A proposed increase to the number of private jets potentially housed at Hanscom Field faces stiff headwinds from a coalition of impacted locals and environmental groups, many of whom have asked the governor to stop the move by Massport to expand flights at the regional hub.
Hundreds of people gathered on the steps of the State House Monday to ask for Gov. Maura Healey’s intervention ahead of the proposed construction of 27 private jet hangars at the quasi-state run airport.
Armed with a petition apparently signed by over 10,000 Bay State residents and joined by state Sen. Michael Barrett, the group listened and occasionally shouted in agreement with several speakers who explained why they sought Healey’s help.
“In seriously entertaining a proposal to build multiple new hangars for super-polluting private jets at Hanscom Airfield, MassPort is on the verge of a stomach-turning two-fer: aiding and abetting the warming of the planet and pandering to the concentration of private wealth. You can’t do much worse than that, right?” said Barrett, a Lexington Democrat.
The Boston Herald reported that proponents of the planned expansion, according to an environmental impact notice they submitted to Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rebecca Tepper in January, claim the expansion would actually help MassPort in its effort to meet climate goals it set for itself.
“The Project will facilitate progress toward a carbon neutral aviation industry by incorporating infrastructure to support electric vehicles and equipment, electric aircraft, and sustainable aviation fuels — contributing in measurable ways to MassPort’s Net Zero goal by 2031,” representatives of Runway Realty Ventures, LLC and North Airfield Ventures, LLC told the Secretary.
According to the companies, housing aircraft at Hanscom would actually mean fewer flights out of Logan and would step toward the agency’s own plans, which they say aim at using regional airports for general aviation needs.
However, according to the group Stop Private Jet Expansion at Hanscom or Anywhere, a private jet passenger flying from New York City to Washington D.C. emits 45-times as much greenhouse gas as a passenger on a commercial flight, and 1,100 times what is generated to deliver a train passenger to their destination.
Pound for pound, the group said private jets are just far worse for everyone than other means of travel, and they don’t help very many people.
“0.0008% of the world’s population are private jet owners. It’s the ultimate expression of environmental injustice to allow a small number of people to pollute our world in such an unconstrained way,” the group wrote in pamphlets handed to Beacon Hill passersby.
So, which argument has the longer runway? Will the addition of more flight capacity just cater to the carbon-inducing needs of the idle rich, or will it introduce climate-friendly technology and simultaneously ease small-plane congestion at Logan Airport?
The anti-expansionists appear to portray Hanscom simply as a small, boutique airport serving private, selfish interests.
In reality, it’s a multi-faceted facility that incorporates a variety of functions.
Described as New England’s largest general aviation airport, Hanscom Field has been a major part of local aviation since 1941, when the state acquired a 500-acre parcel of land from the towns of Bedford, Concord, Lexington, and Lincoln.
By 1943 the airport was leased by the Army Air Corps and named the Laurence G. Hanscom Field, in honor of the late Laurence G. Hanscom, a founding member and commander of the Massachusetts Wing of the Civilian Air Reserve.
Military operations dominated Hanscom until it became a joint military and civilian facility in the 1950’s.
By 1959, the Massachusetts Port Authority assumed control of the state land, three years after the Massachusetts Legislature created that independent public authority. In 1974, general operations and maintenance of the airfield became the responsibility of Massport, as military operations declined to occasional use.
Hanscom has since been managed as a regional aviation facility, whose major users comprise a mix of corporate aviation, private pilots, flight schools, commuter/commercial air services, as well as some charters and light cargo.
Hanscom Field has also become a popular charter choice for business executives, Boston professional sports teams, as well as environmentally conscious A-listers of the entertainment industry.
It’s home to private and corporate aircraft of all sizes – from Piper Cubs to Gulfstream jets,
We’d conclude that the absence of any noise-pollution concerns associated with this proposed expansion means that residents of abutting Hanscom communities have learned to live with the activity of a major satellite airport.
Given the recent reports of airport near misses, eliminating as much small-plane activity as possible at Logan would be a public safety plus.
This proposed expansion shouldn’t be decided by impassioned speeches or class-warfare rhetoric.
A dispassionate review of its merits and minuses should determine its fate.