FAA undertakes most comprehensive study ever into effects of aircraft noise on residents around airports
Thu 28 May 2015 – Although the airliners of today are much quieter than they were 30 years ago, the public’s perception of aircraft noise has changed and, according the FAA, residents around many of the largest US airports have expressed concerns as the rate of aviation growth continues. Current methodologies have not been updated since the 1980s and the FAA has decided to survey residents around 20 selected US airports as part of a multi-year effort to update the scientific evidence on the relationship between aircraft noise exposure and its effects on communities. The agency hopes to finish gathering data by the end of 2016 before analysing the results and deciding whether to update its methods for determining exposure to noise as well as land use issues. It says if changes are warranted then proposed revised policy and related guidance and regulations will be proposed, subject to coordination with other agencies and public review.
“The FAA is sensitive to public concerns about aircraft noise,” said its Administrator, Michael Huerta. “We understand the interest in expediting this research and we will complete this work as quickly as possible.”
Beginning in the next two to three months the FAA will contact residents through mail and telephone in what it says will be the most comprehensive study using a single noise survey ever undertaken in the United States. The names of the 20 airports are not being disclosed in order to “preserve the scientific integrity of the study”, explains the FAA.
The framework for the study was developed through the Airports Cooperative Research Program (ACRP), which is operated by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies of Sciences. Not only will the methodology be used to determine whether to change the FAA’s current approach on aircraft noise, it will also consider land use and justification for federal expenditure for areas that are not compatible with airport noise.
As a result of social surveys of transportation noise in the 1970s, aircraft noise is currently measured on a scale that averages all community noise during a 24-hour period, known as the Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL), and exacts a ten-fold penalty on noise that occurs during night and early morning hours. In 1981, the FAA established DNL 65 decibels as the guideline level at which federal funding is available for soundproofing or other noise mitigation. This method was reaffirmed in studies conducted during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Said Huerta: “This Administration takes its responsibility to be responsive to communities’ concerns over air noise seriously. Our work is intended to give the public an opportunity to provide perspective and viewpoints on a very important issue.”
Sponsored by the ACRP, the TRB held a webinar last year covering the potential effects of aviation noise on hearing, sleep, health, annoyance and learning environments. Presenters discussed the noise concerns that present potential barriers to airport operations and expansion, and how those concerns can contribute to delays in both facility and capacity improvements. More details of the webinar and to download a recording available here.