Residents hear update on Logan airplane noise from CAC reps and legislators

The Belmont and Watertown Community Advisory Committees held a joint public meeting on December 3 to update the public on airplane noise from Logan.

The Selectmen’s Room at the Belmont Town Hall was full with approximately 50 residents from Belmont, Watertown, Arlington and Cambridge. Myron Kassaraba, the Belmont CAC representative gave a slide presentation, and remarks were heard from Jennifer McAndrew of Congresswoman Katherine Clark’s office, Senator Will Brownsberger, Representative Jon Hecht, and Representative Dave Rogers. Also attending were Kate Moore, Regional Director for Clark’s office and Kelsey Perkins, Constituent Service Representative for Senator Elizabeth Warren. A question and answer period followed. The meeting was recorded by the Belmont Media Center and can be viewed at this link.

Airplane Noise meeting 12_3_14


It was an interesting meeting — a lot of good information was put on the table.

Hopeful points included:

  1. Federal, state and local officials are working together across levels to try to make a difference on this issue. A lot of good work has been done to understand the issue and explore possible responses.
  2. The FAA is experimenting with changing runways more frequently. Neighborhoods will experience roughly the same total amount of noise, but will not be subjected to continuing noise for days without relief unless necessary. Some in the group reported that they felt that the benefits of this already and it is a very positive change.
  3. Although Logan has been announcing additional international service lately, the total volume of traffic is down over the last 15 years. That’s only a minor consolation to the neighborhoods who have experienced increased overhead traffic as a result of pattern changes.
  4. Jet engines have gotten a lot quieter over the past couple of decades and that trend may continue.

Perspectives on the politics of the problem were diverse. Some expressed feelings that the FAA is a bad agency and that a long term national struggle is called for to address FAA overreach. Others (and I was in this group) expressed that the FAA is overall doing a pretty good job modernizing air traffic control and over the long term, we can hope that planes will to continue get quieter as a result of continuing improvement in aircraft technology. What all effectively agreed on is that (a) the basic traffic pattern will not change soon; (b) we will continue to do whatever we can to make improvements in the situation.

Follow up questions from the meeting (and from correspondence after the meeting) included:

  1. Are the neighborhoods that experience direct overflights are experiencing increased air pollution as a result? We will seek some information on this.
  2. Can we get Belmont and Watertown added to the new Logan Citizens Advisory Committee structure. We will definitely seek to address this issue legislatively the next chance we get.
  3. Could Massport, through landing fee changes create stronger incentives to use quieter planes and avoid night flights? We will seek some information on this.
  4. Are there strategies that residents can take to reduce noise infiltration into their homes? The answer to this is yes. Many of the strategies that help make homes energy efficient also tend to reduce noise. It’s first of all about closing open channels through which noise and cold air infiltrate directly. Just a little opening can let in a lot of noise (as when a car window is just cracked open). It’s second of all about adding insulating mass into walls. Some substances block noise better than they block heat loss — for example massive bricks and stones conduct heat energy but stop noise. Foam stops heat loss, but does little to impede noise. Cellulose insulation blown into stud bays is pretty massive but also stops heat loss. Double and triple pane windows help with both noise and heat loss, but they cannot take the place of a full insulation job that increases the insulating properties of the walls. Of course, insulation and sealing don’t cut noise when the windows are open in good weather.
MassPort has responded with answers to the following questions:

  1. Are the neighborhoods that experience direct overflights are experiencing increased air pollution as a result? Boston Logan accounts for less than 2% of the region’s emissions. Emissions from airport related aircraft activity are at their highest concentration on the airport proper and rapidly fall off at the airport boundary. The FAA’s Environmental Assessment (EA) approving the R33L RNAV departure includes a review of air quality. Related to air quality, the EA concludes “ The FAA includes air traffic control activities and adopting approach, departure and enroute procedures for air operations in their list of presumed-to-conform actions, thereby indicating that these types of actions will not exceed de minimis emissions levels.”[sic.] (page 4-9)
  2. Could Massport, through landing fee changes create stronger incentives to use quieter planes and avoid night flights? The regulation of emissions (noise and air) at the source (the jet engine) is within the exclusive jurisdiction of FAA/federal government. The Airport Noise and Capacity Act severely restricts the airport’s ability to impose access restrictions on aircraft. Since its enactment in 1990, no access restriction on stage 3 aircraft has been approved by the FAA. Our most recent analysis of Logan’s fleet shows that 97.4% (2013) of aircraft jet operations at Boston Logan meet stage 4 requirements, the latest and highest standard for noise emissions currently adopted by the FAA. This latest technology also reflects the most recent advancements in fuel burn efficiency and air emissions reductions.

9 replies on “Residents hear update on Logan airplane noise from CAC reps and legislators”

  1. Thank you for hosting the meeting and posting the materials and update. I’d like to ask that Arlington be added to the new Logan Citizens Advisory Committee structure as well, if it is not already included, as two of the flight paths run right over Arlington. Should I direct this request to my rep and senator? I appreciate your ongoing work on this issue.

