As Report Nears Completion, Hanscom Hangar Developer Provides Details

February 21, 2024

The development team proposing a massive hangar complex on the Bedford side of Hanscom Field on Tuesday night provided updated details for the first time since it began preparing a mandatory draft environmental impact report about a year ago.

And although many of the questions and comments at the virtual meeting of the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission focused on the air quality impact, there were a few matters particularly germane to Bedford.

The presentation was the first of a few public sessions leading to the filing of the environmental report expected in mid-March by the principal developer, North Airfield Ventures.

Among the details of particular interest to Bedford are:

  • An underground fuel-storage area will be contiguous to Hartwell Road, east of the Navy hangar, with a fueling station planned nearby. Four 20,000-gallon jet fuel tanks and one 5,000-gallon tank for aviation gas are planned. Fuel deliveries are expected once or twice a day in 10,000-gallon tank trucks, using Hartwell Road and other residential streets. Trucks from Signature Flight Support will deliver fuel from the station to aircraft without using local roads.
  • Although the developer several weeks ago confirmed a reduction from 27 to 17 hangars, Jeffrey Mullan of the North Airfield Ventures team acknowledged on Tuesday that the total square footage will remain around 495,000. This includes about 82,000 square feet of storage space in the refurbished Navy hangar.
  • The developer displayed a diagram showing that the project comprises 18.65 acres of the Navy hangar parcel, including two new hangars, an “aviation support” area, and a parking lot, as well as the fuel storage. This site is subject to local permitting; the remaining 21 acres of hangars are exempt because the land is owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority.

North Airfield Ventures was formed to respond to Massport’s 2021 open-ended request for development of the acreage, part of which once was the site of a trailer park for military families. The environmental impact statement was mandated by the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act as a response to questions from state environmental officials and the public. On Tuesday, the developer’s representative targeted completion of a final impact report for next fall.

The impact of private jets on air quality was the focus of many of the more than 80 people on the Zoom webinar. And that included the proponents.

Mullan, an attorney and former state transportation secretary, was the lead spokesman. He called the complex “the aviation facility of the future” and “the largest net zero greenhouse gas facility at Hanscom Field.” Mullan mentioned plans to incorporate solar panels, a battery storage facility, electric vehicle chargers, and electric ground-servicing equipment.

“We will be ready to transition quickly to future sustainable technologies, including the use of electric aircraft,” He said the project will be “promoting clean energy while satisfying a regional need.”

State Rep. Carmen Gentile of Sudbury, whose district includes parts of Concord and Lincoln, said, “When you say the largest net zero project, that’s the buildings, and that’s terrific. But when these planes take off, they are throwing all kinds of greenhouse gases into the air. The time has come when we need to pull back.” Gentile added, “These private jets are dinosaurs because they put so much carbon in the air that they undermine our other efforts.”

“The overall concern that I think people have with any project expanding airports is simply global warming,” said Christopher Eliot of Lincoln, who chairs the advisory commission.

“We are doing our best to address the concerns that are raised,” replied Mullan, adding that the impact report will include “a full analysis on how it will impact climate related issues.”

Kate Larson, of the Burlington-based consulting firm HMMH that specializes in aircraft noise and air quality, said historically, addition air hangar space has not led to increased aviation activity.  The hangars are expected to house business jets and turbo-props with an occasional piston-engine plane, she said.

Mullan said the business model is aircraft storage, and “will not create new demand.” He predicted an average of 12 daily flight operations connected to the project. (A takeoff and a landing are considered single operations.) Most tenants won’t travel daily, he said, and some aircraft may be idle for weeks or longer.

Hanscom Field Director Sharon Williams said the development will “address existing demand” and “in many cases, operations will be reduced by eliminating ferry flights,” which are drop-offs necessitated by lack of aircraft storage space. Larson said an analysis of 18 months of records, using four criteria, resulted in an estimated total of 3,000 ferry flights a year, averaging nine per day.

Neil Rasmussen of Concord, who founded the Stop Private Jets group, questioned the 3,000 ferry flights. He noted that there are aircraft services that function as taxis and asked, “How are we to know whether 90 percent of those are taxi relocation services?” Eliot pointed out that reduction of the ferry flights “was highlighted as a benefit of this project, and we need more data.”

Lauren DeVoe, environmental permitting consultant with the firm VHB, outlined the contents of the environmental impact report. It’s wide-ranging, incorporating land impact, traffic generation, feasibility of airside construction route, impact on rare species, assessment of water demand and wastewater generation, site grading, parking supply, measures to reduce noise, analysis of emissions, including estimated greenhouse gases, and construction phasing.

The report also examines what would happen if the hangars are not constructed or if the magnitude of the project is reduced, she said.

Jennifer Boles of Bedford asked about measuring “ultrafine particulate matter.” DeVoe said it’s not a required category. There are no federal standards and “it’s not a pollutant that has a solid methodology around it to study and assess its impact.”

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John Laferriere
February 26, 2024 11:12 am

I am extremely skeptical of the following assertion:

Kate Larson, of the Burlington-based consulting firm HMMH that specializes in aircraft noise and air quality, said historically, addition air hangar space has not led to increased aviation activity.”

This just flies in the face of common sense. Unless HMMH can come up with hard evidence to back up this improbable claim, these are just empty words and hand waving. Let’s see the evidence.

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