Airplane noise issues
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Airplane noise

  • Noise levels (decibels)
    60 dB
    65 dB
    70 dB: defined as 'irritating' level of noise, comparable to a vacuum cleaner or television set at a loud volume.
    75 dB: defined as a constant irritating level of sound, comparable to a busy restaurant.
  • SOURCE: Noise Contour Map (2016) from Federal Aviation Authority.

    NOTE 1: Decibels are a logarithmic, not linear, measurement of noise levels. 70dB is twice as loud as 60dB, and 80 dB is twice as loud as 70dB. At 80dB, there is possible hearing damage over an eight hour exposure.

    NOTE 2: However, the noise contour map does not reflect all the neighborhoods that are affected by airplane noise. Please see our report for a chart of the neighborhoods where the most airplane noise complaints have been made.
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Flood zones

Zoning districts

    Airplane noise issues



Arlington, MA

United States

14 neighborhoods



Cambridge, MA

United States

22 neighborhoods



Chelsea, MA

United States

11 neighborhoods



East Boston

Contains: Eagle Hill, Jeffries Point, Logan Airport, Orient Heights
Image via Clippership Wharf



Everett, Massachusetts

United States

4 neighborhoods



Fort Point

10 Farnsworth St. #PH via Redfin



Jamaica Plain

Contains: Forest Hills, Parkside, Pondside, Woodbourne
32 Parkton St. via Compass



Neponset/Port Norfolk

Contains: Pope's Hill
Part of: Dorchester
24 Ericsson St. via BPDA




Contains: Fort Hill, Grove Hall, Lower Roxbury, Mission Hill, Parker Hill
64 Bartlett St. via Coldwell Banker



Somerville, MA

United States

15 neighborhoods



South End

86 Berkeley St. via Trulia



Watertown, MA

United States

7 neighborhoods

Airplane noise issues

Logan Airport expansion required soundproofing many houses and schools nearby. Located in East Boston, Logan is the primary airport for Greater Boston. Because it accommodates flights 24 hours a day, there is persistent noise over some towns and neighborhoods. Since 1983, Massport's Noise Abatement Office began soundproofing efforts to reduce the airport's noise impact on surrounding areas. Over that time, Massport has spent over $170 million soundproofing over 11,000 residences and 36 schools. However, a new GPS-enabled navigation has changed the approach paths to Logan Airport, allowing planes to land lower and faster, and concentrating take-offs and landings over a narrower area. This has affected some neighborhoods more than others.

New landing technology concentrates flights over a narrower band. In 2007, the FAA approved the Next/Gen GPS based navigation system, which allows airplanes to approach the runway lower and faster and to increase the number of landings per hour. In 2012, Next/Gen was implemented, and people living under the narrower, more concentrated flight paths report a constant barrage of both noise and vibration. This has resulted in similar issues in neighborhoods and adjacent towns to almost every major airport, including New York City, and has spurred considerable resident activism in affected areas.

FAA noise contour maps don't reflect all neighborhoods affected by airplane noise.The FAA issued an official noise contour map for 2015, which is used to determine eligibility for MassPort's sound abatement program for homeowners and schools. However, the airport noise complaints by neighborhood suggest that many areas are affected that are not showing up on the FAA map.

The FAA map shows that the following areas are affected with airport noise of 60-75 decibels (details below).

70-75 dB: Orient Heights in East Boston.

65 dB: Within East Boston, parts of Eagle Hill, Jeffries Point, Lower Eagle Hill, Lower Orient Heights, and Orient Heights are affected. In addition, parts of Castle Island in South Boston are in this noise category.

60 dB: Within this category are Fort Point, Seaport and several sections of South Boston, including Castle Island, City Point, and D Street/Broadway. The edge of Neponset/Port Norfolk and Harbor Point in Dorchester. Sections of Jeffries Point, Lower Eagle Hill, Eagle Hill, Orient Heights, and Lower Orient Heights in East Boston. Lastly, Marina Bay in Quincy, and parts of the cities of Chelsea, Everett, Revere, and Winthrop

To put these numbers in context, the Boston Municipal Code established standards for noise that is unreasonable or excessive. Anything louder than 50 decibels from 11pm to 7am is considered unreasonable, and anything louder than 70 dB is considered too much at any time, except for permitted construction. The average daytime level in Boston is 62-65 dB, according to Noise and the City.

However, the FAA chart above does not align with the neighborhoods and towns that are making complaints to the city about the airline noise. The chart below shows the area, along with the number of calls:

The town of Milton is one of the communities most affected by noise issues, according to the Boston Globe. The number of noise complaints for each community gives a sense of the magnitude of the issue: Milton (2,325 calls), Cambridge (197), South Boston (183), Arlington (165), and Somerville (135). However, the data does not break down the individual neighborhoods affected within these towns. That said, in addition to South Boston several other Boston neighborhoods suffered from noise issues, including Roxbury (80), Jamaica Plain (76), Dorchester (69), South End (63), and Roslindale (63).

What is striking is that most of these neighborhoods and towns are not reflected on the FAA's official noise map as areas where there would be considerable airplane noise. In addition, the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the airport, that are within the FAA noise map, reflect considerably lower noise complaints: Chelsea (2), Everett (3), East Boston (10), and Revere (11).

These noise complaints coincide with the implementation of the Next/Gen system. In 2012, before it was implemented, there were fewer than 1,700 noise complaints in total, with only 81 from Milton.

The noise has a significant effect on quality of life. According to the Boston Globe, Cindy Christiansen, who heads the Milton committee that deals with Logan Airport noise issues, said some residents no longer walk their dogs because of the noise, others had abandoned plans to build outdoor decks, and some were taking medicine so that they could sleep through the noise. A number of residents had called her in tears, saying they had no choice but to sell their houses.

Resources. Some of the groups addressing the persistent noise issues are Boston Fair Skies Coalition, Boston West Fair Skies and Logan Aircraft-Noise Working Group. The town of Medford maintains a page for airport noise issues (with more here and here)