Boston Globe -- NorthWest section
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Noise monitors to track loud planes at Hanscom Field
By Davis Bushnell, Globe Correspondent
New, state-of-the-art noise-monitoring systems aimed at gathering data on
excessively loud aircraft more quickly will be installed over the next year
at Hanscom Field in Bedford and Logan International Airport in Boston. The
Massachusetts Port Authority owns and operates both airports.
Massport recently signed a $2.3 million contract with Rannoch Corp., an
Alexandria, Va.-based engineering firm that specializes in hardware and
software systems for aviation and aerospace applications. The pact includes
a five-year operating agreement, said Richard Walsh, a Massport spokesman.
The ''antiquated" systems in place at the two airports will be replaced
gradually, Walsh said, emphasizing that a new website will allow anyone to
identify, by time and date, aircraft that were reportedly exceeding noise
thresholds. The website's launch date is still uncertain.
''This information will be more readily available than it is now," he said.
Under the current system, microphones are used to measure the decibel levels
of aircraft taking off and landing at Logan and Hanscom, and the time of
each take-off and landing, the aircraft and the decibel level goes into a
monthly report. The information, which is available to the public from
Massport, can be used to match noise complaints with aircraft decibel
However, only annual noise reports are now available online at the MassPort
The new system will have more sensitive microphones and it will make monthly
reports available at the website.
The new system will also make it easier for officials and the public to
monitor take-offs and landings to determine whether an air carrier exceeds
Federal Aviation Administration noise standards. The FAA standard requires
that a carrier's aircraft emit no more than an average of 65 decibels on
take-offs and landings over a specified period of time.
According to an FAA spokeswoman, there are no penalties attached to the
standard, which is used to give airports some framework into what the agency
sees as reasonable noise levels.
Last year, the number of noise complaints at Hanscom declined, even as jet
activity increased, prompting continuing concerns among some area officials
and activist group leaders, who suggest that the drop in complaints came
from a difficulty in tracking noisy planes.
As the new equipment with its sharply upgraded microphones is installed on
and off the Bedford airfield, Massport will meet with community groups to
get their feedback, Walsh said. The groups include the Hanscom Field
Advisory Commission and the Hanscom Area Towns Selectmen, which is made up
of officials from Bedford, Concord, Lexington, and Lincoln.
The new software enabling a complete online tracking of noisy planes will,
indeed, be a boon to those closely monitoring airfield operations, Bedford
Selectman Sheldon Moll said. ''There's no doubt that the tracking process
will be much easier," added Moll, who periodically logged and then looked
into noise complaints over the last few years.
The total number of noise complaints, as reported by Massport, decreased to
6,698 in 2004 from 7,614 in 2003. However, jet operations, mostly by charter
and corporate craft, totaled 33,061 last year, an 8.9 percent increase over
Jet noise is what continues to aggravate opponents of commercial and jet
activities at Hanscom such as Save Our Heritage, a Concord-based historic
preservation group. Earlier this year, its executive director, Anna Winter,
asserted, ''The unchecked growth of corporate jet flights is harmful to
Minute Man Park, Walden, and many other sensitive sites in our area. If this
is allowed to continue endlessly, increasing jet noise will simply ruin
these nationally important resources."
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