Photo: Aircraft over Belmont.
A pair of tentative efforts between federal and state agencies and critics of a three-year-old plan that concentrates flights departing Boston’s Logan International to a small air corridor over a large portion of the Town of Homes could eventually lead to quieter skies over Belmont and other communities.
“I’m pleased to say that finally after three years, I come before you with good news,” said Myron Kassaraba before the Belmont Board of Selectmen last week.
“Battling” since 2013 the elevated noise level impacting Belmont and surrounding communities after the Federal Aviation Administration concentrated flight paths departing from Logan’s Runaway 33L placing more aircraft over the affected cities and towns, “letters and action taken” by residents of Belmont and surrounding towns “are starting to yield some results,” said Kassaraba, who is Belmont’s representative to the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee, made up of more than 30 communities within the 20-miles of Boston Logan International Airport.
In August, State Rep. Jonathan Hecht of Watertown brought together a dozen state legislators including Belmont’s Rep. Dave Rogers and Sen. Will Brownsberger – from Bedford, Somerville, Watertown, Arlington and Cambridge to assist a group dubbed the 33L Municipal Working Group to re-energize the effort to find a compromise on competing issues of safety and quality of life.
Formed in 2015, the group includes Arlington, Cambridge and Watertown joined with Belmont to advocate for re-examine the new flight path “since it has had significant negative impacts from higher frequency and concentrated flights,” said Kassaraba.
The outcome of the meeting was a letter from the working group signed by the legislators sent to the FAA requesting a meeting with the civil aviation agency to discuss mitigating the sound of jets.
Soon after the letter was delivered, the FAA agreed to meet with the working group on Friday, Nov. 18.
While the meeting is an encouraging first step, “it still remains to be seen as to what types of changes will be possible and acceptable to the FAA,” said Kassaraba.
As the letter was drafted, in a separate act two weeks ago the members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation led by US Rep. Katherine Clark facilitated a “pretty significant” result with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Massport (which manages and runs Logan) and the FAA in which the agencies agree to use data and resources at MIT “to conduct an exploration of alternatives to the [current] procedure and concentrated flight paths.”
The analysis will look at increasing the dispersion of aircraft over eastern Massachusetts – rather than the restricted airspace aircraft are currently assigned – and allowing airlines to obtain a higher altitude faster after takeoff.
The MOU specifically names runway 33L as a procedure that will undergo an examination, said Kassaraba. And that analyses could happen by early next year, he said.
“More detail will be forthcoming, but a recent WBUR interview with the lead investigator at MIT estimated that the first phase evaluation would take six months,” said Kassaraba.
“The [communities] and our legislators will be pushing to ensure that our concerns are fully explored as part of the effort and that we have active input,” said Kassaraba, who continues to respond to resident concerns and make regular presentations to the local citizen advocacy group, Boston West Fair Skies.
Kassaraba said he wanted to “explicitly recognize the active and steadfast support of this by Rep. Dave Rogers, Sen. Will Brownsberger and [US Rep.] Clark.”
Kassaraba told the board that residents can get educated on issues of noise and air pollution can take in a day-long seminar titled: “Airport Impacts 101: Perspectives on Environmental Health,” on Saturday, Nov. 5 in Somerville.