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Hull, Milton

Residents cite rise in jet noise

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press/File

Robert Pahl has a panoramic view of Boston Harbor from his home on stilts at the far end of the Hull peninsula — which is lovely, until that view includes a low-flying jetliner that rattles the house and is so noisy that neither conversation nor sleep is possible.

“It can get pretty bad,” Pahl said. “Almost every morning we wake up at 4:30 or 5 to the rumbling and the noise.’’ At other times, he said, “Maybe three days out of the week, I will notice when I’m sitting on my deck that the planes are coming in low, and you have to stop conversation, it’s so loud.”

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Pahl and other Hull residents started noticing an increase in the airplane noise from Logan International Airport in March, and last month successfully asked town officials to become involved in finding an explanation and solution.

Increased airplane noise also is a hot topic in Milton, where residents recently formed a group to fight it. Milton Citizens Against Aviation Impact cochairwoman Sheryl Fleitman said new procedures that narrowed the flight paths for planes using Logan’s Runway 33 Left mean more of them are flying over parts of her town as well as neighbors Canton, Dedham, and Randolph.

“There’s a narrower corridor, so people underneath get much more concentrated noise,” Fleitman said, adding that her home in west Milton, near Curry College, is under the new flight pattern implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration. “It’s absolutely worse,” she said.

It’s unclear, though, whether the new procedures are what’s causing the problem in Hull.

An FAA study found that Hull — as well as Cohasset and Hingham — would be among the communities that would hear less plane noise as a result of the change. The rules, which took effect in June, are aimed at improving aviation safety and energy efficiency, and require pilots to use GPS-like technology to run more-defined routes. The FAA said it planned to reevaluate the impact of the change in six months.

‘We want to document what’s happening.’

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FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the new procedure “does not affect Hull at all,” nor have there been increased flight operations or other changes affecting the town .

However, Peters said, bad weather this summer has been a factor in higher noise levels.

“Over the last several weeks, weather conditions during the early morning hours have limited visibility for aircraft on approach to Runway 33L,’’ he said. As a result, the planes had to follow an instrument-guided approach to ensure a safe landing, he said, adding, “The town of Hull lies under that flight path.”

The Massachusetts Port Authority, the public agency that runs the airport, keeps track of noise complaints, logging them by community and month.

From January through June, Massport recorded 1,901 noise complaints from 368 callers in 54 locations.

Hull accounted for 39 of those complaints, from 18 individual callers. There were no complaints in January and February; five in March; three in April; four in May; and 27 in June, from 13 individuals.

There were 15 complaints from Hull in all of 2010; five in 2011; and 16 last year.

For the first six months of this year, Milton was the source of 346 noise complaints — the bulk of them since March, with 108 of them in June.

“Massport realizes the close proximity of the airport to densely populated urban areas has an impact on residents, and for nearly 40 years, the authority has worked to minimize noise impacts,” said agency spokesman Richard Walsh. He referred all questions about the causes of noise, however, to the FAA.

Airport noise is not a new topic in the region, especially in Hull.

“It’s always been an issue,” said Town Manager Philip Lemnios, who noted that Hull sued Massport in 2001 over airport noise. The town worked closely with Cohasset and Hingham to win mitigation measures that provided some relief.

But he said interest had waned until a group — including Pahl and former selectwoman Joan Meschino — approached Hull selectmen last month to say that airplane noise appeared to be on the rise.

“Citizens said they were willing to work on it, to step up and see if we can get a better handle on what is going on,” Lemnios said. “We’re at the beginning stages of reenergizing a volunteer group to look at this issue and identify some solutions.”

Selectmen appointed Pahl to the town’s vacant seat on the Logan Airport Citizens Advisory Council, and also put out a request for volunteers to serve on a new local committee that would tackle airplane noise. Among the panel’s responsibilities are advocating for “measures that would improve the town’s airplane noise environment,” and building “good working relationships” with other affected communities, legislators, Massport, and the FAA, according to the board’s announcement on the town website.

Pahl, an architect who specializes in research lab buildings, said he’s looking forward to delving into the technical aspects of what’s causing increased airplane noise in Hull and how to suppress it. He said he moved to Hull from Jamaica Plain about 2½ years ago “because it’s so beautiful,” and he doesn’t want the noise from the skies to ruin his enjoyment of the sweeping water views.

He’s encouraging his neighbors to be observant and call Massport’s noise abatement complaint line — 617-561-3333 — when planes get overly loud.

“We want to document what’s happening,’’ he said, adding that he thinks Massport “knowing we’re there will help. I’m an optimist.”

Fleitman also is urging Milton residents to call Massport with their noise complaints, but she said she’s less convinced it will help. She anticipates her group will go to court to try to stop the new flight procedures, she said.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.
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