Aircraft Emissions Study Hinges on Supplemental Funding

November 28, 2023
Hanscom Field Advisory Commission is working to acquire financing of a study on the prevalence of ultrafine particles from aircraft emissions affecting Bedford and the other Hanscom Field contiguous towns. Staff photo by Wayne Braverman

The Massachusetts Port Authority Community Advisory Committee (MCAC) holds the financial key to a $50,000 study on the prevalence of ultrafine particles from aircraft emissions affecting Bedford and the other Hanscom Field contiguous towns.

The MCAC, a state agency whose mission is “to be the voice of communities impacted by Massport operations,” is composed of representatives of 35 Greater Boston cities and towns as well as Worcester.

Christopher Eliot, chair of the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission, told members at their November meeting last week that he is asking the MCAC to finance half of the study with the four towns splitting the remainder.

The Bedford Select Board has approved the town’s $6,250 share, as has Lincoln. Eliot did not have the status of the plan in Lexington and Concord. At the last meeting, he said, “I think we kind of settled on this goal by acclamation.  Everybody liked the idea.” 

At a meeting on Oct. 17, the Hanscom Commission heard from Dr. Neelakshi Hudda of Lexington, a research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts University, on her aircraft environmental impact studies in Boston and Los Angeles. 

“The barebones study would be 10 months of emissions using the Tufts mobile lab,” Eliot said, providing samples in all or part of the four seasons. “If we can get up to $65,000, then it will be a full 12 months and maybe a few other things.”

“I’ve been talking with MCAC and hoping I can convince them to provide funding for this,” said Eliot. “Maybe there’s private funding; I haven’t found any. If MCAC can’t help then the town contribution would be $12,500, which is likely to be impossible or at least difficult.”

The commission discussed private donations, as well as a small HFAC allocation from the Legislature, which is supposed to finance an internet presence and a note-taker.

Eliot suggested the results of the study could influence the outcome of a planned massive hangar expansion at Hanscom. The developer is compiling an environmental review, expected to be released during the winter. 

“We need to get this study started in two to three months if it’s going to have any impact” on the proposal, he said.

The commission chair also noted that the towns always react to Massport’s long-range plans, and “there should be a community-developed vision of what we would like to see.” 

Margaret Coppe, a commission member from a Lexington neighborhood association, replied, “I don’t think we are ready for this. Developing a vision is not a quick thing to do. We will need more time than you are anticipating. We need to discuss it again before you start on it.”

Also at the commission meeting, Kati Winchell of Lincoln, Project Director of the Save Our Heritage advocacy group, asked about expansions over the last two years by the airport’s three fixed-base operators.

Amber Goodspeed, director of operations at Hanscom, reported that Signature Flight Support has opened a new replacement facility which she called “essentially one for one.” There have been no changes at Jet Aviation, she said.

Goodspeed noted that Atlantic Aviation, formerly Ross Rectrix on Virginia Road in Concord, is adding 60,000 square feet of hangars, plans that were first addressed in 2017 following a request for proposals from Massport. That site formerly housed T-hangars, which were demolished and replaced with box hangars in the North Airfield area.

In answer to Winchell’s question, Goodspeed said the box hangars are “specifically for small jets, small propeller aircraft, and helicopters,” which also could be stored in the proposed new hangars.  

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Matthew Agen
November 29, 2023 7:53 am

The vision statement of the coalition’s groups should be to ban private air travel entirely.

If the rich get to continue to generate the vast majority of individual-based emissions there will never be support from the rest of us for making any lifestyle changes. Why would someone accept a higher tax on the gas they need to get to work when hedge fund managers, CEOs, and celebrities fly in private jets all the time and sometimes for reasons as trivial as avoiding an hour long drives?

It is also good strategy to go big. That’s what the developers are doing. They are playing the game of “we gave up 10 buildings, see we’ve listened to your concerns” when they never really cared about the number of buildings.

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