A protester sits in front of the wheel of a private jet at Hanscom Airfield. Photo by Lauren Feeney

Protesters block private jets at Hanscom Airfield

April 21, 2024

This story originally appeared in The Lexington Observer and is republished with permission.

By Lauren Feeney and Lisa Guidetti

Twenty protesters were arrested Saturday after members of the group Extinction Rebellion Boston stood in the way of private jets at Hanscom Airfield. Others blocked the entrances of fixed-base operators Signature Aviation, Jet Aviation and Atlantic Aviation, holding banners with slogans like “no new fossil fuel infrastructure” and “private jets are leaving our kids’ future in the dust.”

The demonstrators were protesting the proposed expansion of Hanscom Airfield, which would add 17 new hangars for private jets. Activists say the projected increase in carbon emissions resulting from the additional jet flights would negate most of the gains from all solar installations in the state.

“I think most people don’t know that on average, per passenger, private jets contribute 10 times more carbon pollution than commercial airlines,” said Harley Takagi Kaner, one of the protesters who blocked the path of outgoing flights.

“It’s a slap in the face that they are even considering this proposal,” protester Gerry Frank told LexObserver. “They’ve asked all the citizens of Massachusetts to help out by putting solar panels on their roofs, getting electric vehicles, putting heat pumps in their house, recycling plastic. This overrides everything that we as citizens are doing to do our part.”

A Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the expansion was released in March, detailing plans for a 47-acre development with 17 new hangars, adding 395,700 square feet for aircraft parking and storage. The planned number of new hangars dropped from 26 in the initial 2023 filing with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Office to 17 in the recently-released DEIR, but the square footage remains about the same. The public comment period on the report lasts through May 10.

Other local groups opposed to the proposal include Stop Private Jet Expansion at Hanscom or Anywhere. The group presented a petition to Governor Maura Healy’s office in October; it now has more than 14,000 signatures according to the group’s website.

Jana Pickard-Richardson was one of the many activists standing outside in the rain on a Saturday morning, possibly risking arrest. Asked why, Pickard-Richardson said, “I have two kids, 9 and 12 — and I myself am not that old,” she said. “I just can’t believe with all we know about the science of how we are heating our planet beyond livability that Massachusetts is still contemplating the expansion of an airport that serves the 1%.”

This story has been updated.