21st June, 2023
Noise levels at nearly all UK airports significantly exceed WHO-recommended levels today, and the issue is not confined to the congested airspace over London and the South East. Each year, communities from all regions are impacted by noise from aircraft flying over our cities, towns, rural areas and national parks.
At AEF, we regularly have contact with people impacted by aircraft noise across the UK, and are keen to highlight how this affects their lives and health. Click on the icons on the map below to watch and read about some of their experiences.
AEF is supporting the No Night Flights campaign run by Aviation Communities Forum (ACF). To coincide with the government consultation on night flights which closed in September 2021, ACF launched a petition calling for a ban on night flights to protect public health. To read more about the campaign and how you can support it, click here.
I really love living in this part of London. I really hate being told by the CAA and by NATS and by other organisations that purport to help us that I’ve always lived under a flightpath of this intensity. It’s absolutely not true. I cry in the morning, I cry at work, I cry in bed at night. … My eyes can be bloodshot in the morning, just through absolute exhaustion. And then I have to go to a job, which I like very much, but I don’t always perform at 100%. I can feel sick. Really sick.
AEF is frequently contacted by members of the public who are affected by general aviation aircraft (for example, small propellor planes and helicopters operating from local aerodromes). A resident who lives near Bushey in Herts has told us that she has lived in in the area since October 1998 and that, in the last few years the noise from small plane training flights and aerobics has reached “alarming levels”.
The circuit (training) flying, she tells us, is seven days a week “and never abated throughout the lockdowns”. She also reports that “[t]he flying starts at approximately 9am and can continue as late as 10:30pm”, and that a plane is flown over her property every thirty seconds during peak times.
According to the resident, the aerodrome is aware of the headache that it is causing, but nothing has been done:
One of the local … councillors met with the airfield last year and a list of changes were agreed which have been completely reneged on.
Meanwhile: The low flying circuit flying from the noisy loud planes is … deafening. You cannot function with this noise overhead.
I am absolutely at my wits end… I could weep.
In September 2019, the AEF team carried out an interview with a member of the public who had contacted us to raise the issue of helicopter noise in his area (Tooting, SW London). The interviewee has lived in the area since 1980. Police and ambulance helicopters, he told us, are not a problem because “everybody understands that they perform a useful community function.” However, helicopter noise from a major heliport in London is a different question.
The heliport operates from 7am to late evening. While there are no night flights, noise during the day is highly intrusive.
Well, the helicopters have really two sorts of noise. They have engine noise, which I think is quite intrusive, but there’s also rotor noise, which is almost impossible to limit. They come over very low [500-1000 feet to avoid buildings and cranes, but also major flightpaths]
The helicopters … for a start they’re bigger and heavier than they used to be. No doubt they’re safer and can carry more passengers as well, but one of the consequences of that, as I understand it, is that the rotors … have to carry more weight and so naturally make more noise.
Since I think 2006, the Civil Aviation Authority have published figures to show what the level of traffic is. It’s very seasonal. It tends to follow major events, and the summer season tends to involve … a lot more corporate entertainment or hospitality, which is, you know, very nice for them, but this is generally people who either have a great deal of money of their own, or they’re spending somebody else’s money to do it. [The noise is] very annoying.
The records show that the traffic has been gradually increasing … . In this particular area, we’re not in one of the areas where there are regulated flightpaths … . Around here, the pilots are allowed to choose their own route and they tend – so we’re told anyway – to follow main roads quite a lot. Around the river itself, of course, there’s a heliport where presumably it’s much noisier than it is here, and there has been an academic study of the trouble that that has caused, which concluded that it actually can cause problems for health in the medium term.
[T]he problem with that is that because these limits on operations were permitted in a  planning permission for a heliport, they can’t be changed by the local council or indeed by anybody else except by Government under parliamentary legislation. So, it seems to me that there ought to be some legislation which allows planning conditions of this kind to be updated. … I think people feel that they ought to be treated fairly, and now that there’s so much traffic travelling over London, I think it’s really not fair that so few people can inconvenience so many.
One’s first recourse, obviously, would be to the Environmental Protection Act, but that doesn’t apply to aircraft noise and therefore not to helicopter noise either. So, with that and the planning permission arrangements … we have very limited scope for regulating this noise and I think something really needs to be done about that.
[T]here are two ways it can go forward, I think, and one is that the pilots could be required, or at least encouraged to vary their routes more so that they’re not focusing noise on a relatively narrow band of people – still a lot of people, but it’s quite narrow, and it could easily, since the pilots are allowed to go more or less where they like in this area, it could well be spread out more widely. So that’s one thing. In the longer term, I think probably the helicopter traffic should be restricted; a lot of it’s unnecessary and annoying to a lot of people.
[The] airport is [proposing] expanding and local residents like me are going to have to live with yet more noise from increased air transport movements and vehicles travelling through rural villages to the airport. The airport is in a rural location in the green belt with no dual-carriageway or rail access.
The dominant noise is from flights overhead, ground noise and vehicle movements. It is now impossible to sleep at night with windows open in the summer or to enjoy the garden during the day. Expanding airports always want more night flights which is just unacceptable. Airport noise is more than an unpleasant disturbance as it disrupts sleep patterns. Once awake it can be exceedingly difficult to get back to sleep as the next flight seems to pass just as I am drifting back to sleep.
Constant noise during the day gives you a headache and a desire, sometimes, to run away. The only thing I can do is complain to the airport, which I do endlessly. The Local Authority takes no responsibility for noise. [The] airport, to my knowledge, has yet to impose a penalty on a flight for a noise offence although they are entitled to do this.
The whole mechanism for measuring noise is biased. Airports measure noise as an average rather than the event you hear. Residents don’t stand a chance of enjoying any form of tranquillity if they live close to an airport. What no one within these expanding regional airports seems to understand is that local residents were here first and had greater tranquillity; as the airports grow this is taken away from us.
My wife and I live on the east side of the runway … and now after 12 years I am directly on the flight path of most incoming aircraft. During the day this doesn’t bother us. However during the hours of 12.00 [midnight] to 6.00am there are flights coming in at the same frequency as during the day. This is totally unacceptable.
The weather this summer has been hot and because of the noise I have not been able to leave my window open. This has caused a lot of anxiety going to bed as you don’t know if you will be able to sleep. This could be classed as “torture”.
It is the ambition of the airport to increase the traffic over the next few years.
The consequences of this would force me to sell my property as it [would not be] tenable to live here.
Early in 2017 the airport started using satnav to fly aircraft down the centre line of its flight paths. That’s when the noise got bad and loads of people were bothered for the first time. Streams of aircraft fly directly overhead especially in the morning. It’s a lot worse during the holiday months with all the fully laden holiday flights. I have lived here for over 30 years and take offs were bearable, but now we are woken with jets screaming overhead. … There are a number scheduled for 6.00[am] so they come wave after wave. There is the initial roar as they approach, then they whine overhead followed by the jet wash full blast. Then the next one takes off! We are stressed and tired all the time waiting for the next aircraft.
Surely the noise pollution should be shared so that it is bearable. Or better still use the westerly approach to the airport that has been kept free by the Local Authority for this purpose and should be used again as the main take off route. There is no need to have the aircraft taking off over residential areas. It makes me angry every time we hear the aircraft. We get no peace just because the airport wants to look more attractive to airlines who want to shave minutes off their journeys to make more profit.