Below are links to stories about noise in relation to airports and aviation.
Letter to Chancellor saying there is no economic or social case for government funding of aviation decarbonisation projects
A group of aviation campaigns have sent a joint letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. This comes in response to a letter sent by Sir Graham Brady and other MP signatories, asking the Treasury to invest in aviation decarbonisation. The campaigners' letter says: "... there is no economic or social case for the government to invest taxpayers’ money in projects that might reduce aviation’s emissions. Doing so would perpetuate the current moral hazard in which the industry pollutes with impunity but expects others to bear the consequences and clean up after it." Data from the ONS shows air transport, and services incidental to it, account for less than 0.7% of GDP and only 0.4% of jobs. "The industry’s increasingly meaningless assertions, such as the one in Sir Graham’s letter that aviation “supports” 4.5% of GDP, should be treated with the scepticism they deserve". The industry overwhelmingly provides leisure, not trade, services. Over 80% of UK passengers travel for leisure purposes. "Using taxpayers’ funds to further support [aviation]... should be inconceivable in the current economic context." What is needed is "effective regulation that obliges the industry to decarbonise" and urgent government reform of regulation of the industry’s environmental impacts. See the full letter.
APPG on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity launches inquiry into Building Aviation Back Better
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity has launched an inquiry into how the aviation industry can build back in a post Covid-19 world. The APPG is keen to receive evidence from a range of organisations on how to build a more sustainable aviation policy that supports both workers and the environment. People have till 14th September to respond. The sector is unlikely to recover to levels of flying in 2019 till perhaps 2023. This presents an opportunity to reset the UK’s aviation strategy and initiate a green recovery. This should set aviation on a fairer and more sustainable course, while providing any support necessary for workers to shift to green jobs. Aviation policy which must strike an equitable balance between the benefits aviation brings and its adverse environmental, economic and health costs. The issues on which the APPG is seeking comment include the Aviation White Paper, taxation, regional balance, bailouts, the UK policy framework for decarbonisation, and community impacts, such as noise, night flights and air pollution.
Southampton airport runway extension plans would lead to higher CO2 emissions
Plans to lengthen Southampton Airport’s runway (by 164 metres) have come under fire amid concerns over their impact on climate change. The airport's 2nd public consultation on revised plans has now been launched. Local campaigners Airport Expansion Opposition (AXO) said: “A ‘carbon-neutral’ airport’ is like ‘fat-free lard’. It’s just not possible. We need to act now on climate change. Lower carbon fuels and electric planes capable of carrying significant numbers of passengers are decades away. The airport says extending the runway isn’t about ‘bigger planes’. But its own figures show that it is about flying many more of the bigger, noisier A320 jets than previously. The result of this is, as the new documents show, over 40,000 extra local people being exposed to aircraft noise.” And "Regional connectivity can be maintained with the airport as it currently is, and since most travellers are UK residents heading out on holiday most of the benefit of their travel will be abroad.” The airport claims its future is in doubt (usual stuff about jobs...) unless it lengthens the runway.
ICCAN produces review and 6 recommendations about aviation noise metrics and their measurement
The issue of plane noise has been of great concern to hundreds of thousands of people, for ages. ICCAN was set up in 2019 to look into the problem, seeing if there might be ways to manage it better, and for people to be considered more - and their noise concerns taken seriously. One key problem is how noise is measured, and therefore how overflown communities can get factual data on the noise they are experiencing. This is complicated. Acoustics is not a simple science, and especially difficult to explain in plain English to laypeople. The noise an area suffers depends on the number of planes overhead, their height, their type, what they are doing at the time, the frequency of the flights overhead, the time of day (or night) and the background level of noise an area already experiences. Traditionally aircraft noise is averaged over a period of time. That provides numbers that can be compared to other places and other times. But it makes no sense to those being affected. But nobody hears an average of plane noise. They hear a number of separate noisy events. Now ICCAN has produced a review of aircraft noise metric and their measurement, and their recommendations, for how improvements should be made.
ICCAN progress report, after a year’s work looking at aviation noise – it should be a priority post-Covid
What seems a long time ago, in 2015, the Airports Commission recommended that an independent body should be set up to deal with aircraft noise problems. So in 2019 ICCAN (the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise) was finally set up. It was hoped that this body would be able to help people who are subjected to aircraft noise, and who have no sensible means to get the level of noise nuisance reduced. In reality, ICCAN says its aim is "to improve trust and public confidence in the management of noise in the UK through the delivery of a comprehensive work programme." And: "It is not, and never has been, our role to have a view on the future expansion of the aviation industry, but as part of making the UK a world leader in managing aviation noise ...." It has no powers. It has now produced its Progress Report, one year from starting work. Its main aim has been contacting many "stakeholders", finding information, getting well informed. Now its lead commissioner, Rob Light, says the Covid pandemic "should be seen as a chance to rebuild and regrow aviation in a more sustainable way" and noise should be a key priority.
