Posts Tagged ‘aviation noise’

HMMH Fall Tour 2015: On the Road Again

Friday, November 13th, 2015

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’ve been on the road this fall at conferences – a whole lot of air miles, too many hotels, chicken lunches, and name tags (someday these will be designed for wearing on something other than a suit jacket lapel), but lots of great discussions, more than a few cocktails with good friends, and many laughs along the way. Some common themes emerged; here’s a recap of my highlights/takeaways:


Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) Global Sustainability Aviation Summit (Geneva)

At ATAG, ACI and Canso jointly released a document entitled Managing the Impacts of Aviation Noise, which provides a concise summary of airport noise issues, strategies for mitigation, and an extensive series of case studies. On community engagement, the report recommends following guidance issued in Eurocontrol’s Collaborative Environmental Management (CEM). One key difference between the European approach and ours is that the airport is at the center of the discussion. I am pleased to have contributed to the document.



ACI World Environment Standing Committee (Geneva)

Australia has seen good success in improving relations by having a very engaged and completely independent Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, who serves as a neutral party facilitating discussion of noise abatement alternatives, and educating the public using language that is not jargon. The Australians also provide guidance to airports (and others) on how to properly address complaints. And Canada recently released an Airspace Change Communications and Consultation Protocol for engaging communities and other stakeholders in discussion of proposed airspace changes. It, too, puts airports at the center of the discussion.



ACI-NA Annual Conference and Environmental Affairs Seminar (Long Beach)

My presentation at ACI focused on the concept of social license to operate (SLO), which originated in the mining industry. The premise of SLO is straightforward: owners of businesses and other enterprises that generate negative externalities must secure permission from stakeholders in order to grow – sometimes even to operate. And that permission is earned (not simply granted), by engaging stakeholders in a relationship that evolves from acceptance to trust. As shown in the illustration below from Social License institute, deteriorating levels of trust can lead to active political engagement and protest, as we’ve recently seen with the No Fly movement.


EFCG CEO Conference (New York)

This annual gathering of almost 300 CEO’s of firms in the A&E industry provides great perspective on the state of the industry, trends in financial results and other industry benchmarks, and an opportunity for firm leaders to share experiences on all kinds of issues facing our industry, including talent shortages, ownership transition models, and implications of new business models, technologies, and regulations. My favorite moment of the conference was my realization – during a fancy dinner at the Harvard Club – that the nine other CEO’s I was dining with were more interested in talking about their pets than their businesses. CEOs are people, too.



AAAE Basics of Airport Law Conference (Washington)

John Putnam (KKR) and I provided a session on emerging noise issues. Much of that discussion focused on PBN issues, the challenges posed by NEPA requirements in evaluating PBN procedures (not only at individual airports, but on a metroplex scale), and implications of FAA Reauthorization on airport noise issues.



ACC Annual Conference (Newport Beach)

There was much discussion at the Annual Meeting on the need to engage politically in conversations about airport development. ACC President TJ Schultz’s knowledge and insight into FAA funding and other political realities provides ACC member firms (especially small ones like HMMH) with context for making strategic decisions. I am honored to have been elected incoming Secretary/Treasurer for 2016, and look forward to serving on the ACC Executive Board with Don Bergin and Roddy Boggus.



ACI-NA Marketing and Communications Conference (Nashville)

ACI-NA’s Marketing and Communications conference held a session on airport noise. This is very exciting to me because the longer I’m in this business, the more I’m convinced that a good deal of airport noise issues can be addressed by better communication. I’ve come to this for several reasons: (1) first, we know that only about 30% of people’s annoyance to aircraft noise can be attributed to the noise level – that leaves a lot of opportunity for using “non-acoustic” measures to address noise issues; (2) after 30+ years in this industry, I am positive that people don’t suddenly start complaining about aircraft noise unless there has been some change in their environment or their life: a new runway, a new procedure, a new home, a new job (and increasingly, retirement). Working with stakeholders to understand the reasons for those changes often goes a long way toward resolving annoyance – sometimes it can be addressed, but even when it can’t, folks generally are satisfied that they have been listened to and validated.

