Private Jet Excess Doesn’t Justify Airport Expansion

ABC Bedarfsflug Cessna 560XL Citation XLS taking off from Innsbruck Airport. Photo: Fabrizio Gandolfo.

Outside Boston, climate justice activists are taking a stand against the expansion of Hanscom Field, an airport that already serves as New England’s largest private jet port.  A group of private developers is requesting approvals to triple the private jet capacity of Hanscom.

A new study by the Institute for Policy Studies analyzes the current uses of private jets at Hanscom, finding that the primary users are ultra-wealthy travelers that fly to luxury destinations for short trips, emitting tons of carbon and worsening the climate crisis. An expansion would release a “carbon bomb” of emissions so the richest people on the planet can fly from Boston to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Hamptons on Long Island, NY rather than drive and take the ferry.

The report, Hanscom High Flyers: Private Jet Excess Doesn’t Justify Airport Expansion,” urges Massport and state officials to reject the proposal to expand the airport and calls for higher taxes on private jet flights and fuel.

The cover of the Hanscom High Flyers report depicting polluting private jets.

Our key findings

Flight Data: Over the period studied, we identified a substantial sample of 31,599 flights in and out of Hanscom Field as private jets with 2,915 unique flight identification registrations. Departures from Hanscom went to 761 unique destinations. Over 18 months, private jets accounted for an estimated 106,676 tons of carbon emissions. For comparison’s sake, the average Massachusetts resident burns 8 tons per year in total emissions for everything. The global average is 4 tons per person.

Luxury Destinations: We estimate half (49 percent) of these flights head to luxury or vacation destinations at 212 airports/locations.

Short Flights: An estimated 41 percent of private jet flight departures (6,531) are less than one hour in duration, with 14 percent less than 30 minutes. Because jets burn the most fuel on take-off, short-hop flights are the least energy efficient compared to alternatives. 81 percent of flights departing from Hanscom are under 3 hours duration.

Frequent Flyers: The 20 most frequent private jet users at Hanscom field took 3,240 flights, both arrivals and departures. These 20 aircraft account for over 10 percent of all Hanscom private jet flights during the 18 months we studied and 14 percent of total emissions. These 20 frequent flyers burned an estimated 14,930 tons of carbon emissions during this period.

The IPS report suggests our findings are the tip of the private jet luxury excess iceberg. Private jet owners and operators can request that the FAA exclude their jets from public tracking registries, making it impossible for researchers to include this data.  Four Boston area billionaires, Robert Kraft, Jim Davis, John Henry and Paul Fireman have all requested their travel data go dark.


Hanscom’s “High Flyers” – those in the top 20 private jet travelers – include: 

John Fish: Suffolk Construction magnate with an estimated wealth of $1.2 billion, Fish’s jet was the number three most frequent flier out of Hanscom but the number one carbon emitter over 18 months, burning an estimated 2,329 tons of carbon emissions, including 44 round trip flights to West Palm Beach and flights to Aruba, Aspen, and Barcelona.

John Childs: Private equity investor Child is the number 5 most frequent flier out of Hanscom but the third largest carbon emitter, with an estimated 1,407 tons. Child’s jet makes frequent trips to Vero Beach, FL, where he owns a home, and Rosario, Argentina, where he is part owner of a bird-hunting lodge. In the last eighteen months, the jet has also traveled to Palermo, Italy, the US Virgin Islands, Palm Springs, CA, and the Hamptons.

Arthur S. Demoulas:  Arthur S. Demoulas, with wealth estimated at $1.3 billion, is famous for his unsuccessful attempt to oust his cousin, Arthur T. Demoulas, from the leadership of Market Basket.  The private jet registered in Arthur S. is the 10th biggest frequent Hanscom flier, with flights to Aspen, Key West, and London and total estimated emissions of 741 tons.

Charlesbank Partners: Seven of the top 20 Hanscom users are jets owned or connected to private equity firms based in the Boston area. Charlesbank Partners owns three of the twenty frequent flying jets, including the #1, #8 and #12th most frequent flyers, with a combined 676 flights emitting an estimated 2,701 tons of carbon.

The number #1 frequent flier at Hanscom took a whopping 387 flights in an 18-month period, including 112 flights to and from Nantucket. All three jets made a combined 159 flights to and from Teterboro airport outside New York City, a destination with many other excellent transportation alternatives.

Not only is Charlesbank our number #1 Hanscom carbon polluter, they are also a major investor in fossil fuel projects, including a $220 million acquisition of Crosstex Energy, a major natural gas operation in  the Southwest, as well as companies involved in gas pipeline construction in the Canadian “tar sands.”


Among other measures, our report recommends:

  • Stop private jet expansion at Hanscom and Logan airports
  • Prevent jet owners from “opting out” of public flight registries so the public and policy makers can understand the real impact.
  • Eliminate the MA Aviation Sales tax exemption
  • Increase excise tax on jet fuel and invest in green transit

IPS previously released a report in May that examines nationwide data and exposes how private jet travel costs ordinary families money and exacerbates the climate crisis. “High Flyers 2023” found that private jets make up approximately 1 out of every 6 flights handled by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but contribute just 2 percent of the taxes that make up the trust fund that primarily funds the FAA. Private jets also emit at least 10 times more pollutants than commercial planes per passenger.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he also co-edits