breadth of Boston.
    It is the Airport and state officials that decide which path the planes go and how high they fly as they take off from Boston. The decision was made, to create what has been called ” sacrificial towns” and make the planes disturb some of Boston’s population during the day and night for hours on end while keeping the majority happy.

    Sacrificing a few for the good of the community can be acceptable if it is voluntary. When it is imposed by the state upon a minority, it is called slavery. It is brutal, callus, ugly, and undemocratic.

    The Airport and the state can mitigate the problem by making everyone bear the burden of having an airport and not only a few. It is the state’s duty to protect its citizens against those who violate their right to sleep and rest.
    The Airport should go back to working the way it did in the first decade of this century. If they want to do things differently, they have to do it humanely and the price cannot be the well being of people even if it was one person.

    Thanks again,
    Abier Shamma

    1. HI Abier, This is a big issue and we have spent a lot of time trying to improve it and we are making some limited progress. If you’d like to get an understanding of all of our efforts and where things stand, I’d be happy to meet with you or speak by phone.

  26. I’m living on the boarder line of Malden and Medford. The airplane fly right across my neighborhood. You hear it roaring every HALF minute every night from 6pm to maybe 1am. It’s unbearable. It’s getting warm and people take a walk after dinner. You can see 4 planes in the sky at the same time. You can always be waken up at midnights or early In the morning at 5am. It’s getting worse year after year. I called FAA couple times, no solution of course.
    I wish I can be provided with some insulation in my house. I’ve been searching for solutions but looks like I have very good Windows already. It’s devastating!


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