By Luis Bravo
Sue Mundell, Translation
The thunderous noise of planes that pass by madly, right over the rooftops of Eagle Hill residents in East Boston, is driving us crazy! We have finally lost patience, tolerance, and understanding.
Runway construction at Logan International Airport has diverted the routes of its regular flights, shaking properties and altering almost everyone’s lives.
On May 15, 2017 Mass Port closed runway 4R-22L –which typically serves more than 3,000 airplanes monthly– to renovate it.
As a result, MassPort was forced to divert planes that normally use that runway to other flight routes, such as 15/33, hitting East Boston especially hard with this rerouting.
According to MassPort, the runway under construction typically accomodates 32% of all arrivals – and many of the flights have been diverted over East Boston since the renovation work began.
Thomas P. Glynn, MassPort’s President, said that the runways need to be restored every 10 years. “It’s an unfortunate but necessary aspect, because we need to have a safe runway where planes can land without any dangers,” he said.
Glynn also said that the climate is oftentimes another determining factor when the FAA considers the flight trajectory of a plane. Bad flight conditions during a large part of last spring were factors that obliged MassPort to divert more planes to flight routes that are normally used less often. With luck, he said, by mid-July, the additional noise caused by more planes landing on runway 15/33 will be reduced somewhat, to its normal summer levels.
But the airplane noise that bothers residents now due to the reconstruction of the landing runway will not end on the announced date. The noise problem caused by the planes is not as simple as that.
In fact, the noise will increase, especially at night, because the airport is growing and bringing in more international flights. So as with all problems created by the airport, this issue is very complicated due to the regulatory focuses that are taken, which are very favorable towards the airlines.
According to Chris Marchi from Airport Impact Relief Incorporated (AirInc), “The root of the noise problem is a cultural problem, the business culture of the airline industry. In the United States, that industry is dominated by the airlines. The FAA sees the airline companies as its constituents. The FAA works first for the airlines: JetBlue, American, Delta, etc. For its part, the airports look to the FAA and the airlines as their sources of revenue. The airports look at the travelers –their passengers– as their constituents. Therefore, the impacts on the communities that are on the ground, the poisoning produced by the airplane motors, the noise contamination, etc. are secondary questions barely on the priority lists of the FAA and the airports.”
“The phrases that the FAA and airports use such as ‘larger is better,’ and ‘more is better,’ are the product of a retrograde mentality that is convenient for the airlines and they will defend to the hilt efforts to keep it that way.
For this reason, our complaints and protests seem not to make sense, because we are not part of the decision–making process.
Decisions are made to indulge the airlines, grow the airports, and make business grow, notwithstanding that there’s this problem in the public sector, in the transport sector. To fix airplane noise is a complicated topic, because the culture is aligned in the wrong direction.
They don’t even want to hear us, nor can they begin to conceive that a way to fix the noise and contamination pro-blems is by reducing the size of an airport. MassPort wants to grow.
It’s an airport, and its goal is to attract more passengers, and they use whatever arguments they can to support that. They say that attracting more passengers will bring in more money to our economy. And in fact, this brings up the idea that we are growing an airport for the economic benefit of the region, at the cost of the health and noise that we are experiencing, and will experience even more with further airport growth: the contamination, the asthma, the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), stroke, and all this is scientifically proven.
This is not only a problem for East Boston or Chelsea, for Winthrop or South Boston. This is a problem that extends as the airport gows. Up to 10 miles from the airport, the noise is driving people crazy. Up to 10 miles from the airport, the ultrafine particulates are still two to four times higher than they should be in a normal urban environment,” opined Chris Marchi.
“What right do 300 people that take a 1:30 am flight to wherever have to disrupt the sleep of more than 50,000 people who live near runway 33? In order for this airplane to take off from runway 33, it has to first fly over Eagle Hill in East Boston, towards Chelsea, and en route, it has to pass over Everett, Charlestown, Somerville, Medford, Malden, Belmont, Arlington, etc., impacting the population in different ways during this time when people are sleeping.
For some, it will wake them up, for others, it will rise their blood pressure and they can suffer temporal cognitive impairment, others could experience worsening of heart problems, increased sleep problems, lack of concentra-tion for those who work at night, etc. Airplane noise problems can be 90 decibels or more, while prolonged exposure to noises above 85 decibels causes all the above sicknesses. With what right? And we are only talking about a single flight!”
“Why do we give those passengers the right to destroy the quality of life in our neighborhoods? There’s no good reason that they have given to date. However, in Washington, DC, they have suspended night flights so that the senators and congressmen and congresswomen can sleep well, and if this is so, why can’t they stop flights in East Boston so a child can sleep well to attend school the next day, so a police officer can rest enough, so a mother can relax after the hard day that she had to go through in order to survive?” argues Marchi.
“Airport Impact Relief Incorporated (AirInc) is organizing a regional coalition. We are trying to reach our neighbors in Winthrop, Chelsea, South Boston, Quincy, Milton, and Dorchester. During the next few months, we hope to gather together the people around a couple of very simple ideas.
The two cornerstones are a “Curfew” for the airplanes and a “Regional Airport Focus” for Boston. Then there is a group of secondary solutions, such as constructing a rapid transit bus line; investing in the blue line train so it extends out to Lynn; investing in health, to improve the infrastructure for health in the long term, and the safety of the region and its people.
This will be the best for our economy. If we can create this coalition, we can come close to an external agreement that has as its principal objective reduction of the total number of the 15,000 flights that will extend throughout our region in the middle of the night,” Chris Marchi explained.
“MassPort should stop lying that it can serve the traveling public and begin to recognize its responsibility for a very real regional crisis of contamination, noise, and chronic health problems.
It needs to change, it needs to change its impulse to grow. It needs to recognize what’s in the long–term interest of our region, and the politicians should not let themselves be influenced by what the FAA says in its reports, and better yet, we are going to force them to work more with the community that elected them to defend our interests,” concluded Marchi.