Map depicting proposed expansion of hangars at Hanscom Field
Figure 1.5 Proposed Conditions Site Plan Hanscom North Airfield. (Source: vhb via MEPA, 2022)

The airfield now known as Hanscom was formed in 1941 on 500 acres comprised of land in Bedford, Lexington, Concord and Lincoln. Currently operated by Massport, Hanscom Airfield now comprises 1,125 acres, with a significant new development on the horizon. 

North Airfield Ventures, LLC and Runway Realty Ventures, LLC submitted a 102-page Environmental Notification Form (ENF) to the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office on Jan. 23 with plans for a “master development” — the addition of 27 hangars (495,000 square feet) on 47 acres at Hanscom’s North Airfield. 

Local interest in the development is high: approximately 50 individuals attended a Feb. 6 site visit on the airfield and 144 participants logged onto a three-hour webinar that evening. 

During the webinar, State Senator Mike Barrett (D-3rd Middlesex) strongly challenged the plan primarily on environmental grounds, saying “I’m just channeling my constituents’ general concern — but four towns surrounding this airport are striving on their own to go ‘green’ and to be sensitive in all kinds of ways, from housing to transportation to the way they procure electric power, to be sensitive about emissions … But private jet travel, whether by corporations or by individuals, despite the improvements made in jet propulsion technology, are exceedingly emissions-heavy, per capita, per dollar, on any metric you might choose.”

Barrett characterized Massport as “intent on building its private jet business” and said he wanted “to register that foundational objection to this process going forward.” He said his “conviction that this is fundamentally misplaced” stems from an “awareness that a Massport facility in our midst will single-handedly undo much of the progress we make in terms of ‘greening’ transportation and buildings.”

Both of Lexington’s representatives in the Massachusetts House, Rep. Ken Gordon (D-21st Middlesex) and Rep. Michelle Ciccolo (D-15th Middlesex) agreed with Sen. Barrett’s comments and posed their own questions during the webinar. Gordon wondered about the actual number of current “ferry flights” and Ciccolo asked about quantifying the number of trees that will be lost and how many of the proposed hangars are already reserved or purchased by aircraft already based at Hanscom.

Letters to MEPA were submitted on behalf of several towns, the Hanscom Field Advisory Commission, Save Our Heritage and other organizations before the Feb. 14 deadline for public comment.

Proponents see expansion as necessary to adequately meet demand

Contrary to the concerns raised by the legislators, the Proponent’s ENF claims the development 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.” They also expect to see “environmental benefits associated with reduced air emissions by reducing overall aircraft trips” by lessening the number of “ferry flights,” caused when private aircraft servicing passengers at Hanscom must hangar at other airports between their arrival and departure. The additional hangar space would allow those aircraft to remain at Hanscom instead while waiting for their private jet passengers.

The ENF further claims the project will “relieve pressure from Logan in accordance with Massport’s long-term planning objective aimed at using regional airports to satisfy the current and future demand for general aviation services” and notes that “Hanscom Field is the Federal Aviation Administration’s designated general aviation reliever for Logan Airport.” 

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  1. Having dealt with Massport over last 25 years as they eye the Jordan Conservation land and with Massport’s eye always on expansion, the inevitable desire to cut down the tall pines in Hartwell Forest all the way to South Road to accommodate future larger planes., they always use the “FAA” as their cudgel to make the excuse that it’s not really them, but Federal rules. There is no FAA rule for expanding Hanscom private jet hanger space by 50%. This is a profit driven expansion that puts the wants of a few private and corporate jet owners over the needs of surrounding communities of clean air, and reduction of noise, water and light pollution. As a resident of Hartwell, we already smell the jet fuel in the air as planes rev up engines in preparation for takeoff and maintenance. If this project is allowed to go forward, there must be iron clad agreements on mitigation of noise, light, air and light pollution. As well as hefty real fines that jet owners feel for violations.

    1. I agree. Stop the expansion. It would be an environmental disaster and a reduction in quality of life for all those in the immediate area.

    2. Also, it would impact 35 environmental justice populations within a 5-mile radius (Billerica, Burlington, Lexington, Lincoln, and Waltham). It would add 36.75 acres of impervious paving by clearcutting mature trees (needed for CO2 sequestration). We need to REDUCE greenhouse gasses, not increase them, and put people (current and future) above profits. Stop the expansion.

  2. I’d just like to weigh in on behalf of the wildlife, another environmental concern. The wildlife corridor used to go through our neighborhood, across from Westview Cemetery, but with the development during the past 30 years, it seems to have shifted more to the transmission lines that cross Bedford St. near Hartwell Ave., even though they need to cross a busier road. I’ve seen this driving home from work late at night. Hartwell Forest also provides traveling space for these creatures that keep our ecosystem functioning. Even bees and butterflies are essential to the life of most plants, and the whole system extends upward. So I do not support more eradication of open space. I have lived in this area since childhood and watched it disappear. About “ferry flights,” why not pass legislation that makes it to a corporation’s advantage to use commercial flights? Why not have a few larger flights coming in and out of Hanscom instead of encouraging smaller airplanes? Or perhaps other alternatives can be found.

  3. Also please note the map above does not identify the roads, so is hard to place in context. Thanks!

  4. Has anyone assessed the positive potential of new jobs in the area? And if they might be able to donate land to development of low income housing in the area? Seems that could be a win that not a single person is talking about. And to believe that metro west will solve climate change is somewhat humorous. I am fascinated by our local governments and their activism around climate.

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