Climate Activists Disrupt Private Flights at Hanscom Airfield, Protesting Proposed Expansion

Photo by Lauren Feeney, The Lexington Observer

Climate activists disrupt business as usual at Hanscom Airfield, joining the ongoing community effort to resist the proposed expansion of 17 new hangars, which would create a 300% increase in private jet services. The expected CO2 emissions from the resulting private jet flights would negate 70% of the climate benefits of all the solar PV ever installed in Massachusetts.

Extinction Rebellion condemns new fossil fuel infrastructure that will be in operation for decades, preventing us from achieving decarbonization and threatening us with runaway global heating and an uninhabitable Earth. Extinction Rebellion calls on Governor Maura Healey to publicly oppose the Hanscom Airfield expansion, and all expansion of private airfields for the ultra-wealthy.

On Saturday April 20, climate activists from Extinction Rebellion Boston (XR) disrupted business as usual at Laurence G. Hanscom Airfield to protest the proposed expansion of 17 new private jet hangars. This expansion would accommodate a 300% increase in private jet services and is currently under consideration by the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport). Based on a comprehensive analysis of private flights traveling to and from Hanscom Field over an 18-month period, the expansion would primarily serve the wealthiest travelers in the region, many of whom frequently take short-hop flights to recreational and luxury destinations. Many flights are as little as 15 minutes, traveling from Concord to Boston Logan International Airport.

Starting at 8:30 AM, members of XR Boston disrupted flights at Hanscom airfield in a peaceful, non-violent, non-destructive act of civil disobedience. Activists entered the boarding area of fixed base operators and stood in the way of the planes so that they could not taxi to the runway. Several activists encircled the wheels of private jets with their arms and refused to move. Meanwhile, others blocked the entrances of Signature Aviation, Jet Aviation, and Atlantic Aviation, disrupting outgoing jet traffic until they were arrested. The protesters sang, chanted, and held banners reading "Stop Private Jet Expansion," "Cool Your Jets," "Our carbon budgets will be spent, all thanks to the 1%!", and other anti-expansion slogans. ​​​​​​​Extinction Rebellion Boston uses non-destructive, non-violent civil disobedience tactics, so no passengers or airport property were put at risk during this protest. The activists stayed in the boarding areas to ensure they only prevented flights from taking off and not from landing.

"The public comment period for the proposed Hanscom Airfield expansion's Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) lasts through May 10, and this demonstration is our community's public comment against this egregious development. The residents of Massachusetts don't want it, and sending letters to Massport isn't getting the message across" says Jamie McGonagill, an XR Boston media spokesperson. The community around Hanscom Airfield, including Concord, Bedford and Lincoln, has been outspoken against the expansion project. A MEPA meeting to collect public comments on March 4 lasted over an hour past the planned end time, as a long series of residents took the microphone to state their opposition. In that meeting, State Senator Michael J. Barrett faced the panel of developers and said, "There is nothing environmentally redeeming in what you're planning to do here, and you don't care about that anyway. You cater to the small niche of the richest people in Massachusetts, and you make no bones about it. I want to express severe disappointment in Massport. I know the destruction you folks intend to wreak on Massachusetts, and I resent it. This is all about becoming richer yourselves by helping people a little richer than you."

These negative comments are well-founded; the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Hanscom expansion is full of misinformation. Developers claim that this is a "net zero project," measuring only the impact of the empty hangars and not the hundreds of thousands of tons from aircraft emissions. Developers also claim that the expansion will reduce the number of "taxi flights." These claims are based on flawed methodology which have been refuted by a recently released detailed independent analysis.1 The report found that the project would eliminate only 132 ferry flights, but would add about 6,000 more regular flights with a resulting 150,000 tons of greenhouse gasses per year. To put this in perspective, the average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons yearly, one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average carbon footprint is closer to 4 tons. According to the Nature Conservancy2, to have the best chance of avoiding a 2℃ rise in global temperatures, the average global carbon footprint per year needs to drop to under 2 tons by 2050.

Harley Takagi Kaner, showrunner of a popular dystopian fiction podcast, was one of the activists who blocked the path of outgoing flights. When asked why they risked arrest in this act of civil disobedience, they responded, “I think most people don’t know that on average, per passenger, private jets contribute 10 times more carbon pollution than commercial airlines. These flights are only available to the ultra-rich—who, by the way, receive a tax exemption on aircraft—and we’ve seen them utilize this luxury to take jaw-droppingly unnecessary 30-minute flights. I want people to know what’s going on and I’m here to insist that private jets become an embarrassing relic of the past, starting with the Hanscom expansion.”

Extinction Rebellion Boston demands that Governor Healey take a public stand against the Hanscom Airfield Expansion in alignment with her stated position as a "Climate Governor."

The Hanscom community and taxpayers of Massachusetts are overwhelmingly demanding the end of this development plan. Local organization Stop Private Jet Expansion delivered a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to Governor Healey on October 2, 2023. The petition now has over 13,000 signatures. The group has also organized and hosted over 50 stand-outs in nearby towns. Members of Stop Private Jet Expansion have attended every Massport board meeting since May 2023 to deliver public comments. Meanwhile, climate activists with Extinction Rebellion Boston have directly confronted the Governor about the expansion multiple times since May 2023 by calling into the "Ask the Governor" segment on WGBH's "Listen To Jim and Margery" radio show. XR Boston members have also intercepted Healey in person at the State House, demanding a response.

"It's an unjust atrocity that we allow the wealthy to pour greenhouse gases into our atmosphere just because they can. The 1% accounts for 50% of all aviation emissions. Governor Healey has not taken a stand on this issue, so we're here to stop these flights from taking off since she hasn't done it herself. This expansion, and private jet use in general, must be stopped," said James Comiskey, a Boston-based sustainability professional. Comiskey was one of the activists arrested at the airfield.

This is not Extinction Rebellion Boston's first demonstration at the Hanscom Airfield. In December 2022, ten XR rebels were arrested for blocking access to Atlantic Aviation. That blockade was part of the international campaign Make Them Pay, launched to influence world leaders to ban private air travel, tax frequent flyers, and compel wealthy people and nations to help the Global South, indigenous peoples, and frontline communities most affected by the climate crisis.

As reported in the Washington Post3, the planet marked an ominous milestone on Friday November 17, 2023: the first day global warmth crossed a threshold that climate scientists have warned could have calamitous consequences4. Preliminary data shows global temperatures averaged more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. In case that temperature milestone could be mistaken for a fluke, Earth passed the 2-degree threshold a second time on Saturday November 18. International scientific consensus is that the average global temperature must not rise above 1.5 C in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change.5

2023 was a stark year for climate news. Global temperatures set records in July, August, September, and October, and 2023 smashed the record for world's hottest year by "a huge margin."6 Samantha Burgess, the EU’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (CCCS) deputy director, said: “2023 was an exceptional year, with climate records tumbling like dominoes. Temperatures during 2023 likely exceed those of any period in at least the last 100,000 years.”7 By all scientific expectations, outcomes will only get rapidly worse from here.


  1. https://drive.google.com/file/d/10GDtx7tZgpk-H4PM0_5jAM1APfnRKE_c/view?usp=sharing
  2. https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/
  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2023/11/19/climate-change-2c-temperature-heat-record/
  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/national/climate-environment/climate-change-america/
  5. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/jan/09/2023-record-world-hottest-climate-fossil-fuel
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/jan/09/2023-record-world-hottest-climate-fossil-fuel

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