There have been several events recently regarding the increased airplane noise experienced by Belmont and Watertown residents (as well as parts of Arlington and Cambridge) as a result of the runway 33L RNAV departure procedures implemented by the FAA in June of 2013.
1. Runway Use Plan Test – for the past year, the Logan Community Advisory Committee (CAC) has been working with the FAA and Massport to devise a new Runway Use Policy for Logan. Starting on or about November 12th, 2014, the FAA will be conducting a test of this Runway Use Plan for a period of 3-6 months. You can read the full Media Release here. In summary – the Runway Use Plan provides guidelines for the FAA Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) at Logan to make adjustments to which runways are used from day-to-day, morning-hours to evening hours. The objective is, weather permitting, to switch which runway configurations are used from one time period to the next to try to provide some relief from constant or repetitive use of a particular configuration. Some of you may have noticed that runway 33L, which is used for departures when there is a NW wind, can sometimes be used for what seems like several days in a row – especially after a low pressure system blows through. In some cases, if the wind is above a certain strength, it is not possible to use a different runway (planes need to take off into the wind). The plan says that, if it is possible, the runway configuration used from 8:30 pm-Midnight would ideally not be used the next day from 6 am to 9:30 am. A different runway use plan is already used for the Midnight-to-6am overnight period. What the FAA hopes to test with their trial of the Runway Use Plan is if this can be administered by ATC and if it will provide some relief to the continuous use of a specific runway configuration. What this Plan will not do: it will have no effect whatsoever on the flight paths and altitudes used by planes landing or departing using a specific runway. It will also not affect the frequency of planes when a particular runway configuration is in use. It will also likely not have an appreciable impact on how frequently a particular runway configuration is used over the course of a month or year. So the net for those who are concerned about the increase in noise from runway 33L RNAV is that this is not intended to, nor will it address, the concentrated RNAV flight paths from 33L departures which have caused the increased flight traffic over Belmont and Watertown.
2. As Senator Brownsberger reported previously in his post from a few weeks ago , Congresswoman Katherine Clark, who has been very active and supportive of questioning the FAA about the effects changes such as 33L RNAV have had on communities in her district, has joined with 11 other US House Members to form the Quiet Skies Caucus. The reason this is significant is the control of the flight paths once an aircraft has left the runway at Logan belongs 100% to the Federal Aviation Administration. This is the Federal Agency chartered by Congress to manage our air traffic network. For those of you who have been following this issue and the efforts of the Belmont Selectmen, Belmont CAC Representatives, Senator Brownsberger, Representatives Hecht and Rogers to find a way to see if there is any way to get relief – all roads lead back to the FAA. We have written letters to the Regional head of the FAA, requested an expanded post-implementation review, held several meetings with Massport, requested a noise study and the answer has been the same – the FAA feels as though they followed the rules and regulations governing the decision to implement 33L RNAV and they plan to continue to use those flight paths. The six month post-implementation review confirmed that the planes were flying the routes as expected and despite our requests, they did not take into consideration the huge increase in noise complaints or community objections in their review. Congresswoman Clark and her staff have been actively engaged with this issue and she herself met with FAA representatives in Washington over the summer. We are not the only region in the country that has been affected by changes by the FAA such as RNAV. Since Congress appropriates the funding and sets policy for the FAA, any changes to the rules and regulations which might provide us with relief depend on action in Washington. By joining forces with Congressional Representatives from other states such as California, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota and New York as well as Representative Mike Capuano (MA 7th District and Member of the Aviation Subcommittee), the Caucus can have a platform for advocating for the FAA to review their policies and work to acknowledge and address the issues with new procedures such as RNAV.
The CAC Reps from Arlington, Belmont and Watertown as well as our local representatives are working to schedule a public information meeting on this issue in the near future. Unfortunately, as Senator Brownsberger has stated in his analysis of the noise measurement data from the test Massport did in Belmont last March, – there are no easy solutions here. The levels of noise we are experiencing – though annoying and objectionable to many residents – do not rise to the thresholds considered by the FAA to be excessive. Our recommendation continues to be to file noise complaints with Massport ((617) 561-3333 or visit their online form ) as that creates a consistent pattern of resident objections to the impact of these RNAV flight paths. Also, reaching out to Congresswoman Clark and Senator Markey to express your support of their efforts to get the FAA to review how they are assessing the impact of changes such as RNAV would also be helpful.
Belmont Rep to the Logan CAC