References to EU regulation or EU websites in our guidance will not be an accurate description of your obligations or rights under UK law.read more
There's no getting away from the fact that aviation can be noisy. When aircraft land and take off, 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 promoting the use of 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 depart
from and arrive into 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 functions engaged
in aviation noise matters:
Our Airspace Regulation department manages the process and is responsible
for determining whether the design of airspace (and some air traffic control
procedures) can be changed (in accordance with international standards, relevant
legislation and noise and other government policy). In doing so, the CAA must
consider guidance from the Secretary of State on environmental objectives,
which include guidance on aircraft noise impacts. Detailed information on our
airspace change process is available on our airspace change pages.
Alongside changes to the design of airspace, there are a range of
factors that can make a difference to the noise impact of aircraft from any
particular airport but over which the CAA has no regulatory control. Examples
include changing weather conditions, traffic levels (which impacts where
aircraft fly and so are heard) and variations in the demand for different
flight destinations. More information on these factors is available on our Factors affecting aviation noise page.
Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) is part of our International Group
and operates a consultancy service to customers such as UK Government, airport
operators, air navigation service providers and local authorities.
The main activity is monitoring and predicting noise exposure and
impacts around UK airports, as well as contributing to research into the
effects of aviation noise and how they can be reduced. ERCD offers advice to
Government on the above matters to support the development of policy. ERCD also provides a commercial consultancy
service to airspace change sponsors seeking to develop a noise impact evidence
base for the purpose of developing an airspace change decision proposal.
The Office of our Chief Technical Noise Advisor (CTNA) is part of our Corporate Strategy and Policy team and undertakes specialist research and analytical tasks for government, advises the Secretary of State on the call-in criteria for airspace change decision, advises ERCD on technical matters (except on consultancy work for airspace change sponsors), advises our Airspace Regulation team on environmental matters, sign-off the CAA’s environmental assessment for airspace change proposal decisions and provides CAA’s response (on noise impact) as statutory consultee to some planning applications.
The CAA does not:
The Secretary of State has provided guidance to the CAA on its environmental duty when carrying out its airspace functions which includes making decisions on airspace change proposals.
The CAA has published requirements and guidance on assessing noise impact for the purpose of proposing a change to the design of airspace.
The CAA has also produced academic 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. Most of our work is funded in this way (including airspace and noise information), but noise modelling is funded differently.
Approximately three quarters of our noise consultancy and specialist noise advice is funded by the Government, which includes using the noise model we develop, maintain and operate on behalf of the Government to produce noise contours for the noise designated airports and provide them with technical support and expertise. We offer similar services to other airports, local authorities and the aviation industry, which fund the remainder of this work.
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).
If you wish to provide the CAA with feedback about aircraft noise, please complete form FCS1521 - Use of UK Airspace Report.
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