Heathrow says it will name, shame and significantly increase fines for airlines that break noise limits
Fri 31 May 2013 – London’s Heathrow Airport has unveiled a range of actions it believes will make life quieter for people living nearby. It already incentivises airlines using the airport through higher charges for the noisiest aircraft and reduced charges for the quietest. Now it is proposing significant increases in fines for airlines that break noise limits and later this year will launch a ‘Fly Quiet’ programme that will publicly rank airlines according to their noise performance at Heathrow. The airport operator is also planning a number of other initiatives to reduce noise impact such as trialling new approach and departure operations, a ‘Quieter Homes’ programme from 2014 and more communication with local communities. It is insists the commitments are not about adding new runways at the airport but says if the airport is to grow then there should not have to be a choice between more flights or less noise.
The measures by the airport operator are laid out in a new report, ‘A quieter Heathrow’, and are aimed at meeting the UK government’s aspiration “to strike a fair balance between the negative impacts of noise and the positive economic impacts of flights”, as laid down in its aviation policy framework published in March. Heathrow concedes that despite connecting the UK to long-haul markets worldwide and supporting over 100,000 local jobs, there are downsides for people living nearby, in particular concerning aircraft noise.
“Heathrow is at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise and as a result, even though the number of flights has almost doubled since the 1970s, fewer people are affected by noise,” claimed Colin Matthews, CEO of Heathrow. “We will continue to work with airlines, NATS, policy makers and local communities to further reduce aircraft noise whilst safeguarding the vital connectivity and economic growth that Heathrow provides.”
As well as raising the level of fines for airlines breaking noise limits and ranking airlines by noise performance, new departure routes will be trialled in conjunction with UK air navigation service provider NATS, along with an investigation into the impact of ending the practice of ‘westerly preference’ and is proposing to trial steeper approaches as part of the next night noise regime expected to come into force. Heathrow says it will also look to significantly increase fines for aircraft that exceed departure noise limits at night.
This year, Heathrow is piloting new approaches to noise insulation for affected residents and says it will seek local community views before launching its ‘Quieter Homes’ programme in 2014. It will also press government to provide guidance on planning around airports and restrict noise sensitive development in high noise areas. “Given the current absence of clear national policy, we will engage with local authorities on local planning strategy to ensure a more coherent and consistent approach,” says the operator.
Heathrow also plans to launch a new social media service to update residents on unscheduled changes to operations that may impact on noise.
The already strict noise limits at Heathrow have influenced manufacturers to build quieter aircraft and encouraged airlines to use their quietest aircraft on Heathrow routes, believes the operator. As a result, it adds, the number of people affected by aviation noise at Heathrow fell by three-fifths between 1988 and 2010, with the total area affected by noise shrinking by two-thirds, despite the rise in the number of aircraft using the airport.