UK aviation industry launches noise roadmap and pledges noise will not increase despite doubling of flights
Wed 1 May 2013 – UK government central forecasts estimate air traffic movements will nearly double over the next 40 years at UK airports yet an aviation industry report suggests during this period aircraft noise can be reduced by an average of up to 20 per cent. This can be achieved through aircraft innovations and engine technology, operational advancements and better land-use planning, says Sustainable Aviation (SA), a group that brings together the main players from UK airlines, airports and manufacturers to find solutions to the sustainability challenge. Noise output could decrease by over 40 per cent, it says, if aircraft and engine design was driven by noise alone rather than a requirement for fuel efficiency improvements and emissions reductions. SA has launched a Noise Road-Map to assist industry in further developing noise reduction measures and strategies, and help spread best practice.
Recent figures from the UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) show that just under 2 million air transport movements (ATMs) took place at 31 UK airports in 2010, which the DfT forecasts will climb to around 3.8 million by 2050. During the 14-year period 1998-2011, the UK CAA reports that despite an increase of 9.8% in ATMs across four major UK airports – Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Stansted – there has been a reduction of 31.6% of people included within the government’s 57dBA noise contour.
However, SA accepts the subjective nature of noise is a major challenge and people’s reactions and perceptions are a complex problem. Although fewer people may be significantly affected within the contour, feedback from residents still shows that noise from aircraft operations remains a real source of tension between airports and local communities. SA says there are a number of inter-related variables at play, some the industry can control or influence and others, such as weather conditions and density of population, it cannot. The Noise Road-Map, says SA, has been designed to identify best practice approaches to matters of land use planning and community engagement, as well as how technology and operational advancements can reduce noise from aircraft operations.
“Clearly, perception of noise is a significant issue which requires further research and a shared commitment from the industry, government, local authorities and communities to resolve,” says the SA report.
It adds that the aviation industry cannot tackle noise on its own and support and guidance are also required from government and other stakeholders. For example, it highlights the importance of land use planning to prevent the encroachment of noise sensitive development, in particular residential dwellings, around airports. It notes that population encroachment, especially around Heathrow, has occurred that has resulted in a greater number of people being affected by aircraft noise. Estimates suggest encroachment into the 57-60 LAeq contour at the hub airport increased by around 15% between 1991 and 2001.
SA says it is committed to achieving a 65% reduction in perceived noise from aircraft by 2050 compared to 2000 through continuing to invest in new and quieter aircraft and engine technologies, as well as increase the use of operational techniques and collaborate to develop new procedures.
“This Road-Map shows that UK aviation can accommodate significant growth over the next 40 years while reducing its noise output,” said Matt Gorman, Chair of Sustainable Aviation and Heathrow Airport’s Sustainability Director at the launch of the Road-Map.
Neil Scott, Head of Engineering for Airbus in the UK said the aviation industry had cut noise by 75% over the last 50 years, “but we are determined to improve the environmental performance of aircraft even further.”
He added: “Airbus is already investing significant amounts in cutting edge research and development programmes to further develop the new designs and technologies that will see a further 65% reduction in noise by the middle of the century.”
Responding to the SA report, HACAN’s John Stewart, a leading campaigner against the expansion of Heathrow, said: “There is no doubt that aircraft have become quieter and will continue to do so. The reality, though, has been that complaints have gone up over the period when the aircraft have become quieter because of the huge increase in the number of planes. The danger is that more planes will continue to cancel the benefits of quieter ones.”
The UK’s Minister of State for Transport, Simon Burns, welcomed the Noise Road-Map initiative and said the government would continue to support and encourage the development of new technologies through industry-led projects and by helping deliver operational and airspace improvements.
“Of course reducing aviation noise over the next few decades will be challenging,” he said. “But it is vital that the aviation industry is able to demonstrate how it is addressing emissions and noise if it is to grow.”