Aviation recovery must lead to better understanding of noise


The UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) is calling on airports to be clear about how they monitor and report noise as aircraft return to the skies, so local communities can better understand how it impacts their lives.

Aviation noise impacts the lives of thousands of people living near airports or under flightpaths across the UK every day. How those impacts are assessed, managed and mitigated is inconsistent and at times non-existent. As aviation starts to recover, noise management must be improved if the industry is going to have a sustainable future.

ICCAN, an advisory body that provides independent, impartial advice to government, regulators and the aviation industry, has today (16 July) published a comprehensive review of the way UK airports collect, analyse and publish noise data.

The report, originally due to be published in April, but postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, examines the different metrics used to assess noise exposure and makes recommendations that seek to improve the wider understanding of aviation noise.

Head Commissioner of ICCAN, Rob Light, said:

“Noise metrics are a complex issue. This is something that we’ve heard time and time again from communities who feel that they are not as transparent and accessible as they could be.

“Metrics are crucial for measuring noise as it enables people to understand who is exposed and what potential impact it may have on their health and quality of life.

“The aviation industry has been through an uncertain and difficult time. But as planes return to the skies, we’re calling on airports to do more to demystify what metrics mean and make their noise data more readily available for people to access and understand.”

There is a wide range of metrics used to described noise exposure from aircraft but due to their technical nature they are not always understood by the communities and those affected by aviation noise.

The first step towards better noise management in the UK must start with improving how noise is measured, and how the subsequent data is shared. ICCAN’s recommendations for airports include publishing more noise data online, improving the presentation and explanation around it, and making more temporary noise monitoring available to local communities so they can see the noise levels in their local area and understand the impacts.

Simon Kahn, ICCAN Commissioner and acoustician added:

“Unfortunately, there is no magic metric that will help to easily explain noise, but our report makes some recommendations that we feel could have a real difference to local communities and help airports be more transparent.

“By improving people’s understanding of noise data, they will be more engaged and be able to contribute to the discussions while also making their views heard.

“We feel this could go some way towards improving relationships and rebuilding trust between airports and those communities by noise.”

Following the publication of the report, ICCAN will begin work on producing some best practice guidance for airports on how to record, process and publish noise data.

ICCAN’s findings and recommendations:

  • L A e q -based metrics currently used for noise monitoring should continue, but we recommend that supplementary metrics should routinely be published by airports to better reflect the way in which noise is experienced on the ground;
  • The approach to noise monitoring around the UK is neither consistent nor clear to stakeholders; we will develop best practice guidance for UK airports on the approach, standards and quantity of aviation noise recording and monitoring;
  • ICCAN will develop best practice guidance for airports on the temporary provision of noise monitors for local communities;
  • Noise data transparency should improve. Our best practice will include standards for the publication of data to enable communities to track changes and trends around airports;
  • The Air Traffic Movement (ATM) threshold of 50,000 which acts as a trigger for the publication of prescribed noise data should be lowered but applied proportionately and, potentially, tiered;
  • ICCAN will provide national leadership and set standards for metrics by developing and publishing such best practice guidance in the months to come.

Notes to editors:

  • The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise (ICCAN) was established by the Government in January 2019 to act as the credible and impartial voice on all matters relating to civil aviation noise and how it affects communities.
  • ICCAN’s wider work includes producing guidance and advice for industry and regulators on the planning system, insultation schemes and airport operations.
  • ICCAN is currently researching how the current lower levels of aviation activity may be affecting people’s attitudes to aircraft noise.

To view ICCAN’s review of aviation noise metrics and measurement, click here

For further information, contact: Rupert Basham, ICCAN Media & Engagement Lead, rupert.basham@iccan.gov.uk, 07971 110350

The Independent Commission on Civil Aviation noise ceased operating on 30 September 2021.

You can read the Government’s statement on ICCAN’s closure and Head Commissioner Rob Light’s letter to the Minister to learn more.

Any further questions about ICCAN’s work or aviation noise should be directed to the Department for Transport.