No Injunction Against Commercial Flights at Suburban Massachusetts Airport

SEPTEMBER 28, 1999

Commercial flights were scheduled to land this morning at Hanscom Air Force Base after a judge refused to issue an injunction requested by residents concerned about increased noise and traffic. Judge Herman J. Smith's ruling in Middlesex Superior Court on Monday cleared the way for Shuttle America to begin eight flights per day from Hanscom.

Some residents of surrounding towns said they feared the move would attract other commercial airlines to the airfield, which is located amid historic suburban communities 15 miles northwest of Boston. "It's absolutely a slippery slope," said Peter D. Enrich, chairman of the Lexington Board of Selectmen.

About 100 demonstrators picketed outside the airport this morning as the first commercial flight in eight years was expected to arrive.

A citizen group from Bedford, Lexington, Concord and Lincoln in September had sued the Massachusetts Port Authority, which operates the airfield, after the Hartford-based Shuttle America announced plans to begin service there. They sought an injunction barring flights. The residents said reopening Hanscom to commercial airlines would bring unwanted noise from the planes and more traffic to Old Battle Road, a two-lane roadway bordered on both sides by National Park Service land. (See Communities Sue to Block Commercial Service at Massachusetts Air Force Base.)

Massport spokesman Richard Walsh said Shuttle America's arrival wouldn't change Hanscom's primary role as a place for corporate jets, and added that Hanscom doesn't even have gates or baggage carousels. "The charge of a slippery slope couldn't be further from the truth," Walsh said.

Shuttle America spokesman Mark Cestari said the airline's planes have 50 seats and average about 25 people per flight. Commercial airlines last operated out of Hanscom in 1991. Mohawk Airlines flew 19-seat planes from Bedford to Rome, N.Y., relying primarily on flights catering to military personnel, but couldn't draw enough business to stay profitable, Walsh said. Since then, the air base has been used primarily by private planes, corporate jets and military aircraft.

Cestari said Shuttle America, which opened last year, would use low fares and Hanscom's easy access to draw customers away from Boston's Logan Airport, which is also run by Massport.

Massport officials have said the agency is legally bound to allow Shuttle America to operate out of Hanscom if it meets all environmental and aviation regulations. Federal grants to Hanscom and Logan would be jeopardized if Massport discriminated against any airline by not allowing them to use the airport, Walsh said.

Source: Associated Press, in the Boston Herald