No quick fix for jet noise just west of Boston
Over the last year and a half, residents just west of Boston have noticed an upsurge in jet noise from a new flight path at Logan International Airport — and they’ve hardly been quiet about it.
Residents religiously logged noise complaints. Towns appointed representatives to a regional panel aiming to reduce the problem. State and federal legislators reached out to Massport and the Federal Aviation Administration.
But despite all the ground noise, local residents say, the noise from above has not abated. And officials say that’s not likely to change in the near future.
At a regional meeting in Belmont on Wednesday, state and federal legislators said it would probably require congressional action to reduce the steady stream of airplane noise heard over Watertown, Belmont, Cambridge, and other area communities.
“There has been some progress in engaging with the FAA, but there’s still a lot of work that remains, and this will likely be a multiyear effort,” said Jennifer McAndrew, senior adviser to US Representative Katherine Clark, a Melrose Democrat.
The complaints about increased airplane noise began in earnest in the summer of 2013, when the FAA implemented new flight plans that concentrated some landing approach and take-off routes to make trips more efficient. The new paths place the brunt of jet noise over areas in certain communities.
Despite the local efforts to draw attention to the problems, some officials say FAA leaders appear to have their heads in the clouds when it comes to the spike in jet noise.
“The FAA, in my judgment, has been extraordinarily recalcitrant and extraordinarily difficult,” said state Representative Jon Hecht, a Watertown Democrat. “Their attitude has been one of ‘We’ve done what we have to do, we don’t really like dealing with the public, and we’re not going to move.’ ”
Legislators and local leaders say the only opportunities to obtain permanent change will occur when the FAA is up for reauthorization by Congress next year, or through the agency’s budget appropriation approved by lawmakers.
Clark also helped form a Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus about two months ago, which currently has about a dozen members. “Airplane noise is a serious quality-of-life issue for many residents of my district,” she said in a statement.
The FAA last month started an experimental air traffic plan that uses different runway configurations in the mornings and evenings. The idea is to add variety to the flight plans, so residents only hear noise during certain times of the day, said Myron Kassaraba, who serves as Belmont’s representative on the regional Logan Community Advisory Committee. The test will last for about three months, and “could provide some relief, if it’s effective,” Kassaraba said.
A steady stream of planes using Logan’s runway 33L is the source of most of the problems cited by area residents.
Eliza Petrow, a Watertown resident, said airplanes fly so low over her house that she has recently smelled jet fuel both inside and outside her home, and that it feels like she “can wave to the pilot from our window.”
State Representative David Rogers, who lives in the northern part of Cambridge, said he’s no stranger to the problem.
“The other day, I was relaxing and drinking my coffee and reading my paper — it was a nice, quiet moment,’’ said Rogers, a Democrat. “Then it’s like, boom, boom, boom, there’s one plane after another flying over my house.”
“We’ve done a lot, but we’ve got to keep banging away at this,” he said.
Local leaders also urged residents to continue lodging noise complaints with Massport at 617-561-3333, or by going online to www.massport.com/environment and clicking “Aircraft Noise Monitoring.”