The League of Noisiness


Living near an airport can have its disadvantages, and one of these is the incessant noise that they can make throughout the day. The government have tried to combat this issue by introducing NPI’s, Noise Preferential Routes, throughout all British airports; this is where a departure procedure is created, giving the aircraft a 3km wide departure window and is upheld until the plane is at an altitude of 4000 feet. The government have also put a restriction on the number of flights that are able to arrive and depart the airports between the hours of 11pm and 6am to limit the disruption to the residents. Airports have also taken it upon themselves to conduct surveys into aircraft noise to determine what steps need to be taken in order to reduce the noise disruption for the residents around the area.


Heathrow have instigated a survey called ‘Fly Quiet;’ this tests noise levels for 50 aircrafts that are using the airport with an aim of praising those airlines that are doing well and shaming those that aren’t in the hope that they will take the necessary steps to manage their noise levels. Heathrow are incredibly dedicated to ensuring that noise pollution is significantly reduce and have played an active role in developing quieter aeroplane technology. As well as using the Fly Quiet programme, Heathrow also offer incentives to those airlines that use the quietest aeroplane; this will ensure that the residents and geusts staying at London Heathrow airport hotels are kept happy and that anymore plans for development at Heathrow Airport, such as a third runway, will be met with no opposition.

How to make a plane quieter?

There are many different factors to consider when reducing the noise level of an aircraft; the age of the plane is incredibly significant due to the technology, the older the plane, the older the parts and technology, as well as the way that it lands at the airport. If the pilot gradually descends to the runway, it requires much more thrust and will keep the aeroplane in the air for a longer period of time, whereas a steep descent will avoid all of those problems.

The Fly Quiet Survey

As previously stated, this survey is carried out by Heathrow to check that all airliners comply with their noise regulations. This ensures that residents of the surrounding areas and hotel customers, such as those in the London Heathrow airport hotel which is incredibly close to the airport, are happy and satisfied.

The categories included Noise Quota Count, Noise certification, Arrival Operations: Continuous Descent Approach, Departure Operations: Track deviations on departure, Night time Operations 1: arrivals prior to 0430 and Night time Operations 1: arrivals prior to 0600. They are all marked via a traffic light system and the results for the best and the worst airliners are set out below:-

Best – With all green marking.

  • British Airways – short haul
  • Virgin Atlantic Airways
  • Aer Lingus
  • American Airlines
  • Qantas Airways
  • Emirates
  • United Airlines

Worst – With most red markings.

  • Thai Airways
  • El Al
  • LOT

According to the findings, BA (short haul) was awarded quietest carrier with Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red service (the domestic flights) and Aer Lingus taking second and third. At the other end of the spectrum, the noisiest aircraft was awarded to Polish airline LOT with EI AI and Thai Airways coming close behind them. British Airways did get a red markdown in their long haul flights for unscheduled flight arrivals before 0600. Overall, the survey showed that out of 50 airlines, 40 met with Heathrow’s minimum noise level requirements while 47 out of 50 performed satisfactorily in 5 out of 6 categories.

The Categories: What do they mean?

  1. Noise quota count: This notes the noise efficiency of the aircraft while balancing out factors such as large aircrafts are much noisier, however, they do cater for more passengers.
  2. Noise Certification: A noise certificate is awarded to the aeroplane to observe its performance against the ICAO noise standards, which are rated in chapters, chapter 4 being the best, and by looking at the airlines using the quieter, modern aircrafts. By using this, it allows a rating system to see which aircraft is performing at the optimum level.
  3. Arrival Operations: Continuous Descent Approach (CDA violations): This involves the descent into the airport and whether it is a slow descent or a steep descent, which will land the plane quicker, therefore causing less noise pollution.
  4. Departure Operations: Track deviations on departure (TK violations): This tracks the aircraft to ensure that they are adhering to the noise preferential route. If the aircraft strays from the 3km track or goes off course before 4000 feet as the government guidelines state, then the tracker will note that unexpected and unnecessary noise disturbance was made.
  5. Night time Operations 1: arrivals prior to 0430: Due to the early hour, airliners have arranged to not land their aircrafts before 4.30am as this causes problems for the residents in the airports vicinity. This indicator measures the airlines adherence to this agreement and makes note of any arrivals made during that time that could have been avoided.

6. Night time Operations 2: unscheduled arrivals prior to 0600: Much like night time operations 1, this looks at flights that are scheduled to land after the designated time of 6am, unless there are unavoidable circumstances.