Noise management strategies

The regulatory environment has evolved over the last three years with the entry into force of Regulation (EU) 598/2014 on the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise-related operating restrictions at Union airports within a Balanced Approach [8]. This regulation, and the EU Environmental Noise Directive [6], promote effective management techniques to manage noise pollution around airports and are complementary to the implementation of national and local initiatives.

As part of the Regulation 598/2014, EASA has been asked to implement two new roles on aircraft noise data collection. The first role is to verify and publish aircraft noise and performance data for use in calculating airport noise contours and assessing the noise situation. This provides a robust and common set of data that further enhances and harmonises the modelling approach within Europe. It builds upon the database [65] that has been maintained and hosted by EUROCONTROL. In addition, EASA is to collect aircraft noise certificates from operators using European airports. This central database will be made available to competent authorities, air navigation service providers and airport operators for operational purposes. It provides a process at a European level whereby this information can be shared between all appropriate stakeholders in a much more efficient manner.

The principle of a ’balanced approach‘ [66] to aircraft noise management at airports involves assessing (modelling) and monitoring (measuring) the situation, defining a baseline, future objectives and an associated noise action plan. The balanced approach consists of the following core elements (Figure 5.1):

  1. Reduction of noise at source through research studies, technology programmes and standard setting.
  2. Land-use planning and management policies to prevent incompatible development into noise-sensitive areas. This action unites planning (zoning, easement), mitigation (building codes, insulation, real estate disclosure) and financial aspects (tax incentives, charges).
  3. The practical application of noise abatement operational procedures [67], to the extent possible without affecting safety. These procedures enable the reduction or the redistribution of the noise around the airport and the full use of modern aircraft capabilities.
  4. Operating restrictions on aircraft defined as any noise-related restriction that limits access to or reduces the operational capacity of an airport, for instance noise quotas or flight restrictions. This is used only after consideration of other elements of the balanced approach.

It is recognised that involvement of all stakeholders in the discussions on a balanced approach to noise management is a critical factor in mitigating aircraft noise and the annoyance to communities near airports. Regulation 598/2014 requires that technical cooperation be established between the airport operators, aircraft operators, ground handlers and air navigation service providers to examine measures to mitigate noise. In addition, local resident representatives, and relevant local authorities, are to be consulted and technical information on noise mitigation measures provided to them.

Such stakeholder consultation and collaboration is often referred to as ‘Collaborative Environmental Management’ (CEM) and is adopted to suit local needs and capabilities. The CEM working arrangement provides a platform for discussion between core operational stakeholders, such as airports, airlines, air navigation service providers; and as appropriate, local authorities and local communities. This facilitates the identification of synergies, quantification of impacts including trade-offs (e.g. noise and fuel burn), and the understanding of potential constraints within the aviation system in order to reach compromises from an operational perspective, which all stakeholders can collaborate in implementing. EUROCONTROL updated its CEM Specification in 2018 [68], and 25 respondents to the ACI EUROPE survey stated that they have implemented a CEM-type collaborative approach since 2014.

Operational stakeholders may place greater emphasis in certain elements of the balanced aproach than others, depending on the airport objectives with regard to noise abatement and the cost effectiveness of potential mitigation measures. 84% of survey respondents indicated that local and/or national authorities defined land-use planning noise zones around the airport, and that the airport is involved in land-use planning processes. In addition, 65% of survey respondents have implemented sound insulation schemes for local communities. To reduce noise impacts, 90% have implemented noise abatement operational procedures with 43% employing all of the following: enhanced departure procedures, arrival procedures, ground-based procedures, preferential runway procedures and procedures for engine test run-ups.

Whilst recognising that operating restrictions should be used only after consideration of other elements of the balanced approach, 79% of the airports surveyed indicated that they employ various approaches including restrictions on noisier aircraft (78% of respondents), night flight restrictions (75%), runway restrictions (48%), noise budgets (18%) and movement caps (18%) amongst others.