Milton makes progress, faces obstacles in airplane noise fight
Thomas Dougherty, the town’s representative to the Massport Community Advisory Committee, made a presentation of air traffic issues at the Select Board meeting held on August 12th. His presentation focused on a study by MIT of potential alternative flight arrival paths to the primary existing path over Milton to runway 4R at Logan Airport as well as an upcoming environmental assessment for conversion of a visual arrival path to Logan runway 4L to a GPS-based arrival path over more western parts of the town.
Commissioned pursuant to an agreement struck in 2016 involving the FAA, Massport and certain members of the state’s congressional delegation, the MIT study is to review flight paths and procedures on approaches to Logan Airport to see if they can be altered or modified to alleviate some of the noise problems in the surrounding communities. The implementation of a GPS based system by the FAA for air traffic in recent years has resulted in a concentration of air traffic over the pathways and resulted in an explosion of noise complaints from those underneath the narrowed pathways. Milton is affected by multiple flight paths over the town with the 4R arrival path being a source of particular grievance.
Milton has advocated for a dispersion of arrivals to Logan runway 4R over a number of pathways to more equitably distribute the burden. So, when runway 4R is the runway designated for use by air traffic control, the actual paths to that runway can be switched up periodically thereby sharing the noise and pollution burden. MIT reviewed these requests in light of FAA guidance and aeronautical capabilities and conventions.
As an initial matter, MIT personnel came to Milton for field observation. They confirmed the paths as mapped by Mr. Dougherty and the FAA confirmed the waypoints reflected on the map.
Following a review of multiple alternatives, Mr. Dougherty recommended that the town consider three. Each of the three alternatives requires airplanes using them to have special equipment to fly the path which most, but not all, have. Accordingly, planes without the special equipment would continue to only be able to utilize the existing 4R approach path until they are so equipped.
The three practical alternatives discussed at the meeting are a path over Braintree and eastern Quincy with a turn over water for the final approach, a path over Norwell and Hingham with a turn over water for the final approach and a path over the western part of Quincy and the Marina Bay area before going on to Logan. The goal would be to more equitably share the noise burden as had previously been done prior to the FAA’s implementation of the GPS-based system. Mr. Dougherty informed the board that the town now needs to rank the alternatives for MIT. Select Board members discussed having a public meeting for feedback in September before providing MIT with such a ranking.
With respect to the upcoming Environmental Assessment for the proposed 4L GPS arrival path over the town, Mr. Dougherty stated that he expected that the initial assessment would be released for public comment in mid-September. That would begin a 60 day public comment period during which the affected communities could submit their concerns.
Mr. Dougherty recommended coordinating efforts with those living in affected areas of Dorchester and Mattapan and informed the board that he had taken out half-page ads in Dorchester and Mattapan newspapers for the purpose of doing so. He also recommended continued coordination with Boston City Councilor, Andrea Campbell, which has been facilitated with the help of Select Board Member, Mike Zullas. Mr. Dougherty also informed the board that he has personally engaged an aviation consultant to assist in the analysis.
At a previous Select Board meeting, Mr. Dougherty informed the board that a proposed waypoint change for departures from Runway 27 that some thought could have brought more departure traffic over the town was dead. The town had supported a review of a change to the waypoint and thereby was able to be a part of the working group. As part of the working group, the town was able to point out flaws in the proposal which its proponent eventually withdrew.
Those affected by excessive airplane noise are encouraged by the town to call the Logan airport noise complaint line at 617-561-3333.