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Proposed noise-based ban not founded on noise study

The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) cannot ban certain aircraft from Hanscom Field because of noise complaints when it has failed to provide evidence of the impact on surrounding communities, AOPA told the authority April 13.

Neighbors of Hanscom in Bedford, Mass., are pressuring Massport, the airport’s sponsor, to implement restrictions on aircraft operations. AOPA told the agency that any proposed restrictions would violate agreements with the FAA and possibly jeopardize federal grants  at Boston Logan International Airport because Massport has not followed the FAA-approved process.

The proposal essentially suggests that Massport has the authority to implement a unilateral ban on all large aircraft; in fact FAA grant assurances require the sponsor to make the airport available to all categories and types of aircraft without unjust discrimination, AOPA Vice President of Local Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn wrote in a letter to Massport. To impose any restrictions based on noise, the airport sponsor must follow procedures established by the FAA, he added.

“However, over more than the past 12 years, Massport has failed to complete two different Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 150 noise studies,” Dunn wrote. “These studies could have formed the foundation for submission of noise mitigation measures at Hanscom had they shown there was significant noise impact to the communities surrounding the airport. Without the results of such a study, there is no evidence that the proposed restrictions are necessary or justifiable.”

Restricting operations without following the established legal procedures would violate FAA grant assurances, the agreements made when an airport accepts money from the federal government. Because Massport is the sponsor of several airports, a violation of an assurance at Hanscom could jeopardize current and future grants there as well as at other airports, Dunn wrote.

The recent effort to ban large aircraft is not the first time airport neighbors have pressured for restrictions on operations because of noise complaints. For years, the airport has imposed nighttime departure fees; AOPA reiterated its longstanding opposition to the fees, which are based on aircraft weight with no measure of actual noise generated.

Massport has held meetings with members of the community and several elected officials to discuss the recent proposal but has not yet made a decision about the restrictions.

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