Bottom line: sometimes the best consulting one can offer is to listen.


Looking forward to a brief respite (though I’m presenting remotely to the Aircraft Noise Non-Acoustic Group (ANNA) in The UK on Thanksgiving – hopefully not messing up the turkey too badly in the process). Then back on the road again in December to wrap up the year at ACC/BAG Global Business Summit (London) and ACI/ACC Planning and NEPA Workshop (Washington).



New NBAA Noise Abatement Procedures Released

Monday, June 29th, 2015

by Robert C. Mentzer

On June 25th 2015, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) released an update to its recommended Noise Abatement Program (NAP).  Details of their announcement can be found here.  This was a complete repackaging of their program and related materials many of which have been in place for decades.  HMMH worked with NBAA to evaluate the noise footprints generated by the prior and updated procedures with several in-use business jet types.  HMMH also assisted NBAA with the development of language to describe and identify how these changes may affect airports.

NBAA’s updated Noise Abatement Program was developed with modern aircraft performance and air traffic control (ATC) requirements in mind. With this revision, NBAA continues to provide operators with guidance to reduce noise impacts that is suited to the current operating environment, as well as new tools for aircraft operators and airports to address the noise concerns of adjacent communities.

The updated program includes:

  • Noise abatement best practices for flight crews
  • Updates to NBAA’s “close-in” noise abatement departure procedure and approach and landing procedures
  • Noise abatement guidance for other aviation stakeholders, including airports and air traffic control facilities

The revised NAP retains the recommendations for the existing standard departure procedure, but includes a new option for high-density airports. The high-traffic option – which allows for a shorter thrust cutback area – may allow the procedure to be used at busy airports where it was not feasible before.  The new guidelines do not include the former “close-in” departure procedure, which was found to have no significant impact on noise reduction for today’s Stage 3 and 4 aircraft, which climb so fast that they reduce power while over airport property, reducing the benefit to communities outside the airport boundary.

Since the former “close-in” departure procedure has been eliminated and several airports recommend NBAA procedures, NBAA included the following page on their site to assist Airport operators understand the changes to the NAP:

A “perfect storm” – Recent actions by all three branches of the federal government address more types of aircraft noise, and acknowledge that adverse effects extend beyond traditional noise contours.

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

by Ted Baldwin

Serious federal attention to aircraft noise began around 1960, largely in response to community concerns (okay, complaints) related to the introduction of early air carrier jets (“airliners”), in particular the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8.

For the past half century, the federal government has largely focused its attention on aircraft noise associated with succeeding generations of airline jets at commercial service airports.  General aviation (g.a.) airports, g.a. jets, propeller aircraft, and helicopters have been a secondary focus of attention to all branches of the federal government, as illustrated by the following examples:

  • Legislative branch:  Congress has focused on laws phasing out older noisier aircraft over 75,000 pounds, which largely represent air carrier jets.
  • Executive branch:  The FAA’s development of the Integrated Noise Model (INM) has largely focused on modeling air carrier jets, as exemplified by the database’s most extensive coverage for that category of aircraft, with increasing dependence on substitute modeling surrogates as aircraft weight decreases.
  • Judicial branch:  Legal decisions have largely accepted arguments that significant noise exposure and associated liability extend only to the 65 decibel (dB) Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) contour, on which g.a. aircraft and helicopters have relatively little effect;  typically the 65 DNL contour from these aircraft alone encompass little – if any – off-airport land.

To build on the “ocean” metaphor in the title of this posting, the airline jet noise “tide” is ebbing, largely as the result of federal legislation and FAA regulations that force the retirement of 14 C.F. R. Part 36 Stage 1 and 2 jets over 75,000 pounds, and require applications for new “type certification” to meet Stage 4 requirements.  Local noise abatement and land use compatibility programs have complemented these federal actions (and frequently benefited from federal funding and implementation support).

