The number of complaints about airplane noise has skyrocketed since new GPS-generated flight paths at Logan Airport took effect, and the agency responsible for the energy-saving policy will hear from those on the ground at a public forum scheduled for Dec. 3 in Milton — one of the communities most affected by the change.
The Federal Aviation Administration has said the Next/Gen satellite-based navigation system is designed to decrease jet fuel consumption and increase safety by making the sky routes more efficient. But critics say the narrower skyways unfairly burden the homes below with a constant barrage of sound and vibration.
The affected areas include Arlington, Belmont, Cambridge, Somerville, and a number of south suburbs, including Milton and Hull.
From January through September of 2015, more than 11,000 airplane noise complaints were logged by the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates Logan — with nearly 2,000 coming from Milton and almost 900 from Hull.
For the same time period in 2012, before the Next/Gen system was implemented, there were fewer than 1,700 complaints altogether — with 81 from Milton and 11 from Hull.
In Arlington, no complaints about plane noise were recorded from January through September of 2012; in the same period of 2015, complaints were received from 120 residents 1,514 times. Similarly, Somerville saw the number of complaints go from 71 in the 2012 time span to 1,363.
“This is not just a south-of-Boston issue,” said Myron Kassaraba, representative to the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee from Belmont, where complaints went from zero in 2012 to 549 in the past nine months. “Communities west of Boston” also “have been significantly impacted.”
Cindy Christiansen, who heads the Milton committee that deals with Logan Airport issues, said she’s received sobbing calls from people saying the roar of airplanes flying over their homes was driving them to tears.
Other callers confided they no longer walked their dogs because of the noise, have scrapped plans to build outdoor decks, have made plans to sell their homes, or were taking medication so they could fall asleep, she said.
She said that her counterpart in Hull told her about a family with a waterfront home that kept the windows closed to keep out the plane noise — and turned on a white noise machine to hear the sound of waves.
“It’s really quite astonishing how much of an effect it is having,” Christiansen said.
Congressman Stephen Lynch, whose district includes Milton, Hull, and other communities under the Logan flight paths, said he’s received so many complaints and has gotten so little satisfaction from the FAA that he’s scheduled the Dec. 3 forum with the agency to air the controversy.
Lynch said he understood that the new flight paths increased fuel efficiency and “the industry is probably saving a lot of money by having these planes fly the optimum route.” But he said the resulting concentration of planes in a narrow swath of the sky is causing both mental and physical health problems for those below the new flight paths and hurting their quality of life.
“Some of these agencies, including the FAA, are very insulated and don’t get out and meet with the people who are affected by their decisions,” Lynch said. “Hopefully, we can cure that.”
FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the flight paths are part of a congressionally mandated, nationwide program “that is modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system to make it even safer, greener, and more efficient.”
He said the program reduces air traffic delays and cuts the amount of fuel used by aircraft, and as a result reduces carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
The FAA is working with Massport and the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee to develop a runway-use system that will provide relief from noise while adhering to FAA safety and operational requirements, Peters said.
Massport officials also will attend the forum that Lynch organized, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan. “The airport and the FAA have worked together to reduce noise in communities, and we will continue to do so,” she said.
Lynch said he wants to see more done to address the toll on the ground, and said it’s not just a local issue. He’s a member of the Quiet Skies Caucus in Washington that is addressing the subject, and wants more research into the health effects of constant noise from planes, he said.
“We are all suffering,” said David Carlon, Hull’s representative to the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee. “I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night.”
The forum is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. in the Milton High School auditorium at 25 Gile Road.
|Noise complaints about Logan Airport planes in 2015, by community|
|Source: Massachusetts Port Authority; data from January through September 2015|
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.