Noise Control Strategies around Airport


Noise pollution in the airports remains a major challenge across the world due to the increasing human settlement along these locations. Most people settles near airports due to the economic opportunities created around this region by airport activities. Thus, it is difficult to regulate homes set up in the nearby locations. The airport managements have a significant role to play in ensuring that they control the noise produced by aircrafts in the air as well as within the runways so as to protect the neighbouring residents from noise (Hebly & Visser, 2008). The noise regulation is also important because it prevents staffs within the terminal from adverse health effects due to prolonged exposure. Therefore, this paper aims at discussing some of the techniques used today for combating the noise pollution menace in the airports.

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Time of the Day Restriction

Time of the day restriction has become one of the most efficient ways used today in controlling noise pollution in the airports. This is because noise effect to the nearby houses changes based on the time of the day when airport activities take place. The primary time of restriction is mostly during the night when most of the residents are sleeping in their homes (Kazda & Caves, 2015). Also, night time is usually quieter compared to day time due to little activities; thus, the impact of aircraft noise is likely to be bigger. In regions where there is a hot summer season, most people open windows during the night time, and the impact of noise from aircraft is likely to be excessive in this period. Therefore, there is a need for regulating the movement of aircraft during the night-time period.

In some airports across the world, the restriction on night flights is done voluntarily by the management without even a legal requirement. However, some nations have already developed legislative laws which restrict certain airports to a given number of flights overnight. A good example of the airport which applies the time of the day restriction technique is the Heathrow Airport in London, United Kingdom.  In this airport, fights are always restricted between 11 pm and 4.30 am. During this time, there are no scheduled departures from the airport, and there are quite minimal arrivals made. The government also limits this airport to 5,800-night departures and arrivals per year; hence, there is no space for violating the time restriction (Heathrow Aircraft Noise, n.d.). Most of these night departures and arrivals are scheduled before 11 pm or after the 4.30 am; thus, the noise is highly eliminated during the night. The Heathrow report on 2015 night flights indicated that 80% of all night activities took place between 4.30 am and 6 am, meaning that only a small fraction of less than 20% operations were made during the night time when people were speeping indoors (Heathrow Aircraft Noise, n.d.).

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Departure from the Runway End

Some airports’ management also requires all the planes leaving the airport to exit from the end of the runway so that they can attain a higher height level before they leave the airport ground. The management of most airports has identified that if flights start at the end of the runway as the departure, they can gain enough height to reduce noise effect to the surrounding communities by 50% once they leave the parameters of the airport (Hebly & Visser, 2008). This technique is an improved way of reducing sound from the plane, unlike in the past, when aircraft reached the residential region even before they climb to higher altitude.

An airport that has successfully used the runway end departure method in combating noise pollution is Auckland Airport in New Zealand. In this terminal, the management requires that all aircrafts take off at the end of the runway so that they can start gaining height while still being within the airport area (Auckland International Airport, n.d.). Thus, the aircraft attains higher altitude when still in the airport; and by the time it approaches the noise-sensitive areas, its noise effect towards people is more than twice lower.

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Planning Noise Reduction Based on Weather

Today, several airports in the world plan on sound reduction based on the weather. A windy day can interfere with the distribution of noise to the people either in a negative or in a positive way. When the wind is used to ensure that noise is blown away from human settlements during landings and departures of the aircrafts, then such weather can help lower noise pollution (Kazda & Caves, 2015). This noise control method is not always permanent and efficient, but it helps reduce noise to a considerable extent without incurring any costs on such actions. When an airport has more than two runways facing different directions, this method of noise control can be very effective as it can help determine which track reduces noise pollution more due to wind interference.

One airport that has employed this method for noise control is the Salem Municipal Airport located in the state of Oregon. This airport has a tight regulation on how the planes should approach or leave the existing two runways based on weather conditions (McNary Field, n.d.). It is the direction of the wind which determines which track to be used by the aircraft so as to avoid unnecessary increase in noise to the local communities living near the airport.

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Alternative Flight Paths

The flight path determined the amount of noise that an aircraft produces to some areas around the airport during the arrival and departures. Those regions that are directly on the approaching side of a pathway during the arrival experience noise disturbance the most. On the contrary, those directly ahead of a runway during a departure experience noise effect the most. However, this noise can be reduced by developing alternative flight runways which can help distribute the effect of the noise from a single track (Hebly & Visser, 2008). The alternative path can also play a crucial role because it helps the management to prefer it when the weather does not favor the main airport’s runway. The weather, as discussed above, affect the sound noise movement; thus, an alternative path can be used to prevent noise effect in the main runway that may be caused by weather interference.

An example of an airport which applies the alternative flight paths method is the San Francisco International Airport, which has a total of four runways. These tracks face different directions, and the airport management, therefore, uses them to ensure that the noise impact is reduced in the nearby residential areas (SFO, n.d.). Thus, the noise pollution around this airport is not concentrated in a certain area; hence, the effect of the noise towards the neighbouring society is highly reduced. Having alternative runway in the terminal also ensure that during certain weathers like when the wind blows towards the residential areas and not towards the ocean, the alternative paths, which are not affected by such wind interferences at that time, are used.

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Restriction on the Run-Ups

Before aircraft are utilized in the commercial activity of transportation either for cargo or people, they are tested in order to ensure their engines are working accordingly. This process of testing the efficiency of the plane engine is known as the run-up, and it requires actual starting and running of the engine. Sometimes the run-up process goes to the extent that a plane might take off and land back to check if it is ready for commercial duty. Naturally, this process generates a lot of noise from the engines in the runways; thus, most airport management always put a restriction on the manner in which the run-ups are conducted (Kazda & Caves, 2015). Such restrictions include the time of the day when run-up should be done, the time frame under which a single aircraft should take on a run-up, and the maximum number of run-ups that can be done simultaneously. These regulations, when applied and implemented accordingly, ensure that run-ups are done efficiently and with minimal noise pollution.

One airport that is known for its application of strong regulations on run-ups is the John F. Kennedy International Airport located in the New York City. The airport has designated regions that are meant for the operations of engine run-ups, and such activity cannot take place in any other place except for these points. The airport management also restricts engine testing to only one operator at a time to avoid unnecessary buildup of noise from several trials. The management also limits the run-up process during the night to an 80% power capacity, and such capacity is only allowed for a time not exceeding one minute (JFK, n.d.). During the day time, the management accepts a 100% engine power test, but such test is only allowed to last for time not exceeding 30 seconds. The airport management apply all these regulations to ensure that noise is maintained at the lowest level possible within the airport so as not to affect the surrounding communities as well as workers within the terminal.

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In conclusion, the above analysis has presented some of the ways used in airports today to combat the problem of noise pollution produced by aircrafts in or around the airport terminal. It has been revealed that such techniques as restriction on the time of the day, limitation on run-up activities, using alternative flight runways within the same airport depending on weather, and departure from the track end are among the significant noise reduction ways used. Most of these methods have been found to be cheap and easily implementable, and it is the conclusion of this paper that such implementation can perfectly reduce noise in and around the airports.

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