New BOS Noise Study has some resources & an example to follow

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Boston Logan Airport Noise Study (BLANS)

Differing Perspectives & Academic Expertise Should Result in a Collaborative Effort

A September 5 Walden article discusses the founding of Logan Aircraft-Noise Working Group, a group of concerned community members that has grown to approximately 50 people hailing from Malden, Medford, Somerville, Winchester, Arlington, Cambridge, Watertown and Belmont. Several paragraphs into the story, Peter Houk, a representative for the Massport Community Advisory Committee, declared:

“This is a national issue – a lot of cities have been complaining to the FAA – but I think this is the first study the FAA has sanctioned…They said, ‘We’ll use MIT and respect the results,’ and that gives us a lot more leverage than these communities that are saying, ‘Hey, we don’t like the noise. Make it go away.’”

Mr. Houk’s recognition that noise cannot be eliminated, but may be mitigated is an incredibly important step toward a useful compromise.

The reporter also noted:

The group’s next meeting will take place on Monday, Sept. 11, at Medford Fire Station 5 at Medford Street from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

The main topic of the meeting is an MIT study commissioned by Massport and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – the state and federal organizations that govern operations at Logan Airport – to assess options for noise abatement and ways to decrease the concentration of flight paths in the region.

What is confusing is the declaration that this is the first sanctioned study in which the FAA, MASSPORT and MIT Engineering have assessed noise at BOS.

massport faa mit boston logan airport noise study

partnership for air transportation noise and emissions reductionOn a MACRO basis, all of these participants were members of PARTNER (Partnership for Air Transportation Noise and Emissions Reduction) which produced approximately 100 reports/papers and completed 48 projects. The PARTNER effort is well described in these paragraph.

Established by the FAA in September 2003, PARTNER fostered breakthrough technological, operational, policy, and workforce advances for the betterment of mobility, economy, national security, and the environment. The organization’s operational headquarters was at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment; Professor Ian Waitz, Dean of the MIT School of Engineering, was the director. Similar work is now being conducted by ASCENT, a new FAA Center of Excellence co-led by MIT and Washington State University.

PARTNER comprised 12 universities, and approximately 50 advisory board members. One of PARTNER’s greatest strengths was the advisory board’s diversity and inclusiveness. Its members included aerospace manufacturers, airlines, airports, national, state and local government, professional and trade associations, non-governmental organizations and community groups. They united to foster collaboration and consensus to jointly advance environmental performance, efficiency, safety and security.

The information developed in this study may not specifically refer to Logan, but its lessons are directly relevant.

MASSPORT has devoted a lot of time and resources to balancing its aviation mission and the expectations of its neighbors.

The Boston Logan Airport Noise Study (BLANS) is a cooperative and unique effort undertaken by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) and the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee (CAC). CAC members represent more than 30 of the 90 communities within the 20-nautical mile radius study area around Boston Logan International Airport.

faa blans boston logan airport noise study massport cac

boston logan airport noise study phase 3 final reportIt recently completed Phase III. All of this work should provide the bases for finding win/win alternatives.

The equitable distribution of noise around an airport is not a novel goal. The Chicago ORD Night Runway Rotation Plan is an ongoing effort to balance local interests.

The introductory sentence of the The Chicago Sun Times article accurately describes the news from a local perspective:

“A revised O’Hare Airport night runway plan could reduce jet noise for nearly 68,000 Chicago area residents during the overnight hours, according to a new analysis released in advance of a key vote Friday on the proposal.”

That simple declarative sentence somewhat understates the significance of this compromise, perhaps because it has yet to be finally adopted. Ms. Rossi, the local transportation beat reporter for the newspaper, should be lauded for her recognition of net benefit to residents of ORD’s effort which should be replicated nationally.

An apt description in terms of national noise policy might be “revolutionary,” but even that descriptor would be misleading. Revolutions connote tearing down walls by opponent. The Night Runway Rotation Plan represents a coming together of groups which have historically had problems of finding a common ground for compromise. The participants in this process have overcome the historical “balkanization” that characterizes the debates about airport noise.

airport runway rotation plan

Critical to the compromise was the acceptance by all of the stakeholders of some basic realities:

All of the participants recognized the importance of O’Hare International Airport to their economies,


All accepted the premise that those who benefit from O’Hare should share in the negative concomitant.

Airport Noise tends to be a polarizing public policy issue and splits the “stakeholders” in multiple dimensions:

  • The airlines see airports as economic engines and would prefer to maximize their use of those public utilities.
  • The FAA’s foremost consideration is SAFETY, but also bears a responsibility to maintain their efficiencies (the runways are federal tax dollar investments) and to minimize environmental impacts.
  • The operator/owner/sponsor of these transportation hubs holds a bifurcated perspective—HUGE POSITVE = economic impact; HUGE NEGATIVE = effects on the neighbors/voters.
  • The surrounding communities, as represented by elected mayors, council members, commissioners, etc.—are primarily focused on noise and pollution. As demonstrated by the 1980s effort to close Washington National Airport, at a secondary or even tertiary level, must admit that the attractive nuisance (called DCA or ORD or ___) means jobs for their citizens.

The redesign of airspace is a complicated exercise, part science/part art. The relevant factors are SAFETY, EFFICIENCY AND ENVIRONMENT (as measured on the ground and in the air). Making choices about a flight track frequently involves difficult decisions; for example, the citizens may prefer that the turn from the western arrival traffic be set further away from BOS, but the arc of the turn may exceed the stability standards of the aircraft; holding the plane high until it is close to the airport may be preferred, but the rapid deceleration could cause greater emissions.

The optimal solution is not intuitive; experts are needed to pose options. While the FAA accumulates as much information about the sensitivities on the ground, the community has infinitely greater knowledge. These differing perspectives and the academic expertise of MIT should result in a good collaborative effort.

{NB as of posting no notices were posted on the FAA, MASSPORT and MIT websites about this study.}


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2 Comments on "New BOS Noise Study has some resources & an example to follow"

  1. Bogus, Bogus, Bogus any study the FAA does is slanted to the business that started it, catering to the companies as always…..

  2. two years ago, the noise and Medford was occasional and we accepted planes as they increased…until they flew so low, I could see isle 7C left their tray down! lol. Seriously, they are so noisy and constant all day and all night long. Neighbors can’t sleep well, and our windows were fairly new. Everyone (MIT, towns and Boston mass port) indicated the GPS is more precise. Solution: Go back to the old GPS, which apparently disbursed the planes more or allowed for higher elevations which all decreased the noise level. Hey…easy solution!

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