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Plans to change Logan flight paths causing concern

Residents in some south suburbs are upset at an upcoming change in flight paths for aircraft leaving a major runway at Logan Airport that would send more planes over their neighborhoods come March.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently released a draft environmental assessment of a satellite-based air traffic management system for planes departing from Runway 33L, which it says will improve efficiency and safety. The system, which the FAA plans to use for the runway beginning in March, will channel air traffic through a much narrower corridor than in the past, resulting in fewer planes over some areas and heavier traffic over others, including sections of Milton, Randolph, Canton, and Dedham.

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The plan has officials and residents in those towns worried.

“The proposed plan to put additional aircraft over our area is not a workable solution,” said Selectman James MacDonald of Dedham, who says he will urge his board Thursday to send a letter of opposition to the Federal Aviation Administration. “I understand completely there’s no easy answer when you shift aircraft noise, but I think it will shift an unnecessary amount of planes over our area.”

Massport, which runs Logan Airport, deferred all comment to the FAA. The federal agency declined to address specific complaints about its plan, responding instead with a statement that “the proposed procedure would improve safety and efficiency at Logan Airport and has been designed as close as possible as an overlay to the current conventional flight departure procedure for Runway 33L.”

Aviation officials said the satellite-based traffic management system is already in use on Logan’s other major runways.

Although the plan for Runway 33L is not a done deal, public comment on the draft environmental assessment is being accepted only until Feb. 15. Planes using the runway are scheduled to start on the satellite-based system March 7. 

Milton resident Judy Kennedy, a member of the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from communities within 20 miles of Logan, said the new flight corridor will shift traffic over west Milton.

“It’s a pretty well-populated area,” she said. “I’m very concerned and think it’s important for people to know their lives are going to be changing.”

Kennedy said flight officials discussed the plan with the advisory committee last fall but only provided detailed maps showing its impact this month. “I think we’ve been steamrolled,” she said. “It’s being imposed on us in a short amount of time.”

Town Meeting member Sheryl Fleitman said Milton residents already endure air traffic from two other Logan runways. “On heavy flight days, there can be planes as late as 1 a.m. and as early as 5 a.m. with existing flights over town,” she said. “I get the feeling they kept this quiet until the last minute to make it difficult for the town to oppose it.”

Selectman Denis Keohane said his board will invite officials from neighboring towns to discuss the plan at its Feb. 7 meeting. “I’m totally opposed to this” new flight corridor, Keohane said.

Canton officials are still reviewing the environmental assessment, but selectmen want to have some input, Town Administrator William Friel said. “We don’t want to rush it, but we want to voice our concerns if we have them and be part of the process.”

In an e-mail, Randolph’s town manager, David Murphy, said his town also plans to make its opposition known.

“I am worried that the FAA has already issued the implementation date of March 7 as if this entire public process was farcical in nature,” Murphy said. “This is still America and I expect that the voice of the people will be considered. We will not willingly let the FAA or any agency thrust an unfair concentration of noise and pollution onto our diverse, working-class community.”

The new corridor will improve conditions in some area communities. According to the draft report, Quincy, Scituate, Hingham, and Cohasset would see at least a small decrease in overhead traffic.

Sandra Kunz, president of the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee, said the change is part of the FAA’s continued efforts to implement the satellite-based guidance system “whether we like it or not.” Areas directly around the airport, where air traffic is constant, will see a little relief, said Kunz, a resident of Braintree.

“There are always opposing opinions,” she said. “People have concerns, and you try to be as fair as you can.”

Wig Zamore, the advisory committee’s vice president and a Somerville resident, said the system change will result in a decrease in noise for nearly 68,000 people, most of them in Boston and Cambridge.

Zamore said the environmental assessment projects that fewer people overall will have planes overhead in Milton due to the more precise flight corridor.

“I agree with Judy that her neighborhood will be more affected, but East Milton will benefit,” Zamore said. “Most committee members realize it’s not what benefits ourselves and our towns, but the whole region. It’s about fairness.”

The environmental assessment can be found at www.bostonrnavea.com.

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.
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