AIRPORT ABUTTERS SOUND OFF; Plane truth: Say new runway ramps up racket

Noise complaints about Logan International Airport exploded during the first six months of the year, with a wave of protests about the roaring jet engines coming from outraged Cambridge, Charlestown, Chelsea, Somerville, Everett and East Boston...


Noise complaints about Logan International Airport exploded during the first six months of the year, with a wave of protests about the roaring jet engines coming from outraged Cambridge, Charlestown, Chelsea, Somerville, Everett and East Boston residents and politicians.

Through July, the number of noise complaints made to the Massachusetts Port Authority Noise Abatement Office rose to 2,440 calls, up from 1,641 during the same period in 2006, according to figures from Massport, which operates Logan.

The rising noise complaints are an especially disheartening development in light of new federal Bureau of Transportation data that shows one in three flights landed late at Logan during the first half of the year. That record gives Logan the dubious distinction of being the seventh-worst of 32 large U.S. airports for arrivals - despite the November 2006 opening of a sixth runway that was supposed to cut flight delays.

``Massport told us (Runway) 14/32 would reduce delays and initially cut down on noise. Now delays are up and noise complaints are up,'' said Boston Environment Department Director Bryan Glascock, referring to the $110 million runway, which faced 30 years of community opposition.

Said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino: ``I'm surprised a little bit. I thought thought we had the situation under control.''

The complaints show a dramatic rise in clamoring from the airport's northwest neighbors, while complaints from certain Hub neighborhoods - including South Boston, the South End, Jamaica Plain and Hyde Park - subsided.

``When I go to people's homes, it's one of the top two, three complaints,'' said Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, who is meeting with Massport officials Friday to address the noise problem.

A Massport spokesman said an unusually long period of northwest winds through June accounted for the increased use of Runway 33L, which launches flights over the communities where noise complaints spiraled upward. Those winds are typically prevalent from November through March.

According to Massport runway-use figures provided to the Herald by attorney Peter Koff, the Cambridge representative to the Logan Community Advisory Committee, 33L accounted for no more than 7 percent of jet aircraft depatures in any given year from 1990 to 2006. In the first half of this year, the runway accounted for 24 percent of takeoffs.

Departures from Runway 33L overfly the Day Square area of East Boston, Eagle Hill and areas of Chelsea, Everett, Somerville and Cambridge.

The Federal Aviation Administration decides which runways are used at Logan based on weather and wind direction, said Richard P. Walsh, Massport spokesman.

Since Runway 14/32 opened, the FAA has primarily designated 33L for departures and Runway 27 for arrivals during periods of northwest winds, Walsh said. When that runway combination is in play, 14/32 is also used for arrivals, in accordance with a court order that limits the runway's use to small planes and when winds are coming from the northwest or southeast at more than 11 1/2 mph.

``What you see is a shift in the noise complaints,'' said Walsh, who noted calls from Boston residents overall have increased only modestly, from 258 to 282 this year.

Wig Zamore, the Somerville representative to the airport's Community Advisory Committee, rejects Massport's assertion that the FAA used 33L more frequently because of atypical northwest wind conditions.

``It's just patently ridiculous,'' said Zamore, who calculated a 243 percent increase in the use of 33L in 2007 from the previous year. ``It would be a meteorological change of biblical proportion to cause a 250 percent increase so that now it's used 3 1/2 times what it was before. It's not possible.''

lcrimaldi@bostonherald.com

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