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Fact Sheet: Balanced Approach to Aircraft Noise


For many decades, the air transport industry has taken practical measures to limit noise. The industry’s efforts have reduced the noise impact of aircraft while allowing air traffic to grow sustainably.

  • Today’s aircraft are 75% quieter than those manufactured 50 years ago
  • At the latest meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), a new noise certification standard for aircraft was agreed upon. The new standard will guarantee that future aircraft will be even quieter
  • ICAO noise certification standards are an important means for securing technological improvements and reducing noise at the source, but ICAO has urged states not to introduce restrictions on the operation of aircraft
  • The combination of technological improvements, noise-abatement operational procedures, and land-use planning and management has enabled reductions in the number of people affected by aircraft noise at many airports
  • The introduction of operating restrictions should be avoided as they increase congestion at airports and limit connectivity 
  • The ICAO “balanced approach” to aircraft noise provides the most adequate approach in order to further improve the noise climate at and around airports in an environmentally responsive and economically responsible way

The ICAO Balanced Approach

  • The ICAO balanced approach was unanimously endorsed at the ICAO Assembly in 2001(Resolution A33-7). Since its adoption, it was reiterated in all subsequent Assembly resolutions on noise (2013 Assembly Resolution A38/17)
  • The ICAO balanced approach provides a transparent process for managing the noise problem on an airport-by-airport basis. It recognizes and is based on the principle that solutions need to be tailored to the specific characteristics of the airport concerned
  • The ICAO balanced approach requires states to address noise in the most cost-effective way. It calls for an assessment of all available options before the most appropriate one is selected

The Main Elements of the Balanced Approach

  • The ICAO balanced approach identifies four elements to address noise at airports:
    • Reduction of noise at source
    • Land-use management and planning
    • Noise abatement operational procedures
    • Operating restrictions 
  • Operating restrictions should only be introduced as a last resort
    • Operating restrictions that limit access to an airport during specific times of the day increase congestion and limit connectivity. Such restrictions can have a serious impact on the economy, next-day delivery services, home-based charters, freight services and intercontinental flights
    • Operating restrictions that limit the use of certain aircraft which are certified in accordance with all applicable international standards undermine the role of ICAO international standards in securing a high degree of uniformity and stability in regulations. They may also force airlines to retire aircraft prematurely, with negative operational and economic consequences
  • Charges should only be introduced in accordance with ICAO’s balanced approach and policies on charges for airports and air navigation services

Updated: December 2013


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