Massport Supports Noise Limitations on Small Aircraft for Hanscom Field

BEDFORD -- For once, the Massachusetts Port Authority and a concerned citizens' group are on the same page regarding aircraft noise at Hanscom Field.

Massport is backing federal legislation that would force small aircraft to comply with federal noise standards. Currently, aircraft that weigh less than 75,000 pounds are exempt. According to Massport, those planes account for less than 1 percent of the airport's annual traffic, yet create 23 percent of the noise produced by civil aircraft.

The agency has faced opposition in the past from a group called Save Our Heritage, which has lobbied for an end to noise pollution at historic sites near Hanscom.

Massport CEO Thomas Kinton said in a statement that legislation to reduce noise and emissions is important for the aviation industry's continued survival.

"Airports throughout the country struggle to balance the needs of the traveling public with the effects of air traffic noise on surrounding residential communities," Kinton said.

Save Our Heritage contends that Massport's support of the bill is only a small (and overdue) step in the right direction. The group's president, Neil Rasmussen, urged Massport to support regulations that would place more stringent noise restrictions on planes of every size.

Massport spokesman Richard Walsh said the agency is supportive of so-called "Stage 4" requirements that would do just that.

Since the year 2000, aircraft that weight more than 75,000 pounds have had to meet "Stage 3" noise standards. Smaller planes still can conform to the old, noisier "Stage 2" model. Walsh said the difference between the two stages is significant, and changing over even the few remaining Stage 2 aircraft would make a noticeable difference in Hanscom noise levels.

The Stage 2 planes are generally smaller corporate jets or cargo planes, Walsh said. None of the offending aircraft is based at Hanscom, he added -- they just pass through. According to Massport, Stage 2 planes rarely use Logan Airport in Boston.

There are approximately 1,300 Stage 2 aircraft in the United States that make up about 9 percent of the business/private fleet, according to Massport.

Kinton last month sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat who is sponsoring the bill, officially declaring Massport's support. Walsh said the agency is also a member of the Sound Initiative, a group that will lobby for the bill's passage.

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