and Overview of Hanscom Field Issues
and Future Threats
This document is an introduction and
overview of problems relating to the expansion of Hanscom Field
Airport in the towns of Bedford, Concord, Lincoln, and Lexington,
Massachusetts. It has been prepared by Save Our Heritage.
Field is the busiest general aviation airport in New England, and
the second busiest in terms of total flight operations. Hanscom
has approximately 165,000 operations per year, compared with
337,000 operations at Logan Airport. A very small fraction (less
than 1%) of Hanscom operations are military flights from Hanscom
Air Force Base.
NE Airports share of the
aviation load (operations per year)
|#3 Bradley (Hartford)
T.F. Green (Providence)
Hanscom Field was created in the 1940's by
the Massachusetts legislature with money available to states under
a federal airport program. Its
creation was controversial even then, passing the legislature by a
Besides the limited amount of Military use
(<1%), Hanscom has
been historically used for small propeller aircraft, some charter
operations and, at different points of time, a small amount of
commercial passenger service.
This began to change in the 1980s as corporate jets began
to emerge as a significant aviation category.
Today, the breakdown of uses at Hanscom Field is as follows:
At the current time there is no commercial airline service.
A small fraction of the current use is open to the public or serves a
public purpose. The remainder of use, over 96%, is
essentially private luxury aircraft operations, serving
recreational fliers and those able to afford luxury travel.
The primary economic activity at the airport is the sale of
aircraft fuel. Due to the importation of fuels, the regional
economic benefit of this activity is controversial. Other
activities include aircraft maintenance and flight schools.
History of Hanscom Field:
is created against the will of the local communities, by a
single vote of the Mass legislature, in order to take
advantage of Federal Airport Funds
takes control of air base for World War II
establishes Minute Man National Historical Park in order
to preserve the site of the birthplace of the American
shuts down air base operations and aviation facilities are
transferred back to Massport
for Hanscom Field establishes Hanscom as a General
Aviation Airport and limits aircraft size, and prohibited commercial
air carriers and cargo service
operations begin rising
Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990 eliminates most
local regulation of airports in the USA
community opposition forms against various airport
expansion proposals, and the lack of input that the
communities have into the process
Authority files environmental impact statement
says a massive expansion of the Airport will have no impact
on the communities, despite the
outcries and outrage of the community, who submitted
contrary evidence and findings that were ignored.
||The four towns
surrounding Hanscom Field
all vote unanimously at their
town meetings to protect the surrounding resources and
limit the growth of the airport. However, they are
powerless to affect the situation
attempt to work with Massport to put into writing the
promises which Massport has made verbally. Massport
withdraws from the process, citing pressure from the FAA.
airline Shuttle America proposes to start commercial
operations at Hanscom against the expressed wishes of dozens
of community organizations and the general public.
||As a result of
the process violations in the approval of Shuttle America,
the four towns file a lawsuit against Massport and Shuttle
announces record growth in air traffic and ground traffic
at Hanscom Field, and proposes to double the Hangar space
and traffic. Noise complaints grow over 100% over
the previous year.
||In the case of
the towns vs Shuttle America, Federal appeals court finds in
favor of the airline, but warns that future reviews must
consider cumulative impacts.
Clinton issues an order directing the creation of a
Federal inter-agency working
group to work to establish long term protections for the
||In a unique
show of solidarity, the local towns, state and federal
representatives, and community organizations join together
to create a position statement
"Hanscom at the
Crossroads" which requests a moratorium on expansion at
Hanscom Field until a regional transportation plan is
FedEX announce plans
to initiate heavy cargo operations out of Hanscom Field.
The towns object as this is contrary to the Hanscom Field
area around Hanscom Field is
designated as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites
in America by the National Trust for Historic
preservation, due to the threat from expansion of Hanscom
designates the area around Hanscom Field as a threatened
"Last Chance Landscape"
due to the threats of expansion of Hanscom Field.
||Massport and a
local developer, Crosspoint, announce plans to expand jet
hangar space by 50%. The towns request an
requests FAA approval to demolish historic hangar 24 and add
460,000 square feet of jet hangars, doubling the hangar
capacity of the airport.
applies for $9M of Federal Stimulus dollars. Despite
congressional representatives, a report to congress
citing this expense as an inappropriate use of taxpayer
money, and public statements of the Governor that this would
not occur, $3M was granted for paving projects.
groups appeal the FAA decision to permit a doubling of jet
hangars on the grounds that the review of the impacts on
historic sites was inadequate.
Hanscom Field is in a unique location.
It is surrounded by historic and natural resources of
local, state, and national significance.
Immediately adjacent to the airport are The Great Meadows
National Wildlife Refuge and the Minuteman National Historical
Park. Within the
nearby flight paths of the airport are: Walden Pond and Walden
Woods, the Concord river parts of the SUASCO watershed, Historic
Lexington Green, Historic Downtown Concord, The North Bridge,
Estabrook Woods Conservation Area, This historic homes of Emerson,
Alcott, Hawthorne, and Thoreau, and many dozens of locations on
the national register of historic places.
