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Department for Transport publishes guidance to the CAA on environmental objectives relating to air navigation

17th January, 2014

The Department for Transport has published the final version of its ‘Guidance to the Civil Aviation Authority on Environmental Objectives Relating to the Exercise of its Air Navigation Functions’. AEF responded to the consultation in the summer and focused on aviation emissions, less noisy approaches and ascents, and the importance of managing helicopter noise. The DfT has published all the responses it received.

Aviation’s emissions

We are pleased that the DfT’s guidance acknowledges the need to include aviation emissions in the carbon budgets in the future, as well as the potential future inclusion of non-CO2 effects, and so provides CAA with a requirement to monitor progress in climate science and policy. The DfT’s guidance also highlights the active role CAA should play in prioritising emissions reduction procedures above 7000 feet such as continued descent procedures and reduced holding times. The DfT advises that local emissions such as NOx and particulate matter should be considered as well as noise when aircraft are landing and taking off.


The final guidance states CAA’s role should be to support the Government’s principle of “noise abatement operational procedures” as part of ICAO’s ‘balanced approach’. CAA should also, according to the DfT, support efforts by airports to mitigate the noise impacts of proposals for new airport capacity or changes to operational procedures.

Concentration , dispersal and respite

The final DfT guidance recommends the CAA should follow a policy of concentration unless local circumstances mean that dispersing traffic would be beneficial, such as in noise sensitive areas. The DfT also encourages the CAA to consider, along with other stakeholders, how alternations for days or weeks could provide respite for communities.

Helicopter Noise

In our consultation response, we recommended to that the DfT should recommend the CAA undertakes an analysis of how helicopter noise could be improved and how the CAA could assist. We also asked the DfT to give further explanation regarding the unique noise characteristics of helicopters and how these could addressed by the CAA. The final guidance fails to elaborate further, although the CAA is required to take the unique characteristics of helicopters into account when considering airspace changes. We will continue to press the DfT and CAA to take helicopter noise more seriously and to improve understanding through research.

Operational Procedures

The guidance reiterates guideance on departure and approach procedures, including Continuous Descent Operations. It also highlights the role that Performance Based Navigation (PBN) will play in improving accuracy in track keeping as well as efficiency benefits.

National Parks and AONBs

The DfT’s final guidance maintains the advice that the CAA should consider avoiding routing planes over these protected areas below 7,000 feet where possible. The guidance also includes a section on the concept of tranquillity and how that should be considered by the CAA.


Guidance to the Civil Aviation Authority on Environmental Objectives Relating to the Exercise of its Air Navigation Functions

AEF’s consultation response