Heathrow to close southern runway for several weeks, then use it for daytime only, till October
Heathrow has announced, with no warning, that it will be only using the northern runway from 13th July to 2nd August. It is doing extensive repairs (probably in fact resurfacing) on the southern runway, that means it cannot be opened even part of the day. So people living under the approach path to the northern runway, or under the departure flight paths, will not get the respite period they are used to. Normally flights are switched at 3pm each day. The disruption is planned to last until early October. After 2nd August, there will be flights on both runways, but the southern runway will be closed from 7pm to 7am. Therefore those under flight paths for the northern runway will get all the noise. Campaigners fear that the use of "mixed mode" (ie. landings and take-offs using the same runway) could become the “new norm” if Heathrow seek to use this method of operating permanently, post-pandemic, as a way of increasing the current flight cap of 480,000, to an estimated 565,000 flights per year. Mixed mode would allow that increase in flights without building a 3rd runway, which Heathrow probably can no longer afford.
Prof Whitelegg: How the aviation sector should be reformed following the Covid-19 crisis
Prof John Whitelegg says the Covid pandemic provides a key opportunity for major reforms to the aviation sector. The sector is not likely to reduce its carbon emissions to the extent necessary, even for the net zero target for 2050. The Committee on Climate Change has said there will need to be measures to limit demand for air travel, and it "cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term.” They say "we still expect the sector to emit more than any other in 2050.” Aviation continues to receive an effective subsidy, due to the absence of VAT and fuel duty that amounts to about £11 billion per year (compared to about £3.8 billion taken in APD). There are well known negative health impacts caused the plane noise, with some of the best researched being cardiovascular. We need to change the dominant expectation that air travel with continue to grow. There has to be realisation that air passengers must pay the costs of the environmental damage they cause. Some necessary changes would be charging VAT; taxing frequent fliers; adopting WHO noise standards for health; full internalisation of external costs; fiscal instruments to shift all passenger journeys under 500kms in length from air to rail. And more.
Public enjoying peace and tranquillity from absence of Heathrow flights
Almost 3,500 people took part in a survey organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition on aircraft noise during Covid lockdown. The aim was to see what impact the absence (or near absence) of aircraft noise had on people who are usually overflown. 80% of respondents found the experience of fewer flights to be positive. 49% noticed the reduction in flights all day long. 52% said there had been an impact on their sleep. The most common themes in responses were the beneficial effect of fewer flights on mental and physical health, through a reduction in noise, and (from postcodes close to roads providing access to the airport) an appreciable improvement of air quality. Health impacts mentioned included improved sleeping patterns, greater use of gardens, and greater enjoyment of green spaces. The survey also included responses from around airports other than Heathrow (Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Leeds Bradford). Paul McGuinness, Chair of the Coalition, said: “With powerful clarity this survey presents a picture of just what will be lost, in quality of life terms, when flights resume at Heathrow." The absence of flights has been a unique opportunity to appreciate how great the impact of the noise normally is, with Heathrow working at full capacity.
GACC asks Gatwick to build back better – less noise, no night flights
Flights using Gatwick will slowly restart from 15th June, so noise, air pollution and CO2 emissions are set to increase again. Local campaigners, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) are asking Gatwick to embed noise and other environmental improvements into their recovery plans. During Covid lockdown, Gatwick was only open for a period each afternoon and evening with no night flights. People normally adversely affected by plane noise have benefited hugely from the welcome break from plane intrusion. GACC wants a continuing ban on night flights, especially as air traffic will not return to pre-Covid levels for an unknown time. The Covid pandemic is a unique opportunity for the airport to re-establish a pattern of working that is less environmentally damaging, in terms of noise and carbon. GACC is asking that as well as a night ban, airlines should prioritise flying their least noisy aircraft in their fleets - and provide incentives that encourage airlines permanently to retire older, noisier and more polluting aircraft. Also to use air traffic control to disperse noise, minimise arrival noise impact, and achieve higher, quicker, departures.
“Aviation Climate Alliance” – first newsletter – what could the post-Covid aviation sector look like?
Many organisations are united in their determination that when the aviation sector emerges from the Covid pandemic and lockdown, it will have to be slimmed down, and commit to effective and real cuts in its carbon emissions. There will need to be low-carbon jobs, in place of jobs in high carbon sectors that will need to change. A new informal grouping has been formed, between trade union and environmental campaigners, to help push for environmental and climate conditions being placed on any government assistance for the aviation sector, and more "green" jobs in future. It is named the "Aviation Climate Alliance", and its membership includes AirportWatch, the PCS union, the Stay Grounded movement, the Campaign Against Climate Change, and the Aviation Communities Forum (ACA). It will produce regular newsletters, putting many of the news items and relevant pieces of information together, to help campaigners access the news and facts. The first newsletter has been produced, and can be seen (see link). It was kindly put together by Tahir Latif, of the PCS union. To be added to the mailing list, firstname.lastname@example.org.