Boston Federal Lawmakers Looking for a Quieter Logan

A group of federal lawmakers recently penned a letter to the CEOs of Southwest, Delta and American Airlines urges the three air carriers to begin efforts to drastically reduce airplane noise at Logan International Airport.

The problem stems from the relatively new satellite-based navigation system airlines use to try to increase fuel efficiency. The program was implemented around the country by the FAA and major carriers in 2013 to create more fuel-efficient flight paths. The unexpected consequence has been a spike in noise complaints from communities surrounding Logan.

“We write in regards to ongoing concerns regarding elevated noise levels created by NextGen flight paths in Massachusetts  communities and communities throughout  the country,” wrote Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Reps. Stephen Lynch, Joseph Kennedy, Katherine Clark and Ayanna Pressley. “Given your company’s operations at Boston Logan International Airport, we ask that your airline take measures to reduce airplane-related noise problems that have affected Massachusetts residents and others affected by airplane noise issues across the country, including communities in and around San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.”

Logan noise has long been a bone of contention between Winthrop residents and Massport dating back to the late 1960s. In 2016 Massport and the FAA signed an agreement to begin reducing noise levels at Logan. JetBlue was one of the first airlines that voluntarily agreed to try and fly more quietly by retrofitting their fleet with noise-reducing vortex generators.

The group of lawmakers are asking American, Delta and Southwest to take similar measures.

“Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) introduced the NextGen satellite-based navigation system in 2013, which was meant to create more fuel-efficient flight paths, our offices have heard from numerous communities in Massachusetts  that have experienced  increased airplane noise,” the letter continues. “The Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), which operates Boston Logan International Airport, and several municipalities  have seen a sharp spike in airplane noise complaints since implementing NextGen. For example, in the first two months of 2019, Massport received nearly 18,000 total noise complaints from Greater Boston  and as of September  2019 the City of Medford, alone received nearly 25,000 noise complaints for the year.”

The group of lawmakers added that the Air Traffic Noise and Pollution Expert Consensus Act of 2019 was introduced to require the FAA to work with the National Academy of Sciences to study the effects of air traffic noise and pollution on human health.

“This bill would seek to determine causes of increased noise reports and health impacts of increased jet noise and to make recommendations on how to address the problem,” the lawmakers wrote. “The Cleaner, Quieter Airplanes Act has also been introduced to make investments in the technology needed to cut airplane noise and carbon pollution from commercial airlines in half. As Congress works to address airplane noise, and address the noise pollution that has resulted from FAA’s new navigation system, your company can also take steps to alleviate concerns of communities affected by increased airplane noise.”

The lawmakers point to JetBlue and several other airlines with operations at Logan that have voluntarily taken measures to address airplane-related noise problems affecting nearby communities.

“Notably, in October 2018, following a letter we sent with other members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation JetBlue announced plans to retrofit their entire Airbus fleet with noise-reducing vortex generators,” the lawmakers wrote. “In our letter to JetBlue, we noted that airlines, including Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, and United Airlines, voluntarily retrofitted or developed  plans to retrofit certain aircrafts with generators that would reduce airplane noise. We ask that your company implement similar measures. We ask that your company take steps to reduce airplane noise from your fleet and provide information about how your company has worked to mitigate noise-related complaints associated with your airplanes by February 28, 2020.”

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