Federal appeals court denies review to Hanscom airport opponents

By Lisa Lipman, Associated Press, 10/23/2001 16:49

BOSTON (AP) A federal appeals court has denied an appeal for a detailed
review of the expansion of commercial air service at Hanscom Field in
Bedford, claiming the preservation group that brought the appeal only
offered ''gauzy generalizations'' about why it was needed.

A coalition of preservation groups and towns have long argued that Hanscom's
growth into a commercial airport will harm a host of nearby historic sites,
which include Revolutionary War battle fields and sites associated with some
of America's most important authors.

Save Our Heritage, the group that asked for the appeal, argued that the
Federal Aviation Administration should have conducted a review under the
National Historic Preservation Act before allowing Shuttle America to fly
seven roundtrip flights per day between Hanscom and New York's LaGuardia
Airport last fall.

Shuttle America spokesman Mark Cestari said the appeals court made the right

''Shuttle America has never attempted or wished to change a single rule
governing the operations there, or to push the envelope environmentally,''
Cestari said.

He said that Shuttle America's flights constitute less than 5 percent of the
total operations at Hanscom.

The appeals court recognized that the FAA's report, which found that the
additional flights would not affect the area, could ''be overcome by
sustained and organized rebuttal.'' But it also said that ''nothing offered
by the petitioners approaches such an effort.''

''Gauzy generalizations and pin-prick criticisms, in the face of such
specific findings and a plausible result, are not even a start at a serious
assault,'' the court wrote in its decision.

The court did say that although the additional flights to LaGuardia were a
minor increase in Hanscom air traffic, the cumulative effect of future FAA
approvals could harm the area. Since the court was ''not faced with any such
developed claim in this case,'' it ruled against the preservation group.

Anna Winter, director of Save Our Heritage, said the group took consolation
in the court's recognition of the potential impact of increased flights at

''We will not rest until our communities obtain meaningful influence over
the future of this airport, which lies so close to the birthplace of
American freedom and democracy,'' Winter said.

She was philosophical about the group's defeat.

''You try every avenue open to you,'' she said, ''And there are going to be
paths that lead in the right direction, and there are going to be obstacles.
But battles like this are worth fighting.''

Shuttle America, which has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, has
halted the LaGuardia service, but Cestari said it hopes to resume the
flights eventually.

Commercial service from Hanscom began in 1999, when Shuttle America began
running shuttle service to Trenton, N.J., Buffalo, N.Y., and Greensboro,
N.C. a total of 10 flights a day.

The company said it will begin six roundtrip flights between Hanscom and
Philadelphia and five roundtrip flights between Hanscom and Trenton, N.J. on

The Massachusetts Port Authority is pushing for the expansion as part of its
continuing efforts to divert some air traffic away from Logan Airport.

Opponents wanted the FAA review to be carried out now, before piecemeal
development harms the historic area, which includes Minuteman National Park,
the Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge, and Walden Woods. Shuttle America

''We have been respectful of Save Our Heritage's position, but we wouldn't
have proposed these flights if we felt we could not coexist harmoniously
with the towns involved,'' Cestari said.

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