Friday, August 18, 2000
With reservations, selectmen sign Hanscom moratorium
State Representative Susan Fargo visited the Carlisle Board of Selectmen's meeting on August 8 to request support of a petition entitled Hanscom at the Crossroads which calls for a moratorium on expansion of commercial passenger aviation at Hanscom Field. Currently, Shuttle America, which operates about 20 flights a day from Hanscom to smaller airports, such as Trenton, has applied for permission to fly to New York's LaGuardia airport. Characterizing the issue of airport expansion as "one that affects my entire Senate district," Fargo described the original decision by Massport to allow Shuttle America flights from Hanscom as "arbitrary and capricious" because it was reached without community input and in violation of a promise not to allow such flights. Suggesting that Green Airport in Rhode Island and Manchester Airport in New Hampshire are alternatives that have not been seriously considered, and that the New York mayor opposes added flights at LaGuardia, Fargo contended, "There is no plan, and I find that shocking....What we've seen operating is not good government."
According to selectman John Ballantine, Massport officials claim to have a plan which includes expansion at Green, Manchester and Worcester Airports. Wayne Davis, Carlisle's liaison to the Hanscom advisory committee, contested this and centered on Worcester as a problematic place to expand. "It's fogged in more than Nantucket...and there's no highway within 20 minutes of it." Expansion at Worcester would require "slashing through neighborhoods and laying concrete." Fargo interjected her opinion that after many years of dealing with Massport, "There is no plan....Hanscom is being sacrificed to political expediency."
In response to another question from Ballantine, Davis confirmed that reports to the advisory committee show that commercial passenger aircraft are not the primary source of noise pollution at Hanscom. "Military jets have the greatest noise impact....They are about one percent of the traffic causing 20 percent of the noise." Selectman Doug Stevenson questioned the possibility of putting controls on flight hours or noise levels. Davis explained that because Hanscom is a public facility, federal regulations require that landing fields remain open and unrestricted except for reasons of safety. Even instituting higher landing fees to discourage night landings has been challenged in court. The assumed limit for Hanscom is 300,000 flight operations per year, as this is the highest the facility has experienced. Currently, Hanscom is at about 200,000 operations annually, 80 percent of which are landings and takeoffs by flight schools. Shuttle America is responsible for approximately 6,000 flight operations per year (15 to 22 flights per day).
Andy Ostrom of Ledgeways introduced himself as a founder and former president of the Hanscom Pilots Association who also works in a building situated at one of the runways at Hanscom. Opposing the petition, Ostrom pointed out that travel is the lifeblood of high-tech, and "without a sound aviation base, high-tech in this area will vanish." He believes that directing travellers to airports in other states is not reasonable as passengers want convenience. Ostrom said that as he watches planes from his window at work, Shuttle America is not the biggest noise problem: "Business jets and military flights are by far the noisiest." Ostrom called the traffic argument "specious," pointing out only about 40 cars per hour are added to the roads due to commercial flights at Hanscom. He also claimed that without major expansion, the terminal has no room for additional flights. Fargo later pointed out that a 90,000-square-foot office is planned at Hanscom which will free up space in the terminal.
Larry Bearfield of North Road spoke up in support of the petition. "The noise impact [from aircraft] has increased by multiples over the last years....The noise factor affects our very town's character." Don Allen of Pilgrim Path also supported the petition and came prepared with aerial photos showing the flight routes and distances from Hanscom of various historical sites and points of interest. Claudia Veitch of Pheasant Hill Lane urged the selectman to sige the petition as an expression of solidarity with other communities. She is concerned that other airlines may be looking at Hanscom with the intention of moving there, and fears the impact on historical sites such as Minuteman National Park, which is on Hanscom's doorstep. "We are stewards for places people all over the world go to visit," she said.
Turning to the petition, Ballantine took issue with the wording and tone, which he felt did not reflect a willingness to do "our fair share" in solving the region's transportation problems. "My concern in signing is this doesn't convey the need for a plan." Selectman Vivian Chaput, who had attended a recent rally at the Old Manse in Concord in support of the document, said she had spoken to selectmen from towns that had already signed. She had concluded that changing the letter was not possible, since it had already been reviewed, edited, and endorsed by several towns and citizens groups, including a group from East Boston, home of Logan Airport.
Stevenson agreed with Ballantine, "I have great concern with the language. I don't disagree we need a plan, but I'm not comfortable signing what's been put before me." Saying, "It amazes me that the Declaration of Independence was ever agreed upon," chair Michael Fitzgerald suggested signing the document and adding a cover letter. It was agreed to sign the document with the addition of a cover letter calling for a regional plan in which Carlisle wishes to be a responsible participant.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito