In Medford, noise complaints from airplanes are going through the roof

A plane leaving Boston Logan International Airport soars over Medford High School on Winthrop Street.
A plane leaving Boston Logan International Airport soars over Medford High School on Winthrop Street.Luke Preisner

Amid a renewed surge in complaints from its residents about incessant noise from planes flying over the city from Boston Logan International Airport, Medford is preparing to seek changes to flight paths that would reduce the din.

City officials said the noise is due to a 2013 Federal Aviation Administration policy that concentrated planes departing from Logan runway 33L to a narrower flight path area. The change sharply increased plane traffic above Medford and parts of Cambridge and Somerville, leading to years of noise complaints: in Medford, the number has spiked to nearly 25,000 in 2019.

Medford plans to recommend to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology aeronautics team studying the noise problem that the FAA modify flight patterns in order to disperse planes departing from 33L over a larger area. The city is offering the proposal in response to a request by the MIT researchers for input from the eight communities within or near the current flight paths.

“When you see citizen complaint levels still continuing to rise to historically high levels six years after the FAA policy was implemented, you know there’s something wrong — people are NOT getting used to this level of new noise,” Peter Houk, Medford’s representative to the Massport Municipal Advisory Committee, said by e-mail.


Houk and Luke Preisner, who represented Medford on a previous Logan community advisory committee, will update the City Council’s Committee of the Whole on the noise issue at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24 at City Hall.

The added noise — some of it also resulting from a rise in international flights at Logan — has been felt across Medford, according to Houk.

When the new flight paths took effect, some neighborhoods that previously experienced about 50 overhead planes a day have had to regularly endure 250 to 300, and in some cases over 400, Houk said. He said his own central Medford neighborhood routinely has up to 300 planes daily pass over at altitudes as low as 2,000 feet.


“It’s not just the loudness, it’s the repetitiveness,” he said. “You might get one plane and then two or three minutes another. Imagine that eight or nine hours in a row. It’s like water torture.”

Data on complaints from Medford reflect residents’ growing annoyance with the noise. In 2012, there were 15 complaints. The number rose to 49 in 2013 and steadily increased to 7,856 in 2017. After falling to 5,857 last year, complaints have skyrocketed this year to 24,714 to date, said Houk, speculating that some of this year’s surge is attributable to expanded use of a new app, airnoise.io, for reporting airplane noise.

Also notable is that the number of households making complaints has risen significantly from 10 in 2012 to 450 so far this year, Houk said.

“I understand the severity of the airplane noise issue in Medford and promise to continue to advocate on behalf of Medford residents,” Mayor Stephanie M. Burke said in e-mailed comments.

“The city has been working diligently with both state and federal authorities to encourage the Federal Aviation Administration to reconsider flight routes that are exposing our residents to unacceptable levels of noise, pollution, and additional complications caused by airplane noise,” Burke added.

City officials said that residents can file complaints about airplane noise online at massport.com or through the Massport Noise Complaint Line at 617-561-3333, in addition to using airnoise.io.


John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.