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Massport's environmental defense of the North Airfield hangar project

July 2023

Massport has made a number of claims regarding the North Airfield hangar expansion project, dimissing the climate concern .  The veracity of these claims is examined:

Don't be concerned, flights from Hanscom are declining

Not exactly. The flights of jet aircraft are increasing significantly.  According to Massport's own reports, flights of private luxury jet aircraft have increased 19% since 2019.1

However, the flights of small propeller flights, such as training flights, have decreased by over 10,000.  These types of aircraft, which make up the majority of operations, emit relatively small amounts of CO2e.  Propeller operations have been reduced as Massport policies have driven small planes to other airports.2 When considering total operations, the reduction in these little aircraft mask the increases in the private luxury jets.3

Therefore, while jet flights have increased dramatically, the total aircraft operations, when the little propeller aircraft are included, have decreased.  Jet aircraft are responisble for almost all of the CO2e of Hanscom flights. 

Additional hangars might reduce flights

The actual data contradicts this theory. This counter-intuitive argument is based on the theory that some unnecesssary flights occur because there are limited hangars available at Hanscom.  Such hypothetical flights, called "ferry flights" take an aircraft to another airport with Hangar capacity, and then return when called.  This idea is based on a few anecdotes, but there is no supporting data.

This same argument has been used to support every prior hangar project at Hanscom Field. However, the historic data shows it is wrong. In the years following the last hangar project, which only was a 20% increase in Hangar capacity, jet operations grew substantially and reached their previous record high of 30,380.4

Massport has tried to support this argument by claiming total operations went down after a previous jet hangar project. This argument is disingenous because, as explained in the previous section, it was the reduction in little propeller aircraft that made the totals go down; the private luxury jets actually experienced a record-high increase.

To date Massport has provided no examples, facts, or data to support any claim about ferry flights or how they are affected by hangar projects. How can they be believed when they control this data and choose not to tell the public what it says?

Massport has said that the proposed hangars will house "based aircraft" calling Hanscom their home base. Such aircraft typically fly 500 hrs per year, each generating 4,000 Tons of CO2e per year. With the capacity of the project estimated at 81 luxury jets, this enables approximately 320,000 Tons of CO2e per year.5 Even if there are a handful of ferry flights today, any reduction associated with them would be dwarfed by these additional aircraft.

Ferry flights might actually go up as a result of the project. Ferry flights serve airports without hangar capacity. If ample capacity is addeed at Hanscom, this would incent ferry flights from Hanscom to airports without capacity such as Logan, Nantucket, and Martha's Vinyard.

The only way to limit the growth of private luxury jets is to stop building infrastructure capacity to support them. The historic data shows exacty what intuition would expect: expanding private luxury jet infrastructure results in expanded jet flights.

This is a Net-Zero project

These environmental claims are based on the emissions associated only with the buidings.  The project proposes to offest the building emissions with solar arrays and other envronmental features.  The building project includes no consideration at all for the aircraft emissions.

Facility-related emissions are negligible compared with the aviation emissions. For example, Logan airport has a net-zero plan claiming that emissions today are only 0.1 Megatons of CO2e.6  However, this is only the facility emissions.  The aircraft related emissions are not included in the Logan plan, and are on the order of 25 Megatons, or 250 times larger.7

The primary source of aviation-related emissions is jet aircraft flight.  This project, although it clearly is designed to enable private luxury jet operations, takes no account of such emissions. No local, state, or even federal policy accounts for aircraft emissions as part of any permitting or decision process.    

Once aircraft facilities are constructed, and operations commence, it is against federal law for Massport or any locality, agency, or state government to attempt to regulate or limit the resulting aircraft operations.8  There is no turning back.   

1. Massport BOD Meeting 9/20/2022
2. In the past 5 years, Massport has demolished many of the hangars for small propeller aircraft, to make room for private luxury jet hangars. 
3. In the same period, Massport reports Hanscom propeller aircraft operations declined from 86,781 to 73,947, a reduction of 12,834.  This masks the jet growth of 4,982.
4. In the period after the Signature Hangar project around 2016, jets did not decrease but instead increased in a single year from 26,012 to 30,380, an 11.6% increase.
5. based on an average of 330 gal per hour, 12kg CO2 per gallong, and 2X adjustment of CO2 to CO2e for jet aircraft. see Supporting Calculations
6. From page 8 of the Massport Net Zero Plan
7. Calculated as follows: Massport annual outgoing jet fuel consumption of 521 million gallons; times 6.3 kg CO2e per kg of jet fuel; times 3.8 kg per gallon; times 2 for round trip = 25 Megatons per year.
8. Aircraft non-discrimination provisions of The Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990

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