WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for Europe must consider wider societal and economic benefits

Sustainable Aviation acknowledges the findings of the United Nation’s World Health Organisation’s report on the impact of noise on people’s health and wellbeing. However, this is important to be seen within the context of the wider societal and economic benefits including the health impacts of the associated higher levels of employment and prosperity that aviation brings.

Aircraft noise management in the UK is guided by the internationally agreed United Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organisation’s ‘balanced approach’, which advocates the reduction of noise through technological improvements to aircraft  and better operational practices; land use planning, charging and compensation; and operating restrictions on aircraft including phasing out the noisiest aircraft, night time restrictions and noise quotas.

The UK aviation industry is at the forefront of efforts to reduce the impact of noise on people through continued investment in technology and the development of improved operating practices.  Since 1998 this work has resulted in a reduction in noise contour areas by over 150km2 and 100,000 fewer people exposed to significant noise annoyance, despite a growth of over 175,000 extra flights and 65 million air passengers[1].

Looking forward, our Noise Road-Map shows how aviation can reduce the impact of noise from aircraft operations between now and 2050. We are already achieving progress, with noise being disconnected from the growth in passengers since 2012.

The aerospace industry is currently spending over £10 billion a year on new generation aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 737-MAX which have a noise footprint that is typically 50% smaller on departure and 30% on arrival than the aircraft they are replacing. In addition, we have seen a further 60,000 quieter, continuous descent arrivals at UK airports over the past 12 months.

UK airlines are currently purchasing these new aircraft with over 360 on order for future delivery, representing an investment of nearly £40 billion.

Minimising noise remains a key issue and Sustainable Aviation is supporting its members in exploring new information and opportunities to tackle this.

Airports across the UK differ greatly in the nature and scale of their operations and local solutions offer the best opportunity to solve any differences. We are engaging with local communities and their representatives so that together we can agree how best to minimise the impact of aircraft noise. Implementing a programme of mitigation, providing reassurance in the form of noise limits and investment in local communities is an integral and important part of this engagement. During 2017 we commissioned independent research into this area to help us understand further.  We will publish a paper shortly on this work that will outline our findings and future actions the industry intends to take as a result.

Additionally, UK airports are reviewing and updating their noise action plans in 2018, in consultation with their local communities. This work reviews all the activities undertaken at the airport to manage noise from aircraft with a focus on how noise impacts from aircraft operations can be reduced in the future.   The Aviation Strategy and Industrial Strategy provide a significant opportunity for the Government to give full consideration to the new report from the WHO, to ensure we have a policy that addresses noise impacts and enables innovative solutions to be developed with continued support for investment in technology, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of aerospace development.


  1. Airport Noise Action Plans are required by UK airports with over 50,000 air transport movements a year by the EU Environmental Noise Directive, applied through the Environmental Noise (England) Regulations 2006.  They are produced over a 5 year period which first started in 2006.

[1] This is based on CAA airport terminal passenger data and the 57dB LAeq airport noise contour data for Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Manchester and Stansted airports in 2016 compared to 1998.

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