LONDON (TIP): Air India flights landing in Britain’s biggest airport will now have to watch out how noisy their aircraft are. Heathrow has become the first major airport that has decided to name and shame noisy airlines. A new “Fly Quiet” scheme will rank airlines on the amount of noise their engines make. Airlines with loudest engines will have to pay a hefty fine. Heathrow is the UK’s only international hub airport, handling nearly 70 million passengers a year, and connecting the UK to 183 destinations around the world in 90 different countries.
Aircraft noise is a significant issue for local residents living nearby. European research shows that around 6% of people are “highly annoyed” by road traffic noise above 55 decibel while a higher proportion – between 10-28% – are highly annoyed by aircraft. Heathrow officials said, “This shows that noise from aircraft is seen as more disturbing.” “Heathrow is at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise.
Airlines are rewarded for flying quieter planes, and penalized when they do not. New procedures for aircraft landing which reduce the noise experienced under the flight path have been pioneered. As a result, even though the number of planes using the airport has gone up, fewer people are affected by noise today than at any time since the 1970s. But despite these efforts, noise remains an issue,” they added.
Heathrow already has some of the toughest noise restrictions in the world, which have resulted in important benefits for residents in terms of reduced noise. For example, aircraft flying in and out of Heathrow are on average 15% quieter than the other planes flying in the fleets of the same airlines which land at other world airports. As a result of the rules and incentives in place at Heathrow, airlines are increasingly using their newest and quietest planes on early morning routes.
For example, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines have all replaced their noisier Boeing 747- 400s with the A380 that has a 40% smaller noise footprint. Cathay Pacific has also changed to quieter Boeing 777 aircraft. British Airways will start to take delivery of A380s from summer 2013 and “we expect some of those to be used on its early morning flights. The use of quieter aircraft at night means the average noise per night movement has already fallen by 20% and this trend is set to continue.
We will continue to use landing charges to provide an additional incentive for the use of the quietest planes at night,” Heathrow officials told TOI. Colin Matthews, CEO of Heathrow said, “Heathrow encourages the quietest aircraft through higher charges for the noisiest aircraft and reduced charges for the quietest aircraft. The airport will be proposing a significant increase in fines for airlines that break noise limits and, later this year, launching a ‘Fly Quiet’ programme which will publicly rank airlines according to their noise performance at Heathrow”.
The airport also offers noise insulation for community buildings and homes, financial assistance with relocating to “quieter” areas and campaign for local planning authorities to restrict new developments in the noisiest areas. From 2014, we plan to launch a new “Quieter Homes” programme incorporating lessons from a pilot we are currently running.
The number of “night flights” permitted at Heathrow is restricted by an annual ‘cap’ and there are noise restrictions on aircraft departing late at night and early in the morning. Heathrow also has a voluntary ban in place for arrivals scheduled to land between 4.30am and 6am not to touch down before 4.30am. In addition, departures are not scheduled between 11pm and 6am.