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Something to Shout About

Special Report - Airport CitiesNoise reduction efforts are intrinsic to any airport development project, including an airport city.

The need to control growth in environmental terms has long been a feature of aviation. Even now Colin Matthews, CEO of BAA, admits that the critical constraint for London Heathrow is noise.

A balanced approach to noise reduction has been agreed through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), including noise reduction at source, land-use planning and management, operational procedures, and flight restrictions.

Aircraft technology is the big driver in noise reduction. Jet engines today are 50% quieter than 10 year-old counterparts and plans are to make them 50% quieter again by 2020. It is estimated that the noise footprint of each new generation of aircraft is at least 15% lower than that of the aircraft it replaces.

Airports are no stranger to noise mitigation either. Back in the 1980s the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States inaugurated a program to insulate residences close to airports. Air traffic control is vital to the process too. The optimization of arrival and departure routes, such as continuous descent approaches, are essential to noise reduction.

Going forward, it is land-use planning that could hold the key to reducing noise further. With all parties involved in noise mitigation work, future gateway expansion will be more viable. Historical evidence backs up the argument. Even though air traffic grew between 1998–2004, ICAO estimates the number of people exposed to aircraft noise was reduced by 35%.

For example at Zurich, the gateway and home airline, Swiss, have combined to reduce the noise footprint by 60%. This is despite some severe operational restrictions including a nighttime curfew, forcing all flights into a 17-hour day. The airline will continue to make improvements. In 2014, Swiss will start replacing older aircraft with the brand new Bombardier CSeries, which has a lower noise impact.

“We have constantly been improving our profile,” says Paul Steele, IATA Director, Aviation Environment. “Noise is a priority for the industry. But there needs to be a balanced approach and that balance depends very much on local airport conditions.”

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