One potential federal response might be to declare “mission accomplished” on the noise front, and turn the focus to areas where the tide is rising – both literally and figuratively; e.g., emissions-related contributions to climate change, which appear to be associated with storms that threaten coastal airports and result in operational delays at airports at all elevations.

However, recent actions show that the federal government is taking a different approach, and turning its focus to previously neglected – or at least lower-profile – noise issues associated with g.a. airports, g.a., jets, and even helicopters.  Again, this “changing tide” is reflected across the board at the federal level:

  • Legislative branch:  In the “FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012,” Congress prohibited, after December 31, 2015, regular operation in the contiguous 48 states of civil aircraft weighing 75,000 pounds or less that do not meet Stage 3 noise levels.  See
  • Executive branch:  As summarized in its “Aviation Noise Impacts Research Roadmap,” the FAA is supporting a number of initiatives recognizing a broader range of noise issues, such as the accuracy of the INM for modeling g.a. aircraft and enhanced modeling of taxiway noise.
  • Executive Branch:  In a more applied case, the FAA adopted a final rule on July 6, 2012 that requires helicopter pilots to use the North Shore Helicopter Route when operating along the north shore of Long Island, New York.  The purpose of the rule is to “protect and enhance public welfare by maximizing utilization of the existing route flown by helicopter traffic one mile off the north shore of Long Island and thereby reducing helicopter overflights and attendant noise disturbance over nearby communities.”  (see
  • Judicial branch:  In a recent opinion that denied a petition by the Helicopter Association International (HAI) for judicial review of the preceding mandatory helicopter route, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit supported the other executive branches in their focus on lower levels of noise exposure related to operations by non-airline aircraft.  (see$file/12-1335-1446255.pdf)

It should be noted that the Long Island helicopter route rule addressed in the preceding two bullets was initiated by two federal legislators representing Long Island residents – Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Tim Bishop – who conducted a meeting in October 2007 with the FAA, local helicopter operators, and airport proprietors to specifically address noise complaints stemming from helicopter operations along the north shore of Long Island.  While only the executive and judicial branches took formal action, the process involved significant input by these legislators as well.

The mandatory helicopter route is particularly significant because it represents divergence from several prior federal positions related to the longstanding “line in the sand” that the federal government has drawn at the 65 decibel (dB) Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) contour: 

  • First, it reflects major divergence from the prior federal position that reduction of sensitive land uses exposed to noise above 65 dB DNL was a de facto prerequisite for approval and support of noise abatement or compatible land use actions.  In its brief responding to the HAI petition, the FAA acknowledged that the route would not produce any benefit at or above this level of exposure, and noted that it “has authority to act without first demonstrating that a specific noise level has been exceeded.”  Furthermore, the FAA brief cited the “Long Island North Shore Helicopter Route Environmental Study,” which it had tasked the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to conduct.  That study concluded that prior to the adoption of the mandatory route, no residential population along the route was exposed to noise above 45 dB DNL, even on busy holiday weekends (e.g., around Memorial Day and July 4th, 2011).
  • Second, it reflected the first time – of which this author is aware – that the FAA relied on complaints as a fully sufficient basis for adoption of a formal noise abatement procedure.  In perhaps its most blunt statement regarding complaints, the FAA brief responding to the HAI petition stated “[w]hen people take the time to complain about helicopter noise to the FAA and their elected officials, there is a noise problem.”

The FAA’s justification for and defense of adopting a mandatory noise abatement rule based on noise complaints and with open acknowledgement that the benefit outside the 65 dB DNL contour by a 20dB margin is an extraordinary divergence from decades of FAA policy and decisions regarding noise compatibility actions.  As just one example, readers may recall that in its determination that the Naples (FL) Airport Authority (NAA) adoption of a ban on Stage 2 operations “was unreasonable and unjustly discriminatory” and therefore in violation of federal law, in part because the “NAA’s use of complaints … does not support a finding that the Stage 2 ban is reasonable.”  (”Director’s Determination,” FAA Docket No. 16-01-15, March 10, 2003.)

