At the recent meeting regarding Logan’s Environmental Status and Planning Report (ESPR) AIR, Inc.’s Chris Marchi asked Massport Director of Aviation Planning Flavio Leo to elaborate on the conditions that would allow for a night curfew at Logan International Airport.
While not specifically forbidden, there are certain scenarios where a night curfew at a major airport could be regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
However, Leo said no airport has successfully been able to get a night curfew approved by the FAA, although many have tried.
Leo pointed to the 1990 Airports Noise and Capacity Act that phased out Stage I and Stage II Aircraft that were the loudest jets at airports across the nation in the 1970s and 1980s.
Leo explained that the airline industry told the FAA that they would phase out the aircraft but did not want to have to go around to local communities across the nation and agree to further restrictions like night curfews.
“So the deal was made that no further local restrictions would be made,” said Leo.
Furthermore a 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a Burbank, California ordinance banning nighttime takeoffs ruled local governments can not enact mandatory curfews because Congress has given the FAA and Environmental Protection Agency full control over aircraft noise. Federal officials said the curfew was not reasonable and would “create an undue burden on commerce.”
“The answer we hoped for from Flavio Leo and Massport was ‘let’s work together to see if we can accomplish this,” said Marchi. “The FAA’s constituency is the airline industry and Massport’s constituency is the flying public. We get that. However, is it okay to disrupt thousands of residents in East Boston and Chelsea with hundreds of nighttime takeoffs a year just because the airlines want to run a specific route so 200 passengers on a plane can make a connecting flight somewhere? I think the undue burden is on the residents living here. We are the ones that are disrupted at 11:30, midnight, 1 a.m. with takeoffs from Runway 15/33.”
AIR, Inc’s President Gail Miller said Massport’s current ESPR states nighttime operations are not forecast to increase at all over the next 10 – 15 years. However, Massport’s own environmental filings have shown nighttime operations have grown by 43 percent since the last ESPR,
“We just can’t take this document seriously,” said Miller.. “No explanation is given for why growth in nighttime operations -which has been averaging over 8 percent per year will slow to a stop.”.
At the ESPR meeting Rep. Madaro said aircraft activity necessary to increase passenger volumes far beyond the predicted levels has created staggering increases in noise and pollution, which have increasingly obvious public health implications.
If Massport is unwilling to join the community and take on the FAA when it comes to night curfews Madaro said he is pushing for the Port Authority to aggressively pursue nighttime takeoffs over water.
“Massport should take accountability for increasing noise abatement and pollution control measures by at least a magnitude equal to the recent and planned future expansions,” said Madaro. “Actions to divert all possible nighttime flights to overwater air traffic corridors should be aggressively pursued by Massport. Consideration of imposing increased landing fees on nighttime services should be pursued -regardless of the inherent challenges. Not only have I been copied on over 100 comment letters from my constituents expressing concern over failures of this ESPR to comprehensively address and mitigate airport noise, but colleagues in districts across the metropolitan region are also receiving comment.”
While the FAA is weary of banning ‘all’ nighttime flights they have allowed airports, like Los Angeles World Airports(LAX), to allow some restrictions on nighttime departures.
Since 1974 LAX has been part of a voluntary noise reduction program with surrounding communities called Over-Ocean Operations. Under the program most red-eye flights take off from LAX over the ocean–similar to what Rep. Madaro suggested in his comments at the ESPR meeting.