The Massachusetts Port Authority, also known as Massport, is a quasi-public agency that owns and operates three of Massachusetts’s main airports: Logan Airport, Worcester Regional Airport, and Laurence G. Hanscom Airport. Massport is currently working on expanding Hanscom Airport, about five miles from Concord Academy. This expansion plans for an additional 500,000 square feet of hangar space, and twenty-seven new hangars, built on forty-nine acres of land. Counting roughly three planes per hangar, the airport could house about eighty-one more planes, tripling its maximum capacity.

Hanscom acts as a critical reliever for Logan Airport’s traffic as well as for the regional aviation system as a whole. The expansion would allow for Logan to relegate its smaller private planes to Hanscom in order to make room for larger commercial flights, as stated by Massport spokesperson Jennifer Mehigan. All passengers pay a Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) to the airport, about six dollars at Logan. Therefore, large aircrafts seating hundreds of passengers will make the airport far more money than small private jets with two or three seats. This economic benefit incentivizes Massport to push forward with the expansion.

The proposal has received intense public protest due to its detrimental impact on the environment through its high level of carbon emissions and other pollutants. One specific organization has publicized this conflict: Stop Private Jet Expansion at Hanscom or Anywhere, a non-profit working to stop the expansion by rallying and petitioning for the governor’s attention.

According to the organization’s website, jet operations at Hanscom Airport already contribute 752,000 tons of CO2e per year. The expansion, if assumed to only increase jet operations by 50%, would contribute an additional 376,000 tons, reaching 1,129,000 tons of CO2e per year. A few statistics may help to contextualize the gravity of this otherwise arbitrarily large number. A typical set of solar panels offsets 2 tons per year. A typical car contributes 5 tons per year. In 2019, the entire town of Concord generated 180,000 tons. 1 private jet flight on average contributes 20 tons.

The Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC conducted an experiment revealing more jarring statistics about private jet emissions and demographics of private jet owners. Firstly, private jets emit 10-20 times the amount of CO2e per passenger as large commercial jets. Although large jets may emit more CO2e per flight, they are much more efficient as they carry enough passengers to broadly offset this difference in net CO2e production. Secondly, full and fractional private jet owners were recorded to have a median net worth of 190 million and 140 million dollars respectively. This demographic accounts for only 0.0008% of the global population, however their disproportionally high level of emissions released affect everyone.

While the Hanscom expansion may provide economic benefit to the state, it undeniably comes at a remarkable environmental cost. This expansion can be considered a significant drawback on the progress the state of Massachusetts has made in the past several years. Such an intersection between luxury, wealth, and the protection of our planet draws upon an imminent question for the people: what economic value is great enough to dispel our judgment, and chase away all consideration for our impending climate crisis?