Residents south of Boston have griped for the past year and a half about the house-rattling, sleep-depriving, and conversation-ending noise from low-flying jets. Citizens groups have been formed; legislators have gotten involved; town officials have written to aviation officials pleading for guidance.
But the deafening roar has continued nonetheless, much to the chagrin of many.
In Milton, local officials are now stepping in to see whether their voices can carry over the jet noise. The Board of Selectmen and Board of Health jointly appointed 10 local officials and residents to a town-backed noise advisory committee late last month in hopes of ironing out a solution.
“We want to try to see whether there can be any way to decrease the volume, or spread out the volume, so that there’s not such a narrow flight path,” said Milton Selectwoman Kathleen Conlon. “The committee will work in collaboration with MassPort, the FAA, the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee, and elected officials to see what can be done to lessen the impact on residents.”
The committee’s members include Selectman Denis Keohane, public health director Caroline Kinsella, and assistant town administrator Michael Blanchard, among others, Conlon said.
MassPort spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan said the agency, along with the FAA and advisory committee, is working on a study “to see if noise from aircraft overflights can be balanced to provide relief while not adversely impacting any one community.”
The jet noise complaints have spiked not just in Milton but also in several other Boston-area communities in the past year or so, as recent commercial air traffic changes instituted at Logan Airport have concentrated some flight paths with GPS navigation to make trips more efficient, officials said. Now, some residents say the loud jet engines are becoming a burden with a steady procession of planes departing from Logan’s 33L runway flying directly above their homes.
“We formed this committee because we’re not getting satisfaction from the FAA and MassPort pertaining to our complaints to them about excessive air traffic over our town,” Keohane said in an interview.“We have a very diverse group on the committee, so we’re hoping to put our heads together and develop a formal presentation on the issue.” Conlon said dozens of constituents have complained to her about the issue recently, and meetings held about the plane racket have been well-attended, including by legislators such as US Representative Michael Capuano. “We’re getting more complaints from residents about the airplane noise, and the flight path and elevation hasn’t changed,” she said. “It’s been a beginning effort in the last year and a half. These things take a long time to work out.”
‘I didn’t realize how bad it was.’
“Boston Logan is an urban airport and depending which runways are in use, different communities are overflown,” Mehigan said in a statement. “Flight paths and patterns are determined by the FAA, and typically reflect wind and weather conditions for safety reasons.”
“I was at an outside party on Sunday afternoon, and I had to stop in the middle of conversation every 30 seconds until the planes went by,” Keohane said. “I didn’t realize how bad it was over there.”
He said the problem has escalated especially in the eastern part of Milton, which shares a border with Boston.
“In that particular part of town, people have to deal with this every day of the week,” he said. “And it’s gotten worse over a number of years. There used to be a fair amount of traffic over the town, but right now it seems we’re getting all of it.”
A grass-roots citizens group formed in Milton in recent years to raise awareness around the issue, and two residents were appointed to the Logan Community Advisory Committee, a group of representatives from about 30 area communities who want to reduce overhead noise from airplanes arriving at or departing from Boston.
Keohane, who possesses a single-engine pilot’s license, said he is “well-versed in some of the so-called pilot talk” and believes that aviation officials are not providing Milton with the full story. “I understand the height limitations around Milton, and in my opinion we are not getting accurate information from the FAA or MassPort,” he said.
The newly formed committee will probably begin meeting this fall, and Keohane said he hopes to present any information the board culls to neighboring communities and flight path planners.
“We know we can’t get rid of planes coming over Milton, but we so want a reduction in the amount of planes flying over the town,” he said.
In Randolph, Town Council president Arthur Goldstein said though the problem is not as dire as in Milton, he has received a handful of resident complaints each year about noisy, low-flying jets.
“I was in my backyard Sunday afternoon, and I felt like I could almost reach up and touch the planes coming in,” he said, noting that aviation officials said the planes are supposed to fly at least 3,500 to 4,000 feet above the town. “I’ll have residents call me and say the noise is bothering them, and is there any way to change the flight paths so they’re not flying over Randolph.”
The problem persists in other communities as well. Both Watertown and Belmont officials decided last fall to appoint representatives to the Logan Community Advisory Committee after a stream of residents bemoaned the uptick in deafening jets.
Watertown Councilor Angeline Kounelis previously told the Globe the steady stream of planes left her house shaking at all hours of the day. And Myron Kassaraba, who was appointed by Belmont officials to represent the town on the advisory panel, said there could be as many as 100 or more flights a day over his house.
“For people in Belmont, this is not something we’ve ever dealt with at this level of frequency,” he said.