Environmental Issues in Aviation

Since its creation, the plane has conquered the world to become today an indispensable and essential mean of transport. Air traffic is therefore constantly increasing, the noise and nuisance it causes affect many people living near airports. The noise related to this type of transport increasingly hurts the human ears. These noises can cause intense discomfort, increase stress level, and create health problems (Schmidt, F.P., Basner, M., Kröger, G. et al. ,2013).

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Today, a normal passenger jet has a noise level of about 120dB. To make it acceptable, the noise should be reduced to 70dB. This is a real problem and scientists are finding that noise is not only caused by the engine but also by the flux of air passing on the wings and the fuselage (Gatwick Airport, 2019). This report will analyze the different aspect and effect of the noise pollution in the aviation industry.

Three different aspects of noise pollution related to aviation industry will be studied in this report: environmental, social and economic.


Little known, the ambient noise generated by aircrafts activities is also a nuisance for wildlife.

Animals communicate through sounds and noises that are essential in many biological processes. The consequences of noise exposure can therefore affect many of the behaviors associated with the reproduction or survival of animals.

If some birds are able to adapt their communication and songs, other animals are often powerless and disturbed by this noise pollution. This is shown by the disorientation of cetaceans at sea, which probably leads to their stranding.

But other animals are disturbed by the noise as evidenced by the experiment on sparrows and tree frogs that were generating stress under high noise level.

In the end, noise pollution affects the health status of all biodiversity (GRAEME SHANNON, 2015).


Noise pollution has an impact on our health. According to the European Environment Agency, noise pollution is responsible for more than 16,000 deaths each year in Europe. Most of these deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes. Noise causes endocrine disruption that causes hormonal secretions due to the nervous and hormonal systems that are always on alert. This causes the increase of the heart rate and thus the increase of the arterial tension which then generates high blood pressure. The noise nuisance causes stress that can even be transformed in some people anxiety more or less important or even depression for residents who live in areas near airports where noise is significant. Noise causes the body to produce cortisone, which can cause fat accumulation if there is too much. This accumulation of fat promotes diabetes and cardiovascular disease (European Environment Agency, 2018).

At night, noise from aircraft prevents residents living near an airport from restful sleep. As a result, fatigue is felt as well as disorders that may be more important, such as sleep apnea. Poor sleep increase stress, anxiety and risks of cardiovascular diseases (Schmidt, F.P., Basner, M., Kröger, G. et al. ,2013).


Since its creation, the aviation industry has transport billions of passengers and tons of cargo. Unfortunately, many citizens living near airports have suffered from all this traffic, including noise pollution. Many people in the community consider that noise from airports had a detrimental effect on their property value. Noise also generates high economic costs (external costs) such as health costs and protection costs. The results of around fifty studies conducted worldwide since the end of the sixties on the noise of aircrafts, converge, indeed, to show the existence of real estate discounts due to the noise. “Studies conducted at different airports and surrounding communities show that airport noise reduced property values by a range of 0.04% to 19% per 1dB of increased airport noise.” (valdes, 2008).

Noise abatement departure procedure

Low-noise operating procedures can reduce the noise associated with aircraft operations at a relatively modest cost. They include several methods, including the use of runways and preferential routes as well as procedures for take-off, approach and landing. The choice of any one of these measures depends on the physical characteristics of the airport and its surroundings, but in all cases the procedure must take into account, above all, safety considerations. ICAO has published two types of procedure. The NADP 1 (noise abatement departure procedure 1) which is meant to mitigate the noise in the close proximity of the runway, and the NADP 2 for areas a little bit more distant from the end of the runway (Operational procedures, 2018).

Figure 1: NADP 1 (Operational procedures, 2018)

Figure 2: NADP 2 (Operational procedures, 2018)

One of the other major factor in the control of the noise pollution is the implementation by the airport of specific rules for the airport operation, mainly at night. For example: Barajas airport (Madrid) request airline to restrict the use of the reverse trust at night (Aena.es, 2019).

