Runway use, flight tracks, flying techniques, aircraft type, and frequency of operations are the major contributors to the noise experience in the communities.
FAA and Massport Responsibilities
The FAA’s primary mission is to provide the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world. Everyday, FAA air traffic personnel and pilots coordinate to determine runway use and flight path(s) for a particular flight based on weather conditions.
The federal government also regulates the manufacture and use of aircraft. Some aircraft inherently make more noise than others, but technology continues to improve the noise performance of new airplanes. Since 1969, federal legislation has periodically required more stringent noise standards for new aircraft and has phased out use of some of the oldest, noisiest aircraft nationally, unless retrofitted with hush kits. (See "Federal Regulations" below).
Massport encourages flying techniques that minimize aircraft noise and its impact on communities (View Massport's
noise abatement recommendations). In 1980, Massport adopted regulations for Hanscom Field, which included a phase out of aircraft operations by some of the noisiest aircraft and a fee to discourage use of the airport during the nighttime hours. Federal Regulations
The FAA first issued noise standards for civil aircraft in 1969, when regulations established that minimum noise performance levels be demonstrated for new turbojet and transport category large airplane designs.
Over the years, the FAA has also adopted regulations that phase out the use of Stage 1 and 2 aircraft weighing more than 75,000 pounds. In 2012, Congress passed the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which includes the phase out of all Stage 2 aircraft. All aircraft are required to comply with Stage 3 noise levels as of December 31, 2015.
The FAA regulates air traffic, including altitude. An aircraft being flown using Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) must follow instructions given by the FAA for the particular flight. During instrument meteorological conditions, aircraft must approach the airport using the instrument approach system that is available for the runway being used. Instrument approaches are designed to provide lateral and vertical guidance to the runway threshold, while FAA air traffic controllers ensure appropriate aircraft spacing. Aircraft executing a full instrument approach are vectored to a point on the final approach.
During visual meteorological conditions, aircraft may be authorized to fly a visual approach to the airport. When that happens, the pilot navigates on his/her own to the runway and spaces his/her aircraft to follow traffic as dictated by controllers in the airport traffic control tower.
Visual Flight Rule (VFR)
Traffic generates fluid flight patterns at Hanscom. If an aircraft is being flown VFR, the pilot must communicate with the FAA tower when in controlled airspace, but the pilot has more flexibility than when flying IFR. Both IFR and VFR departures tend to fan out from the end of the runway.
Historically air traffic controllers have relied on radar (Radio Detection and Ranging) for aircraft surveillance. Radar has been upgraded through the years, but is still relatively expensive and has limitations, including line-of-site only surveillance and accuracy decreases with distance. The terminal radar at Logan International Airport (BOS) is the closest to Hanscom Field (BED) and provides the best surveillance due to its proximity. View more information about
Surveillance Radar. Overflights
Routinely there are non-Hanscom related flights that fly over the Hanscom area. These may be Logan flights, or aircraft that may be flying between two other airports.