Last week, I spoke in Athens at a noise management conference organised by EMS Bruel & Kjaer, a global supplier of sound and vibration measurement equipment. It was a really interesting and informative event involving airports from the UK and Europe, alongside Canada and South Korea.
Called EMEA Aviation Noise Forum 2019, it brought together attendees from more than 17 countries, who work in airport noise management and community engagement.
What was very clear from the conference is that airports around the world, including in the UK, are finding new ways to reach out to their community and build back trust, which in some cases has broken down over many years.
It also struck me that UK airports could do more to ensure people know about improvements they are making both in how they manage aviation noise and engage with their communities.
The good news is that issues UK airports are addressing are not unique; airports throughout the world are facing similar challenges, and there is much we can learn by sharing good practice both here and abroad.
I saw some really interesting examples from international airports, including Toronto, Charlotte and Eindhoven for instance, who are seeking to engage differently. What was notable was the commitment from these airports to invest long-term in community engagement, built around partnership, social responsibility and the desire to address quality of life issues.
In my ICCAN presentation, I covered the impact of awareness and change on trust. I called on airports to view the investment they make in engaging with communities as crucial, not just to delivering their growth plans but to their day-to-day business – as part of their social ‘licence to operate’.
I believe that awareness of aviation noise will grow, irrespective of how far airports expand. Airspace modernisation, and ever-increasing publicity about the impact of aviation combined with ongoing social change, can also make people more conscious, and therefore more annoyed by planes in the sky. I see this as an opportunity for airports and airlines to engage positively with people they may not have heard from as much. Greater awareness does not have to mean greater opposition.
What also struck me was the high level of interest the attendees from around the world were showing in the work of ICCAN, including our Corporate Strategy objectives and our plans deliver on them. Indeed, my session had to be extended to accommodate all the questions – thanks to the hosts for their flexibility!
Rob Light, ICCAN Head Commissioner