After Cindy Christiansen moved from Brookline to Milton in 2011, she set about creating a little urban oasis, complete with funky yard sculptures and three charming chickens.
But then, about a year after she moved onto Collamore Street, the airplanes started flying overhead—again and again and again.
“This is a relatively light period now,” Christen said one recent weekday morning, as an interview in her backyard was interrupted by repeated flyovers. “They’re probably coming, what, every 3 minutes? We get them every 90 seconds.”
Christian blames a new method of routing flights into Logan, which is part of a broader push by the FAA to make the nation’s airplanes and airports more efficient.
For her and her neighbors, Christiansen says, that policy shift—widely known as NextGen—has meant hundreds of airplanes taking the same few paths over their homes every day.
For Christiansen, arrivals on Logan runway 4R are a source of special concern. It is, she says, like a highway suddenly materialized in the sky, directly over her roof.
“It’s almost constant noise,” Christiansen says. “It reminds me of someone turning a vacuum cleaner on and off, or your phone ringing every ninety seconds.”
For the record, Christiansen is an activist: she’s Milton’s representative on the Logan Airport Community Advisory Committee, a volunteer group. But she's hardly an anomaly. In recent months, Milton residents have bombarded Massport with complaints about airplane noise.
Kim Madigan has lived in Milton for 25 years. Throughout that time, she says, airplane noise was a basic fact of life: present, but hardly intolerable.
But in the past year or so, Madigan says, the noise from flyovers has become far more intrusive, frequently limiting her sleep to about five hours nightly.
On bad nights, Madigan says she sleeps in the basement with headphones on.
Madigan also concerned about what the planes are leaving in their wake—especially, she says, because she’s a two-time cancer survivor.
“I’m worried about what’s coming out of the back of that plane, because our two public schools are right underneath that path,” Madigan says. “And if you look at my windowsill, the jet fuel is black.”
Asked how she knows the black residue in question is jet fuel, Madigan concedes she doesn’t.
“I haven’t had it tested,” she admits. “But since the planes are lower, I’m cleaning my windows more; I’m cleaning my window ledges more. It’s like a black silt.”
Milton isn’t the only community bristling at the new flight patterns. At a recent public forum, Congressman Steve Lynch—who’s been sharply critical of the FAA—says he’s watched firsthand as planes arriving at Logan fly over South Shore towns instead of the ocean.
“I look out my window,” Lynch said, recounting a recent flight, “and right below me is Marshfield, Scituate.I could even see the Pavilion there in Hull right along the water…. You’re talking about coastal communities, where all you gotta do is just fly a mile out over the water.”
Massport tells WGBH that while it’s working to address the concerns of Milton residents—meeting with them, or their representatives, on eight occasions—noise linked to Logan is a regional concern.
“It is important to know that although Milton does receive noise from Logan overflights, many communities bear more noise,” Massport said in a statement. “Removing noise from one community means it will go to another community.”
The FAA hasn't responded to WGBH News' request for comment.
For her part, Cindy Christiansen has what she considers an eminently reasonable wish list. She wants to see plane traffic distributed more equitably around the Boston area. To that end, she wants the FAA and Massport to release data about how air traffic over Milton compares to other communities.
But most of all, Christiansen says, she wants the complaints she and others are voicing to be treated with an appropriate level of concern.
“This really is affecting people’s lives,” she says. “I believe it’s a public-health issue. And once it’s finally defined as that, something will be done.”
Full Massport Statement
“Logan is an urban airport just three miles from downtown Boston. As a result, dozens of communities are overflown by Logan flights. Because flights in and out of Logan are a shared concern they need to be dealt with in a region-wide way. It is important to know that although Milton does receive noise from Logan overflights many communities bear more noise. Removing noise from one community means it will go to another community.
“The Federal Aviation Administration is responsible for controlling the movement of aircraft and selecting runways for use. Runway selection is based primarily on wind and weather for safety reasons. Massport understands community concerns about aircraft noise, and Massport has met eight times with Milton residents or their representatives to discuss overflights, and participated in dozens of calls with elected officials. The most recent meeting was on Dec. 3.
“The airport and the FAA have worked together and will continue to work to reduce noise in communities like Milton in an equitable way, such as a noise abatement procedure that requires planes departing runway 22R and 22L to make a sharp left turn over the harbor instead of flying straight over Milton.”