The fact that aircraft noise causes disturbance to people living close to airports was recognised as early as the 1920’s when, in the interest of developing civil aviation, Winston Churchill removed the citizen’s right under UK law to sue for nuisance. After the arrival into service of the first jet airliner (the Comet) about 60 years ago, noise disturbance began to affect an increasing number of people to such an extent that by 1959 mandatory noise limits and noise monitoring was imposed at London Heathrow and New York Idlewild Airports.
Over the following half century, significant improvements in aircraft noise technology were delivered by the aerospace industry and these, to a degree, offset the noise impact of the growth in air traffic. As a direct result of the phase out of older noisier aircraft and their replacement with significantly quieter types, the number of people ‘exposed’ to noise around many airports has declined over the past 20 years.
Although generally aircraft have got quieter, growth in aircraft size and traffic volume has resulted in an increasing number of noisy events and this is emerging as a new challenge at some airports. Forecasts, also suggest that the anticipated rate of fleet replacement and technological improvement will not keep pace with future traffic growth, especially at rapidly growing airports. In consequence, it is likely that the number of people exposed to aircraft noise disturbance throughout the world will increase over the next two to three decades.
Research suggests that changing expectation of quality of life amongst these people, growing democratisation, increasing home ownership and a number of other non acoustic factors will lead to increasing opposition to aircraft noise in the future. This is important because despite significant efforts by the industry, the lives of tens of millions of Europeans, and hundreds of millions of people across the World are adversely affected on a daily basis by aircraft noise. At the same time a majority of European airports are subject to noise related capacity constraints, and these are expected to spread in the future (Thomas et al. 2003). Sleep disturbance caused by night flying is of particular concern and this has given rise to night noise restrictions at airports across the World. Research by CATE into the the effects of aircraft noise on sleep underpinned the current UK Government night flying policy
Over the past 50 years, air transport has played a very important role in social and economic development and many city regions are highly reliant upon their airports. The ability of those airports to grow in response to demand and therefore contribute to socio-economic development will, to a very significant degree be dependent upon the way in which they manage aircraft noise disturbance.
Conventionally, research into aircraft noise and regulatory drivers for technological improvement have confined themselves almost exclusively to reducing noise exposure. It is however becoming increasingly clear that communities and individuals respond very differently and exhibit differing levels of tolerance to noise depending upon a wide variety of social, economic and cultural factors (Hume et al. 2004). Equally, the way in which noise impacts upon communities will vary according to a variety of issues (such as weather conditions) that affect lifestyle. These relationships need to be understood if effective noise control programmes are to be developed.
Global (ICAO), European Union and UK aircraft noise legislation and regulations are designed to:
Given that the nature of aircraft operations, the number of people exposed to noise, perceived levels of community disturbance and other factors at each airport are unique, it is accepted that the that the most appropriate noise management solutions are found through consultation with all aviation stakeholders but in particular communities exposed to the noise. The process of consultation does however require a clear understanding of how noise impacts upon people’s lives. Current measures of noise exposure (measured in terms of noise energy) have only limited value in the airport community dialogue. These pressures are leading to a renewed interest in the metrics and methods used to define, assess and manage aircraft noise.
CATE staff have been actively involved in research and knowledge transfer in key areas associated with the aircraft noise challenge for organisations as diverse as:
Aeroports de Paris, Assaeroporti – Roma, Belfast City Airport, Bristol Airport, Delta Airlines, Department for Regional Development (Northern Ireland), Dublin Airport (Aer Rianta), EUROCONTOL (Brussels and Paris), European Commission, Manchester Airport Group, Manston Airport, Milan Malpensa, Liverpool Airport, l’Office National des Aeroports Marocains (ONDA), Spanish Airports (AENA), Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (Australia), UK Department for Transport.
Fullarton, D., Hume, K.I., Thomas, C.S. and Tomlinson, S. 2000. ‘Generic systems to permit public access to environmental information – a prototype for aircraft noise and flightpath data.’ Proceedings of Inter.Noise.
Gregg, M., Hume, K., Terranova, D. and Thomas C. 2001. ‘A pilot study into complaints caused by aircraft operations: noise level and time of the day.’ (Presented to the SCAN-UK 1st International Conference: Environmental Capacity at Airports, Manchester, 2-3 April 2001). Transportation, Planning and Technology. Dec 2001.
Gregg, M., Hume, K.I., Terranova, D. and Thomas, C. 2002. “Complaints caused by aircraft operations: an assessment of annoyance by noise level and time of the day”, Journal of Air Transport Management
Hooper, P., Hume, K., Mills, J., Morley, H. and Thomas, C. 2003. “A good practice guide to the assessment and management of aircraft noise disturbance around Northern Ireland airports.” Department for Regional Development. Belfast.
Hooper, P.D., Hume, K.I. Mills J.N. and Thomas, C.S. 2005. “The Role of Stakeholder Engagement in the Management of Aircraft Noise Disturbance.” Proceedings International Workshop on Improving the Environmental Capacity of Airports Florida.
Hume, K., Morley, H. and Thomas, C. 2002. “Using complaints as a measure of annoyance at airport operations.’’ Acta Acustica 88 (1) s53
Hume, K., Morley, H., Terranova, D. and Thomas, C. 2002. “The influence of serial-complainers on complaint profiles at airports”, Acusticium Savilla. Acta Acustica 88 (1) s52.
Hume, K., Terranova, D. and Thomas, C. 2002. “Complaints and annoyance caused by aircraft operations: Temporal patterns and individual bias”, Noise and Health 4 (15), 45-55
Hume, K.I. Hooper, P.D., and Mills, J. Thomas, C.S. (2004) Assessing Community Noise Disturbance. Inter-noise 2004, Prague.
Hume, K.I., Hooper, P.D. and Thomas, C.S. 2004. “Aircraft Noise, Airport Growth and Regional Development.” Proceedings of the Royal Aeronautical Society. American Institute of Aviation Acoustics Conference, Manchester.
Hume, K.I., Hooper, P.D., Maughan, J.A. and Thomas, C.S. 2010. “Aircraft noise and community impacts” Encyclopedia of Aerospace Engineering. John Wiley and Sons Ltd., Chichester, UK pp 3599-3606.
Hume, K.I., Terranova, D. and Thomas, C. 2001. ‘Annoyance and complaints caused by aircraft operations: temporal patterns and individual bias.’ Noise and Health.
Hume, K.I., Terranova, D., Thomas, C., 2001. ‘Can complaints about aircraft noise be used as an index of annoyance?’ [Online] Accessed at: http://www.noiseandhealth.org/article.asp?issn=1463-1741;year=2005;volume=7;issue=28;spage=17;epage=27;aulast=Maziul
Moss, D., Thomas, C.S. Sykes, S. and Warnaby, G. 1997. ‘Manchester Airport’s second runway campaign: The boundary-spanning role of public relations in managing environmental-organisational interactions’. Journal of Communication Management, 2(24), 320-334.
Thomas, C with Hume, K., and Hooper, P. (2007) Quantifying aircraft noise impact on local communities using complaints. Inter-noise Istanbul.
Thomas, C.S. 1996 Noise related to airport operations. ‘In Environmental management at airports – liabilities and social responsibilities.’ Thomas Telford, London
Thomas, C.S. 1999. ‘Noise related to airport operations community impacts.’ Rumore ? C:Stiamo Muovendo, Ministerio dell’ Ambiente, Rome: Italy.
Waters, C.S 2010. “Airport noise exposure and its implications on the built environment”. Proceedings Institute of Acoustics and Belgium Acoustical Association Conference, Ghent.