These recent actions by all three branches of the federal government clearly acknowledge that aircraft noise impacts worthy of addressing in the most formal manner need not be justified by federal land use compatibility guidelines, are not limited to particularly noisy aircraft, and do not even require quantification in decibel-based terms.

While the applicability of these actions as precedents in addressing other noise concerns across the U.S. will undoubtedly be the topic of vigorous debate for some time, airport noise stakeholders – including aircraft operators, pilots, airport proprietors, state and local government land use jurisdictions, airport neighbors, and others – should follow the federal lead in taking a fresh look at creative bases for demonstrating benefits and considering – or reconsidering – the full spectrum of noise abatement and compatible land use measures that might be applied to aircraft noise sources of local concern. 

A Better Way to Compare Aircraft Noise and Emissions?

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

by Nick Miller

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently published “Burden of disease from environmental noise, Quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe.” The title sparked my interest because there is an on-going effort in the U.S. to quantify and compare the relative adverse effects on society caused by aviation noise and aviation produced air pollutants. For the primary air pollutants, current U.S. work translates benefits of reductions to such things as reductions in premature mortality and in chronic bronchitis, to which dollar benefits are assigned. For noise, the Noise Depreciation Index (NDI) reveals how many dollars in housing prices are gained by reducing noise. 

I’ve always been troubled by this comparison of dollars of house price saved versus dollars of lives saved –not because I doubt either the calculations or assigning dollars to a life, which is standard in many cost benefit analyses. But my opinion, shared I think by many who deal with community reactions to aircraft noise, is that house prices really don’t reflect the adverse noise effects of living near a busy airport. For one thing, realtors and sellers go out of their way to down-play the aircraft noise issue.

Well, whether or not we want to pursue that debate, here come the Europeans and WHO, with “disability-adjusted life-years” (DALYs) as a method for quantifying any environmental health effect, and a report specifically addressing noise. Though my hopes for enlightenment about aircraft noise were immediately dashed when I learned that this report deals almost exclusively with the effects of road traffic noise, the DALY method may eventually have some use for comparison of aviation noise and emissions effects.

So how do we compute DALYs? Basically it’s the sum of years of life lost (e.g., premature mortality) and years lived with disability, or years of healthy life lost (e.g., suffering chronic bronchitis). The noise produced disabilities the WHO report examines are cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in children, sleep disturbance, tinnitus and annoyance. These are all adverse health effects consistent with the WHO definition of health as being “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.”

Computation of DALYs requires knowledge of the number of people exposed to each level of noise, a dose-response relationship that gives percent of people affected at each level, the “disability weight,” DW, assigned to the effect (DW equals zero means no health effect, DW equals one, you die), and the number of years of living with the disability or years of life lost. Obviously, many assumptions are required, but I like the way the large number of assembled subject area experts synthesized their knowledge and the research literature results to quantify each variable and calculate the DALYs for each health effect. 

What most struck me, was the number of experts (41 are listed) who participated in developing the report. In contrast, current U.S. efforts have required that many people come up to speed on the effects of aircraft noise on people, working with an additional very few who had actually worked in the field of aircraft noise effects. (Three cheers to the FAA for bringing in experts from outside the U.S. to assist with development of the Aviation Noise Impacts Roadmap.) To be clear, those who had to learn, were already experts, many in acoustics, just not in aviation noise and its effects.

In some ways, how sad. In the 1970’s the U.S. lead the world in developing the knowledge needed to formulate a national policy on noise and noise control. But those efforts all stopped short in the early 1980’s. Hence, most of those with expertise have retired and no new blood added for these three decades.

Now that we are concerned about how we can expand the U.S. air transport system, change airspace use, add runways, and increase the use of under-utilized airports, recognition has come that we better understand what the noise and air quality effects will be on society. Let’s hope that we can develop enough understanding to provide the aviation decision-makers with the information they need for science based noise and emissions policy. Perhaps a bit more of looking to research results gathered outside the U.S. would benefit our efforts.