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Massachusetts: Introduction of Commercial Passenger Service at Hanscom Field, Bedford

Agency: Federal Aviation Administration

Criteria for ACHP Involvement:

  • The potential exists for adverse effects to Minute Man National Historical Park and other nationally significant historic properties (Criterion 1).

  • The project has raised issues regarding the applicability of Section 106 to a type of Federal undertaking—the issuance and amendment of airline operations specifications (Criterion 2).

  • The project has engendered litigation and substantial public controversy (Criterion 3).

Recent Developments

In April 2001, Shuttle America airline declared bankruptcy and began limiting its commercial passenger service at Hanscom Field near Minute Man National Historical Park, but three other airlines formally expressed interest in initiating service at the airport. Announcements by Boston-Maine Airways, US Airways, and Midway Airlines fueled further public protest regarding the potential for increased service to impact the adjacent national park and other historic properties. Of particular concern was the potential for the introduction of jet service.

Opponents of Hanscom Field commercial passenger service



Opponents of Hanscom Field commercial passenger service (photo courtesy of Jim Henderson)



US Airways later withdrew its proposal after a May public meeting that was attended by 400-500 people and had to be cut short due to demonstrations. Then, in the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Midway Airlines ceased operations. Boston-Maine Airways has not withdrawn its indication of interest, and Shuttle America continues offering service, albeit at reduced levels.

The Boston Sub-Group of the interagency Hanscom Field working group created by the Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Interior (DOI), and ACHP has been meeting regularly. To ensure needed policy oversight, ACHP has requested that DOT and DOI convene a meeting of the Washington Sub-Group. An October 2001 meeting date has been proposed.


In September 1999 and then again in October 2000, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) amended the operations specifications (opspecs) for Shuttle America airline, thus permitting the company to initiate and expand commercial passenger service at Hanscom Field, a busy general aviation airport in Bedford, Massachusetts.

As part of its mandate to regulate air safety, FAA must approve opspecs for each airline specifying destinations for flights and the type of airplanes that can be used. Shuttle America sought an opspecs amendment to introduce its service to Hanscom Field and then asked for a second amendment to operate between Hanscom Field and LaGuardia Airport in New York.

Previous efforts to maintain passenger service at Hanscom Field were unsuccessful, but growing congestion at nearby Logan Airport has made such service an increasingly attractive alternative. Thus, Shuttle America flights at Hanscom Field quickly grew from four to 34 per day. (Once an opspecs amendment is granted, an airline does not require further approval by FAA to increase the number of flights offered.) The reintroduction and swift expansion of commuter service at Hanscom Field after a 10-year hiatus have caused significant public controversy regarding the potential impact to historic properties.

Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord, Massachusetts


Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord, Massachusetts (photo courtesy of National Park Service)



Hanscom Field is located within an extremely rich historic environment. The airport lies just north of Minute Man National Historical Park, site of the opening battles of the American Revolution, and is surrounded by four historic communities: Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, and Bedford. These towns contain numerous properties listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and 10 National Historic Landmarks (NHLs). Several of these NHLs, including Walden Pond, are associated with the area’s influential authors of the 19th century, including Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Alcott. (For more information on Minute Man National Historical Park, visit

Citizens groups, local governments, and the National Park Service have raised serious questions regarding the potential environmental impacts of commercial passenger service at Hanscom Field. In addition to concern for noise impacts, opponents are concerned that automobile traffic generated by the new passenger service will adversely affect the Battle Road, along which the April 1775 battles were fought. This historic road within the park offers virtually the only access to Hanscom Field and is already overtaxed by growing amounts of traffic.

ACHP first became aware of the Hanscom Field situation in September 1999, at about the same time that FAA issued its first opspecs amendment to Shuttle America. ACHP then corresponded with and met with FAA representatives on several occasions to try to clarify the applicability of Section 106 to the Shuttle America opspecs amendments. FAA argued both that opspecs actions are not undertakings subject to Section 106 review and that, even if they are, FAA has adequately complied with the law in this case. ACHP staff maintained that both of these arguments were unpersuasive.

While discussions proceeded, FAA initiated consultation with the Massachusetts State Historic Preservation Office on the second proposed Shuttle America opspecs amendment. However, in October 2000, FAA proceeded to grant the requested amendment. This action prompted local citizens and municipalities to bring suit against FAA in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

In October 2000, ACHP recommended that FAA partner with its sister transportation agency, the Federal Highway Administration, to explore convening a working group to address the potential effects of commercial passenger service at Hanscom Field. Several planning meetings culminated in January 2001 with execution of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Transportation, the Department of Interior, and ACHP.

The MOU establishes a working group with sub-groups at the headquarters and field levels. This creates a formal partnership among the Federal agencies to promote—in consultation with non-Federal parties—protection of Minute Man National Historical Park and other historic properties from current and future transportation impacts. FAA Administrator Jane Garvey has been personally involved in leading the working group.

Policy Highlights

The issuance or amendment of opspecs is a classic example of a Federal undertaking where there is a relatively small degree of Federal involvement relative to the resulting action. In this case, there is even disagreement on whether FAA’s actions can be considered an undertaking subject to Section 106. The creation of the working group of Federal agencies to address the fundamental issue of transportation management—both surface and air—in this historic area may serve as an important model for future collaborative efforts to protect significant cultural resources.

Staff contact: Druscilla Null

Updated June 6, 2002

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