Update on Airplane Noise Reduction Recommendations


The International Center for Air Transportation (ICAT) at MIT has been studying noise from overhead airplanes in the communities surrounding Logan Airport, with a goal of recommending procedural modifications to Massport and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reduce the impact of the flight paths. The study has included extensive outreach via community meetings, including with the Massport Community Advisory Committee, and meetings with FAA and airline representatives. The researchers recently released an update on their study, which included several recommendations for departures coming off of runway 33L, noise from which affects Belmont and Watertown residents.

First, the researchers recommend reduced speed departures. While standard procedures vary by airline, a typical departure includes thrust reduction at 1,000 feet above ground level (AGL) and then acceleration to 250 knots climb speed. The proposal is to reduce this climb speed to the greater of either 220 knots or a clean operating speed. This proposal has been successfully simulated for flyability. However, reducing the climb speed would increase fuel burn and flight time.

Second, the report considers the possibility of re-introducing broader dispersion of flight paths for departures from runway 33L. Before the use of RNAV navigation procedures, flight paths were less concentrated and therefore noise from overhead airplanes was less frequent and less noticeable. There are two basic options for re-introduction of dispersion: open standard instrument departures (SIDs), which are RNAV procedures that include radar vector segments from air traffic control, or by flexible SIDs, which consists of direct air traffic control instruction based, for example, on an aircraft’s altitude.

Some next steps for the researchers include determining a minimum clean operating climb speed for common aircraft types, and developing a method of comparing open and flexible SID options in order to evaluate the impact of noise redistribution. ICAT will then evaluate implementation barriers to their recommendations, including aircraft performance, navigation and flight management, flight crew and air traffic control workload, and safety. Based on their results, they will then recommend modifications to Massport and the FAA.

Aja Watkins
Senator Brownsberger’s Office

6 replies on “Update on Airplane Noise Reduction Recommendations”

  1. From what I have heard, it’s plane landings that effect us more in Belmont and Watertown than it is take offs.

    1. I live in the area of East Watertown Departures are much more frequent and much noisier than arrivals. Sometimes, they go overhead or close to overhead as often as 1-2 minutes. They seem lower because this is a hilly area. Their engines roar and are disruptive even with windows closed, TV on and dishwasher running! Sleeping with ear plugs, I still hear them in early morning. Gardening or walking outside – forget it.

  2. Thanks, Will. I appreciate your keeping on top of this issue. I will say it’s been better recently, the past two or three weeks, although I’m not sure why. I don’t agree with David’s comment above–I find the departures are ten times louder than the arrivals, which seem to be on a more northerly vector. I’m very interested to see the final recommendations from ICAT. These recommendations are common sense, and take people on the ground into account, not just the airlines’ fuel costs. One small concern I have is that lower takeoff speeds will cause aircraft to be over us for a longer period of time.
    I urge anyone who’s bothered by the noise to file a complaint with MassPort at this website:


    Click on “Complaint” at the upper left, create an account, and write your complaint. It’s not helpful to write every day, just on those days when the noise is constant and interfering with your daily life.

  3. On 10/6 the airplane noise began at 10:30am and continued unabated until 8:15 PM – no longer than 3-4 minutes between departures. This truly has an adverse impact on quality of life – e.g. for working in the yard, reading on one’s porch.(I am retired so hear it all day)I have filed a complaint with Massport. I hope something will be done to alleviate this very stressful situation.
    (North Cambridge)

  4. Will,

    Thank you for publishing this information. It’s encouraging to see that the MIT study is progressing to the point where they will make actual recommendations.

    I’ve read the abstract from the July 17 paper on the Effects of Aircraft Flight Track Variability on Community Noise Exposure, and the conclusion it reaches is the commonsense one that one would have expected. Although there is a minor benefit from a slight reduction in aircraft speeds during departure, a much greater benefit is obtained by dispersing to departure routes over a wider area. Since the latter resembles the pre-RNAV flight patterns, it is not surprising that such a change would help to mitigate the effects caused by the introduction of that system.

    Now that scientific analysis has confirmed what commonsense told us all along we can only hope that the FAA and Massport administrators will quickly adopt these recommendations.

    Thank you for your continuing attention to this matter.

Comments are closed.