FAA claims technology has dramatically reduced the number of people exposed to high noise levels around US airports
WebTrak captures aircraft noise levels at LAX
Tue 21 July 2009 – The number of people affected by aircraft noise has fallen from about 7 million in the late 1970s to around 500,000 today, claims the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Environment, Noise Division, which tracks the agency’s progress on noise reduction targets. However, the FAA warns the impact of noise will start to increase again soon and continue climbing as a result of continuing growth in air traffic unless there are advances developed through the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen). Meanwhile, Los Angeles World Airports has just launched a new online flight tracking and aircraft noise complaint system at its three airports.
The FAA’s assessment is based on computing the areas surrounding US airports that are exposed, over 24 hours, to an average noise level of 65 decibels or more – at or above the level of normal conversation. The computation takes into account the number of takeoffs and landings, the noise level of each and whether the activity took place during the daytime or at night.
Since the late 1960s and the advent of aircraft with higher bypass ratios, aircraft noise levels have dropped 20 decibels, which, says the FAA, translates into aircraft making only a quarter of the noise they did 50 years ago.
With aviation forecasts showing a continued growth in traffic in the years ahead, despite the sharp declines currently being experienced (the Air Transport Association said yesterday the number of passengers travelling on US airlines fell 6.5% in June), the impact of noise will start to climb again unless flight operations can be made more quieter than they are now.
To meet the challenge, the FAA’s Noise Division is continuing to investigate ways to reduce noise levels, notably through the Continuous Lower Energy Emissions and Noise (CLEEN) programme, which provides incentives for manufacturers to develop lower-noise aircraft. NextGen initiatives are now offering additional gains, such as Optimum Profile Descents (OPDs) that enable pilots to reduce power, nearly to a glide, as they land their aircraft. This eliminates the noise from throttling the engines during step-down approaches near the airport. Additionally, Required Navigation Performance allows pilots flying OPDs to manoeuvre in areas around airports to avoid congested housing areas on the ground.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is the latest to install Lochard’s WebTrak online flight tracking and aircraft noise complaint system. Replacing an existing Airport Monitor flight tracking system and separate noise complaint entry form, WebTrak will provide airport staff and communities surrounding three LAWA airports (Los Angeles International, Ontario International and Van Nuys) a website which locates an address, provides investigation of live and historical overflights, and enables online complaint entry which will be submitted automatically into LAWA’s Airport Noise and Operations Monitoring System (ANOMS). LAWA receives in the region of 500 public complaints a month.