Addressing the noise challenge

Sustainable Aviation brings together the main players from UK airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers to deliver a cleaner, quieter and smarter aviation industry.


In April 2013 we published our Noise Road-Map outlining how we would reduce noise, in real, measurable terms to benefit communities across the UK. The Road-Map was designed to identify and advocate best practices and we concluded that UK aviation will be able to deliver significant growth to 2050 at the same time as achieving a reduction to UK aviation’s total noise output compared to 2010. So, how have we performed since the Noise Road-Map was published five years ago?

We recognise aircraft noise is a concern for some people, particularly those who live close to aircraft flight paths and have been taking action to ensure growth in passenger numbers does not lead to a comparable increase in noise and emissions. We have made good progress since 2013 and we are now seeing growth in air traffic disconnected from an increase in noise, achieved through new technology and operational improvements designed in collaboration with local communities.

New generation aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 737-MAX have a noise footprint that is typically 50% smaller on departure and 30% on arrival than the aircraft they replace. In addition, we have seen a further 60,000 quieter, ‘continuous descent’ arrivals at UK airports over the past two years, reducing noise and carbon emissions.

Since 2014, the number of people significantly impacted by aircraft noise around major SA Airports has been reduced by 12,200, this despite a rise in passenger numbers of 13%. During this period, the aviation industry has invested billions of pounds in new aircraft; airspace modernisation; and research for quieter airframe and engine technology all of which help to reduce noise. Our airports have also delivered significant investment in property insulation, community projects and communication materials to help address noise impacts.

We engage 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 are important outcomes from this engagement.

Furthermore, all major UK airports are currently developing new Noise Action Plans in consultation with their communities for the next five years which are designed to manage local noise issues and will cover noise technology, operational and mitigation actions. Airports across the UK differ greatly in the nature and scale of their operations and therefore local solutions present the best way to tackle noise issues.

Whilst we have seen significant progress, we believe that much more can be done to limit and where possible reduce the impact of aircraft noise.

Current and emerging flight and navigation technologies offer many opportunities to introduce quieter ways for aircraft to arrive and depart from UK airports. Our airspace arrangements have remained largely unchanged since the 1950s. It is not optimised for the industry, the environment or communities. We welcome the Government’s UK Airspace Policy, providing greater public support and increasing transparency. It will require industry to work hand in hand with both Government and local communities.

The development of new Aviation and Industrial Strategies also provide an important opportunity for the Government to ensure a policy that enables innovative solutions to noise can be developed. It will be important that support for investment in technology, which is critical to ensuring the UK is a global pioneer in tackling noise, continues.

Neil Robinson
Chair, Sustainable Aviation
Corporate Social Responsibility Director, Manchester Airports Group

A balanced approach to tackling noise

Our approach to tackling noise is guided by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Their ‘balanced approach’ 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.

Sustainable Aviation members have taken a world leading role in developing aerospace technology and operational improvements, influencing land use planning guidance and improving communications in order to manage and mitigate the impact on our local communities.