These resources cannot be shielded from airport impacts or
these resources draw millions of tourists per year to
Massachusetts and provide a major contribution to the
The only ground access to Hanscom Field is
via Rt. 2A (also known as the Battle Road).
This road goes right through the National Park and cannot
be expanded or modified without the taking of National Park land.
The Hanscom communities view themselves as
rural residential communities with a tremendous responsibility to
care for and protect the special natural and historic resources
located in their midst. The
communities have all expressed their positions on Hanscom Field
through the town meeting process, in which each town adopted the
same set of guiding principles.
These votes were in each town unanimous.
In addition, a recent
MIT - BankBoston
study indicates that the character and quality of life of
communities like these are the primary driver of
location decisions of High Tech companies and are as a
result a primary driver of the Massachusetts economy.
No economic analysis shows that the current or potential expansion of Hanscom Field is
good for the local, State, or National economy.
The economic studies done by Massport indicate that the
economic and job contribution to the state is equivalent to that
of a small to medium sized software company.
The offsetting costs to the economy resulting from impact
on tourism, High Tech company location, loss of natural resources,
and property value reductions are completely disproportionate to
the contribution. By any measure, growing Hanscom Field
is a very poor economic decision for the future.
takes the position that current operations and future plans for
Hanscom all have no significant impact on the surrounding communities or the
natural and historic sites. The surrounding towns, state and
federal legislators, representatives of the local historic
and natural sites, and community groups disagree with this,
arguing such claims of no impact
are unfounded in science and
contrary to common sense.
Hanscom does not have sufficient land area
to become the second regional airport for Massachusetts.
Both Massport and the FAA admit this.
Therefore they have not proposed such use.
Massport has in the past admitted that Hanscom has poor
ground access which also limits its expansion possibilities.
However, immediately adjacent to Hanscom Field is Hanscom
Air Force Base. This
base consists of land and additional ground access options which
could permit additional Hanscom Expansion.
In recent community meetings it became clear that the
communities will accept almost any type of use of this land except
having Massport acquire it.
Therefore, if Hanscom AFB were to close, the communities
critical that Massport not end up with this facility.
Although the addition of the AFB does not get Hanscom up to
the land area which the FAA considers necessary for a major
regional airport, it does bring it closer and places the
communities and National Park at extreme risk related to new
airport expansion possibilities..
The future of the Hanscom communities and
the unique historic, natural, and cultural resources they contain
is in question. A
long term plan for the protection of these resources is needed,
along with permanent protections to ensure the success of the
plan. This is a
subject of Local, State, and National interest.
The Larger Regional
In New England, there are areas which do
support aviation expansion. In
particular, Green Airport in Providence and Manchester Airport are
both growing rapidly with majority support of the surrounding
Massachusetts, Worcester Airport has a large amount of local
support and has underutilized passenger facilities.
And each of these airports has fewer aviation operations than
Hanscom Field. A
regional plan should take into account regional needs and the
desires of the surrounding communities.
However, Massport has made it clear that they don't want
aviation activities to grow outside of their financial control.
This is not logical, but is a natural consequence of the
design and operation of the Massport machine, which wants to grow
and sees the development of aviation in other states as
despite the fact that Massachusetts is a heavy net importer of
aviation travel departures, forcing many people to drive in to
Boston from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and
Connecticut in order to use air travel services. Sustaining Massachusetts as a heavy net importer of such
traffic is not sound economic or environmental policy,
particularly when Logan Airport and our roadways are overloaded
Almost 25% of Logan activities serve the
New York area. These
connections are in many cases better served by high speed rail. Yet Massport has no interest in connecting Logan Airport to
high speed rail since it is a form of competition for Massport.
The support of surrounding airports in adjacent states and
the introduction of high speed rail should be part of a regional
transportation plan, which has been recommended by the EPA.
The Larger National
There are millions of US citizens impacted
by airports. The FAA
accepts that there are millions of people impacted, but their
definition of impacted is absurdly strict and omits the vast
majority of people impacted.
Aviation interests understood that communities and states
were beginning to focus on developing protections from the impact
of aviation expansion, and put an end to this through the exaction
of the Airport Capacity Act of 1990 which stripped the power to
limit airport impact away from localities, states, and even
There are anti-airport citizens groups
around almost every significant airport in the USA. Eventually, these groups will begin to work together on a
national agenda. To
date, these groups have not been effectively organized vs the
extremely organized and effective aviation interest groups, even
though the numbers of impacted people are much larger than the
numbers constituting aviation interests.
This is primarily because anti-airport groups are
grassroots organizations and are disproportionately constituted of
poor or minority people.
the case of threatened resources of National importance, the
National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental
Policy Act are intended to play a role which balances the
tremendous power of the FAA, at least in the cases where the FAA
is involved with airport development. However, the FAA has
taken unilateral rulemaking actions which have exempted most
airport development from these other federal laws.
The measurement and mitigation of airport
noise is an area which National work is needed. Today, the FAA has wrested control of airport noise from
the EPA and has effectively blocked any development in the areas
of understanding or mitigating airport noise.
This is a national scandal that is correctable at the