  2. My wellbeing research still in progress, indicates that industrial noise and fumes of all kinds including airplane noise (and that includes small planes which are quite noisy here in East Watertown when they do go overhead) is extremely destructive to wellbeing. It’s pretty hard to seal up every place noise comes into a home, but worse, it’s critical for good mental and physical health that we be outside in sunlight or just natural light much more than we are, that more of our exercise–even just walking–be done outside, and that we need nature much more than we’re getting it in cities. When people go into their gardens, a neighborhood park, or even their balconies or patios, it’s because they need calm and serenity. Major metropolitan areas are now proven to be so high-stress to live in compared to other areas that anxiety and stress-related illnesses (which are many) are much higher in those areas (such as the Boston area). So jet noise inside the home is only part of the problem. It’s true that quieter engines are being designed for other equipment too and we do need to encourage (and I’d say require) more of that for the same reason–city-dwellers are highly stressed already and the noise (and fumes) from motors and engines of all kinds stress them further. They are called “happiness busters” by some researchers, and the fumes aggravate and even cause asthma. Children living near airports learn more slowly and do markedly worse in school. Asthma in children is definitely increased by industrial fumes. Thanks for any efforts already made, but the assault on all people by industrial noise and the air pollution that goes with most of it is causing a lot of misery and certainly that stress shows up in healthcare costs as people become ill from many stresses at once. (Nature exposure is proven to reduce crime, actually, but if one’s time in nature is accompanied by industrial noise and fumes the time is wasted–the healthy effects of nature on us are lost in those cases, not just from planes but from needlessly powerful, loud, and polluting lawn equipment, artificially-loud motors some drivers and motor cycle owners pay to get because they like it! We all, including travelers and other users of planes, will ultimately benefit mood-wise and health-wise from the decreased stress we’ll feel from less noise. And it will make our city a much nicer place to visit. We can set an example for other metropolitan areas by continuing to work hard on this problem

  3. I want to apologize for the lack of paragraph breaks in my long message of Dec. 10th, which made it hard to read. My computer’s been doing strange things when I jump a space.

  4. We have this problem in North Cambridge as well. All of my neighbors were greatly disturbed this summer. Interestingly is seems that people as close as Avon Hill are not bothered by this. I’m not sure if this is because of the extensive tree cover there, flight path, or if the much higher home values there mean that more people there cool off with central air systems there vs fans and window ACs up here.

    Some things that struck me were:

    The overflights seemed to be most prevalent on moderate temperature evenings – exactly the evenings that one would tend to shut off the AC and let the house air out.

    These very late night flyovers were typically followed by very early morning traffic the next day, leaving only 4 hours or so of quiet. Tracking showed that these were usually international late night departures.

    I called to complain about 25% of the time I was bothered and almost every time I was informed that the traffic pattern was changed due to scheduled runway maintenance. I found this interesting. Is there any possibility that “runway maintenance” is suddenly scheduled in order to direct traffic over lower income neighborhoods on temperate evenings?

    It would be greatly useful if scheduled maintenance could be publicly posted in advance so those impacted could plan ahead.

    It is also vital that late night traffic on runway 33L not be immediately followed by early morning use the next day.

    Late night departures over populated areas should not ever be allowed between the hours of 11pm and 6 or 7 am.

    Those of us under this new path live in homes that are not fitted with noise blocking windows and insulation. I chose this neighborhood specifically because it was quiet and insulated and changed my windows just before the runway changes went into effect.

    And if we think it’s bad here, try visiting the Home Depot in Everett when this runway is being used. I was there once during a rare daytime use and the shovels were jumping around in the racks. It was deafening.

    Thank you for your attention to this matter.

  5. Massport’s answer to #2 is deliberately misunderstanding the suggestion.

    According to Massport’s own website, Hanscom charges a fee for 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. operations.

    Why can’t the same be done at Logan?

    1. Sorry we missed this question. We’ll try to get an answer on the difference — it may be that as MassPort explained new not charges cannot easily be levied; the Hanscom charge may have a long history.

      1. Expanding upon MassPort’s answer to question 2 above: the night landing fee at Hanscom Field was in place prior to the 1990 Airport Noise and Capacity Act (ANCA) as such, Hanscom’s night landing fee was grandfathered.

        In order to implement a similar system at Logan, MassPort would face a significant regulatory hurdle. Under the ANCA, such a fee system would be considered an airport access restriction and required to overcome a significant procedural burden by showing that the restriction:

        1) is reasonable, nonarbitrary, and nondiscriminatory;
        2) not create an undue burden on interstate or foreign commerce;
        3) maintain safe and efficient use of airspace;
        4) not conflict with any existing federal statute or regulation;
        5) provide adequate opportunity for public comment; and
        6) create no undue burden on the national aviation system.

        While it would be possible to implement such a restriction, unfortunately as stated in MassPort’s answer above, no restrictions have been granted since the implementation of the ANCA in 1990. If MassPort were interested in pursuing such a restriction, it would likely be an expensive, time consuming and ultimately unsuccessful endeavor.

        Andrew Bettinelli
        Legislative Aide
        Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

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