Modern technology and a 1990s court decision have created a narrow flight corridor off a Logan runway that can mean hour after hour of planes roaring over Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and West Roxbury, from late at night to early in the morning, driving residents nuts.
Some 50 residents, mainly from Roslindale, gathered tonight to launch Boston South Fair Skies to try to figure out how to unburden the neighborhoods under the takeoff path from Logan's Runway 27.
Among those attending: City Council President and Roslindale resident Michelle Wu, who knows first hand of the effects of planes every minute for hours at a time: Her son Cass, born in July, tends to wake up early for his first feeding of the day. If the planes are rattling overhead, they keep him up - and so keep her and her husband up as well.
Alan Wright, who has long represented Roslindale on committees to advise Massport on airport issues, said the main problem is a new technology, based on GPS, that lets the FAA limit planes to a very narrow corridor from the runway after they take off and curve around the towers of downtown: Over the South End and Roxbury to a point above Forest Hills Cemetery, where they then diverge to head to their destinations.
Until 2015 or so, when the new system went into effect, pilots did not stay in one narrow lane like that, effectively spreading out the noise and keeping any one area from getting bombarded with an endless parade of jet noise, he said.
A 1996 court decision further limited where planes could fly, essentially creating a "happy valley of peace and quiet" for Brookline and Newton, but meaning more planes over Boston neighborhoods, he said.
What makes the problem worse, he said is that the FAA has apparently abandoned a promise not to operate the runway "back to back" - both late at night and then early the following morning. Just this past Sunday night, he said, he tried to get to sleep around 11:30 p.m. to the sound of constant planes overhead, only to be awoken shortly after 5 a.m. by more planes.
He added that Hyde Park and Milton have the same issue but in reverse - they get endless waves of planes descending for a landing at Logan.
"This is a quality of life issue, and I would argue this is a social justice issue," City Councilor Tim McCarthy of Hyde Park, who has been fighting a so far futile battle over the planes for more than two years now.
Residents agreed to begin organizing to fight for a more equitable distribution of planes across the area - possibly even going so far as to file a lawsuit over the issue.
Wright asked residents to call Massport's noise complaint liine (617-561-3333) or file complaints online. He noted that Milton and towns such as Watertown and Belmont, which have been organizing against excessive jet noise for years, are filing far more complaints than Roslindale and West Roxbury.
Longer term, residents and local and federal elected officials need to begin working towards making the effects on residents under flight paths as important as the needs of airlines. The state legislature needs to "reign in" Massport and get it to take noise more seriously. One example, he said: Airlines that fly Airbus A320 planes could make them quieter by installing small plastic devices that would end a distinctive whistling sound, but refuse to do so and will continue to refuse to do so until somebody like Massport demands they install them as a condition of landing here.
McCarthy and Wu both said they expect to receive pushback from Massport along the lines of questioning why they want to ruin the Boston economy. "We're talking about people's lives, and people's health," Wu said. The two added they are not seeking to reduce the number of flights to or from Logan, but to reduce the impact on specific neighborhoods.