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Night noise from aircraft is damaging productivity and can cost lives, suggests CAA research

24th January, 2013

Night noise from aircraft increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and dementia, acknowledge documents published alongside the Government’s night noise consultation this week.

Accompanying a detailed set of proposals about how night noise problems at London’s main airports could be tackled, the Government has published research from the CAA’s Environmental Research and Consultancy Department setting out how the economic cost of night noise for health and for productivity at work could be measured, as part of analysis of the possible benefits of operational changes at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

In the first of a two-stage process to update the night flying regime for the three main London airports, the Government has  invited views on a number of proposals for reducing noise impacts including:

  • Increasing the angle at which aircraft come in to land, so that fewer people are disturbed by low-flying aircraft, one of the measures recommended in AEF’s 2010 report for HACAN Approach noise at Heathrow: concentrating the problem 
  • Changing the direction of flights arriving at Heathrow at night so that more arrive over west London rather than the more densely populated east (there are no scheduled departures at night, although flights are regularly pushed into the night period as a result of overruns)
  • Increasing the use of ‘displaced thresholds’ at Heathrow and Stansted, whereby aircraft land further along the runway, reducing noise for people closest to the airport by keeping aircraft higher for longer, and
  • Imposing an operational ban on the noisiest aircraft (QC 8, QC 16 and possibly QC 4) at night.

Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted are the only airports regulated for noise management by the Government. Night flight operations at all thee are limited through controls on movement numbers and through a ‘quota count’ system which combines information about movement numbers with aircraft noise ratings. Other airports, even some at which comparable numbers of people are affected, are controlled only through the planning system or through voluntary agreements, and some operate unrestricted night flights.

A consultation on the proposed changes, and on the methodology for estimating noise costs, is open until 22nd April. AEF will be meeting with Government representatives and community groups to discuss the plans.