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Boeing ‘Dreamliner’ offers only marginal noise benefit

The Boeing 787 ‘Dreamliner’ was flown in to Britain for a number of demonstration flights this week, with the company’s press release announcing that it has “larger dimmable windows, bigger bins” and environmental credentials to boot.

The Boeing website describes the plane as having been “designed for environmental performance”. On noise it says “ .. the noise footprint of the 787 is 60% smaller than those today of similarly sized planes.” But what will this actually mean for people on the ground?

A reduction in noise ‘footprint’ presumably means a reduction that in the area that would experience a particular level of noise, probably 85dB in this case. A 60% reduction in the footprint corresponds, by our calculation, to a reduction of about 3dB in noise level, which would produce a reduction in perceived noise of about 20%.

Of course, any reduction in noise is welcome. But this modest improvement from what will initially be only a very small number of aircraft (which, incidentally, were promised many years ago) will sadly do little to address the problem of noise around airports, with any noise savings likely to be quickly swallowed up by increases in air traffic.