Quieter flight partnership

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High profile public campaigns and protests by local residents around airports across Europe against aircraft noise have forced competitive government agencies to enforce night flight ban in many of the European airports. UK and German governments among the European Union lead in imposing such bans which extends from 11 pm to 5 am. Night flight bans have put enormous pressure on airlines and airports to rearrange their schedules and the economic impact has been even more. A recent Oxford Economics study on the impact of night flight ban at London’s Heathrow Airport estimates that it would reduce UK GDP by £178 million per annum and jobs by 2,800. Therefore, the industry veterans are turning to aircraft manufacturers for technology innovations to address this social problem which they think will only become louder and more popular not just in Europe but even to other cities where airports are located.

In a recent unique partnership Airbus, British Airways (BA), Heathrow Airport (LHR) and NATS (the main air navigation service provider in the United Kingdom) have launched a programme to study and develop operational procedures to reduce the number of people affected by noise around London’s Heathrow. The study will use British Airways’ A380. The A380 is recognised as one of the quietest aircrafts today.

According to a press release by Airbus the project utilises the capabilities of the A380 and looks at how the aircraft manufacturer, airline, airport and air navigation services provider can further reduce the noise impact of flight operations for local communities. The partners have announced a three-stage ‘Quieter Flight’ project. The first stage identifies the operational improvements that are possible. These include for departures for example, reducing thrust and optimising the height at which the aircraft is flown. Changes to these departure procedures have the potential to significantly reduce noise levels. The second stage will see the testing and training of procedures in a British Airways flight simulator. Once all the project stages are complete, the partners expect to bring all the operational improvements together into a series of demonstration flights with the A380, starting from early next year. These procedures will then be made available to other operators and airports around the world.

“The A380 is the ideal aircraft to conduct the “Quieter flights” because it has the latest state of the art technologies that allow optimised paths to be flown very precisely. The A380 is able to further reduce the noise of what is already the quietest aircraft of its type,” said Christopher Buckley, Airbus’ executive vice president for customer affairs. Captain Dean Plumb, British Airways’ environment strategy manager also acknowledged the fact that A380 is the ideal aircraft for this project. “It has unique operational capabilities that can be adjusted to reduce noise during take-off and landing. The next step for the Quieter Flight Partnership is to train our pilots to use the optimised noise procedures in the simulator and then to test these improvements in flight trials,” said Plumb.

Apparently environmental sustainability is a top priority for various stakeholders of the aviation industry, particularly airlines, airports and aircraft manufacturers. “We are really pleased to be working closely with industry partners on this project. Heathrow is at the forefront of international efforts to tackle aircraft noise and collaborations such as this form part of our long term commitment to do this whilst also safeguarding the connectivity and growth that Heathrow provides,” said Matt Gorman, Sustainability Director for Heathrow.

The partnership is a demonstration of the seriousness of the issue and Quieter Flight project brings together the expertise of the whole industry. “When combined with the wide range of other initiatives we are working on, this project will help make a difference to those people living under the flightpath,” said Ian Jopson, NATS head of environmental and community affairs.

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