Are the Planes Too Damn Loud? Public Hearing on Airplane Noise Tonight

Delta takeoff Logan AirportA Delta flight takes off from Logan Airport in 2018. Photo by Nicky Boogaard/Flickr Commons

If you’re fed up with the noise from airplanes flying overhead and want to know who you can talk to, tonight is your chance. The city of Somerville and its Committee on Public Health and Safety will take comments at a 6 p.m. public hearing in the auditorium of Somerville High School at 81 Highland Avenue.

Airplane noise has become a major issue locally since the Federal Aviation Administration issued a new Area Navigation (or RNAV) plan for runway 33L at Logan Airport in 2013; that’s the runway that points northwest, toward Somerville and other cities. While this made air traffic control more efficient, it also concentrated planes along fewer paths, increasing the frequency of their passing overhead and raising noise levels below. In the intervening years, both public panels and citizen-led groups around Logan have raised the issue with Massport.

Prior to the public comment tonight, there will be brief presentations on the issue from Tara Ten Eyck, the Somerville representative on the 33L Municipal Working Group, and Wig Zamore, Somerville’s representative on the Massport Community Advisory Committee.

“I got involved because, back in 2013, we noticed a huge uptick in the number of overflights, specifically over our house, sort of in a line,” says Ten Eyck (pronounced “tennek”). “It’s like someone threw a switch and all of a sudden there were all these flights.”

Ten Eyck is hoping for a show of support tonight from residents in favor of “some kind of dispersion” of air traffic over a wider area, more like how things were before the 2013 RNAV.

“I like to say anybody can handle some of the noise some of the time, but nobody can handle all of the noise all of the time,” she says. “We support having the benefit from the airport, so we don’t mind having some of the noise some of the time. Most people probably wouldn’t notice it.”

Zamore (pronounced “zay-more”) says residents should be aware that the hearing won’t result in any direct change—that would come from the FAA, not the city— and that there is a lot of information on the impact of plane noise which used to be available to the public that isn’t anymore. In the past, Logan had provided communities with day-night average sound level (or DNL) measurements for individual census blocks; now, that granular data isn’t being made available, only the DNL for larger tracts.

“That [census block data] would allow anybody who was interested to consider whether a change in patterns would be the fairest thing to try to pursue,” says Zamore. “I think without that information, it would be reckless [to propose specific changes].”

If you cannot attend the public hearing or do not wish to speak there, you can still submit written testimony for the public record until Sept. 20. Email it to cityclerk@somervillema.gov through this Friday, Sept. 20, at 5 p.m.; or send by mail to City Clerk, 93 Highland Avenue, Somerville, MA 02143.

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