Boeing UK falls foul once again of advertising standards watchdog over Boeing 787 noise claim
Boeing 787 in BA livery
Wed 9 Jan 2008 – Barely a month after receiving a rap on the knuckles over claims concerning CO2 emissions of the new 747-8 airliner (see article), Boeing UK has once again had a complaint against it upheld by the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
On this occasion, the complaint referred to a magazine advertisement that stated “... Boeing and QinetiQ are testing cutting-edge aerodynamic designs that will allow the new 787 to ... fly 60% quieter than ever before”. The complainant challenged whether the claim was misleading and whether it could be substantiated because he believed the claim referred to the noise footprint of the aircraft and not to the peak sound level.
Boeing told the ASA the 787 had been designed as a replacement for the 767 family of Boeing aircraft and the comparison in the ad was therefore with the 767.
It said there were various different ways of measuring noise made by aircraft. However, it contended the calculation of the noise footprint of an aircraft, or airport, was the methodology consistently used by Boeing, its competitors, industry regulators and community groups to describe aircraft noise, and had been used on this occasion.
Boeing said it was unaware of any method that used the peak sound level measurement in a claim that would be understood by the general public. Nevertheless, it maintained the reduction in peak sound level between the 767 and 787 was 4.5dBA and pointed out that the major London airports used a 3dBA difference to support a 50% noise reduction and, therefore, its claim was also supported if measured this way. However, it said the current lack of a meaningful method of calculating percentage-based peak level noise comparisons explained why the noise footprint methodology instead was used throughout the aviation industry.
Boeing said the industry standard method for calculating noise footprints used by it and competitors was the FAA Integrated Noise Model (INM), which took into account the characteristics of an aircraft such as its weight, thrust and engine type. The INM calculated that the noise footprint at 85dBA for the 767 was a total area of 1.9 square miles, whereas the 787 was 0.7 square miles and therefore 63% smaller.
In its adjudication, the ASA agreed with Boeing, after consulting with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), that the INM was a recognized and commonly used model for calculating the noise footprint of an aircraft.
However, it had been told by the CAA that the measurement of a 3dBA decrease as a 50% reduction in noise level was, in fact, a barely perceptible difference and therefore the typical noise level reductions for some people within the noise footprint of the aircraft would only be just discernible. It understood from the CAA that reductions in noise footprint area were conceptually very different from reductions in noise exposure experienced by individuals.
The ASA therefore considered that “without qualification, the claim ‘60% quieter’ was ambiguous and that readers were unlikely to understand that the claim was based on a reduction of the noise area of the aircraft. We considered that the ad should have made that basis of the claim clear and because it did not we concluded it was likely to mislead.”
It has told Boeing to make the basis of the calculation clear when making noise reduction claims in future.
Meanwhile, the ASA is following up a complaint made against British Airways following an email from BA’s Chief Executive Willie Walsh to members of the airline’s Executive Club in November that urged them to back the construction of a proposed new third runway at Heathrow.
The email suggested that a third runway would cut down on carbon dioxide emissions by 330,000 tonnes a year by limiting the need for aircraft to circle the airport while waiting to land. According to UK government figures, a third runway would lead to an overall increase in emissions of 2.6 million tonnes a year as a result of an extra 220,000 flights.
According to a report in The Times, the ASA has asked BA for assurances that it will not repeat the claim of a reduction in emissions as a result of a new runway.