There's no getting away from the fact that aviation can be noisy. When aircraft land and take off - and, depending on the aircraft and its altitude, as they fly overhead - they produce a considerable amount of noise.
The highest levels of noise are experienced close to the busiest airports, with noise from Heathrow at a level classified as 'significantly annoying' and impacting more people than any other airport in Europe.
Information on various aspects of aviation noise can be found through the menu on the left.
Government and the aviation industry have worked to try and reduce the impact of noise by creating quieter aircraft; restricting the times airports can operate and the routes that can be used; and in some cases, capping the total number of flights that can take place from an airport.
With people's desire to fly consistently growing, there's a real challenge ahead: how can aviation grow without worsening the impact of aviation noise?
The CAA has three key roles around aviation noise:
The CAA does not:
The noise impact of aircraft can be affected by changes to how airspace is used.
As the UK's independent specialist aviation regulator, the CAA has responsibility for regulating airspace over the UK. This includes the new and established air traffic routes and areas which commercial aircraft use to fly into and out of airports, and the airspace used by military and General Aviation flights.
An organisation proposing a change to the design of UK airspace must follow the CAA's airspace change process. The CAA has a duty to consider consider
a range of
factors set out by government in deciding whether or not to approve the
change. One set of factors is the environmental objectives set for the CAA by
the Secretary of State – including consideration of noise impacts.
The CAA is introducing a new airspace change process for such proposals, which is currently being consulted on in our consultation on airspace change.
Alongside changes to the design of airspace, there are a range of factors that can make a difference to the noise impact of aircraft but which are not subject to any formal approval process. Examples might include changing weather conditions or variations in the demand for different flight destinations.
The CAA does not have regulatory control over these factors, but is currently consulting on how the aviation industry might best communicate their effects on aircraft noise to the public as part of the consultation above. More information on these factors is available on our Factors affecting aviation noise page.
The CAA in general and ERCD in particular have produced a
number of reports over the years, particularly on the topic of noise modelling.
See our full list of reports
Approximately 90% of the CAA’s income comes from fees
charged to the aviation industry (e.g. licences). Most of our work is funded in
this way (including airspace and noise information), but noise modelling
Approximately three quarters of our noise modelling work is
funded by the Government, which uses our noise model to produce noise contours
for major airports and provides them with technical support and expertise. We
offer similar services to local authorities and the aviation industry, which
accounts for the remainder of our income.
In general, if you have a complaint about aircraft noise, you should direct to it the airport where you think the aircraft was operating from. They have a duty to investigate your complaint and respond to you. Often, unusually loud noise can be a result of a flight not operating as planned: the airport may be able to tell you if that was the case, and why.
Decisions around when an airport is allowed to be open for flights, whether aircraft can operate at night, and how many aircraft are allowed to fly on any given day are often set out as part of the planning process approving the airport's construction or expansion. In most cases, this process is run by the local authority where the airport is located. They may be able to provide more information about the conditions imposed on it.
For Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Airports, decisions such as these are overseen by the Department for Transport.
Military aircraft are covered by different rules to civil ones. If you wish to complain about military aircraft noise you need to contact the
Ministry of Defence (MOD)
Aircraft noise is not currently a statutory nuisance in the UK. It is not covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 or the Noise Act 1996. This means that local authorities do not have the legal power to take action on matters of aircraft noise, and nor does the CAA have the legal power to prevent aircraft flying over a particular location or at a particular time for environmental reasons.
In the Government's Aviation Policy Framework, it states the aim "to limit, and where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise."
It is working towards this in a range of different ways, including:
Central Government is also directly responsible for managing noise at the three of the UK's largest and busiest airports: Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
Noise is regulated to some extent at all UK airports. This can include noise limits and restrictions on operations. The specific restrictions will differ from airport to airport, reflecting the types of aircraft that operate there, how busy the airport is and what flight paths are.
Although maximum noise limits are set for occupational noise exposure, there is no limit defined for environmental noise, including aviation noise. However, in order to assess the significance of aircraft noise in the UK, it is generally assumed that if the average noise level in an area from 7.00am to 11.00pm is more than 57dBA L
, it will be "significantly annoying" to the community that live and work there. The EU has established a corresponding policy threshold of 55 dB L
, resulting in two different measures being used to inform policy at present.
This doesn't mean that noise above these levels will not be allowed. But it does mean that noise will be an important factor in planning decisions within that area (for example, about airport expansion), and that there may be support available for noise mitigation (such as double-glazing).
Dr Darren Rhodes, Head of Noise Analysis
Civil Aviation Authority, Room K404/5, CAA House, 45-49 Kingsway, London WC2B 6TE
Tel: +44(0)20 7453 6089
Fax: +44(0)20 7453 6097
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