West Tisbury is looking for someone to take part in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 150 noise study action committee for Martha’s Vineyard Airport. West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand wrote in an email that those interested need to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday, Jan. 23.
The request for a town representative was discussed during the last West Tisbury select board meeting. The board members considered joining the committee, but could not fit it into their schedules, and decided to advertise the position. West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand said during the meeting that Edgartown also falls under the flight paths, so the airport may also be looking for a representative from the down-Island town.
Airport director Geoff Freeman told The Times on Monday the three Island entities he requested committee representatives for were West Tisbury, Edgartown, and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. So far, he has heard back only from West Tisbury. Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty was not immediately available for comment. Martha’s Vineyard Commission executive director Adam Turner was also not immediately available for comment.
The airport had a project kickoff meeting with HMMH, a Burlington-based environmental and transportation planning firm, in October to discuss the study’s timeline and what can be expected. A January 2022 memorandum from HMMH about the project scope is also available on the West Tisbury website. According to the memo, phase one of the project consists of preparing a noise exposure map. Depending on the results of this part of the study, phase two may consist of developing a noise compatibility program.
Freeman said the FAA Part 150 noise study is a voluntary grant program that supports airports to “understand and address future noise impacts.” The study analyzes and reviews various factors, such as aviation activity over the years, when there is more activity, decibel levels, and more. The study provides a “picture of what type of impact airports have on surrounding communities.”
“When this airport was originally built, it was in the middle of nowhere in World War II,” Freeman said. Freeman pointed out the increased level of development and population on the Island over the years makes it so more people feel an impact from the airport. Additionally, airport operation numbers are returning to pre-pandemic levels. Freeman said conducting the study shows the airport “trying to be a good neighbor,” and provides “hard facts” from an FAA-approved study, rather than anecdotal evidence.
“Sometimes airports don’t have as much impact as people think, sometimes they do,” Freeman said. The last preliminary noise study was in 2012, when aircraft were louder and less fuel-efficient. A large part of the study is public participation, and the meetings will be posted on the airport website and advertised in the newspapers, according to Freeman. According to an airport press release, a public information session will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School culinary arts room, located at the Sanderson Avenue entrance, from 6 to 8 pm. Freeman said this is the first of three public meetings.
Although the study can show ways the airport can reduce its impact, with FAA support options, Freeman said there are limitations. Freeman said Martha’s Vineyard Airport, as a federally obligated airport, can provide educational material to pilots and airlines (e.g. providing data, asking to avoid late-night flights), but it “cannot dictate aircraft operations.”
“We want to be good neighbors, and what we can implement after this study, we will do,” Freeman said, as long as the options were safe and feasible. He added that the study is not expected to finish until the end of this year.