Noise reduction techonology

Due to the increasing concern about noise pollution, not only the airports had to come up with solutions in order to mitigate this issue. Manufacturer also started to develop new aircrafts in order to meet the market demand. For example, Boeing conceived new engines, these are really recognizable by dints in the design of the exhaust trailing edge. The very special cutting of the motor exhaust contributes to the reduction of noise.

Figure 3 : Boeing engine exhaust

These changes bring a significant reduction in fuel consumption estimated at 25%, all benefits in terms of both economic and ecological footprint. Along with a “redesign” of engine hoods, these changes also bring about a noise reduction of the order of 60% (Soo Kim, 2019).

Changing approach configuration

Another way to reduce noise pollution is to change the approach. The approach can be modified either on the vertical track or the horizontal track. Due to their surroundings, airports don’t always have much freedom to act on the vertical or horizontal path.

For example: Heathrow airport approach overfly the extended city of London so the only way they can modify the path is on the vertical aspect of it.

To reduce the noise pollution in the direct surrounding of the airport, they are currently studying the possibility to implement a steeper angle of approach. Which means, the aircraft will fly close to the ground for a smaller amount of time and thus the people affected will be able to notice slight reduction in noise (Heathrow.com, 2019).

Figure 4 : Heathrow Approach path (Heathrow.com, 2019)

Not only the track of an approach can be modified but the way the approach is flown can be adapted. For example: changing the vertical path of the approach in can make it more energy effective and allow a reduction in the amount of thrust necessary to reach the runway from cruise level. This will allow a noise reduction in areas a little bit further from the airport. This technique is called Continuous Descent Approach. Heathrow and many other airports such as Kansai international airport have enforced that type of approach (Heathrow.com, 2019).

“The objective of a CDA is to reduce aircraft noise, fuel burn and emissions by means of a continuous descent, so as to intercept the approach glidepath at an appropriate altitude for the distance to touchdown.” (Skybrary.aero, 2019).

Figure 5 : Continuous Descent Approach (ana.co.jp, 2019)


One major issue that the aviation industry has to deal with, is the saturation of the airports. Indeed, European airports do not have the capacity to cope with the growth of air traffic expected in the coming decades. According to a study by Eurocontrol, the European organisation for the safety of air navigation, the delays are increasing, and, without further measures, European airports will be unable to accommodate 1.5 million flights and 160 million passengers in 2040 (Aci-europe.org, 2019).

The solution that comes in mind would be to increase the size of the airport, build up new terminals and runways. But it is not that simple because airports are located near cities and the population living around them are massively protesting against their growth.

For example: Heathrow Airport try to get the approval for the construction of a third runway. But Greenpeace and the local council are strongly acting against it. “London councils and campaigners are preparing a legal challenge against the government’s decision to approve a third runway at Heathrow” (The Independent, 2019). The reason given against the development of the airport is the air and noise pollution.


The performance criteria of the aerospace industry changes over time and varies according to technological progresses, governance levels and internal improvement processes of the companies. The acoustic certification of an aircraft being under the responsibility of the aircraft manufacturer, they have developed in the past decades quieter and leaner airplanes. Never before has the airline industry faced such an offensive about its impact on the climate. To the point that aircraft builders and airlines are multiplying ads on their efforts to limit their carbon footprint and their noise pollution. These are the first factors for the rejuvenation of the airline’s fleets (La Croix, 2019).

Figure 6: 1998 – 2017 Airplanes deliveries (Leeham News and Analysis, 2019)

After ten years of strong growth and exceptional profitability, order books are always full, and companies are making every effort to meet deliveries deadlines (Figure 6).

Airbus claim that their revenue from 2018 have been increasing by 8% compare to 2017 and the earnings per share increase by 29% (Annual report, 2018).


To sum up, aircraft noise is a source of concerns for communities near airports, and for the aviation industry. All Commercial aircraft must be fully compliant with strict international standards managed by the ICAO. A step forward in noise management is mandatory  to ensure a smooth development of the aviation industry, otherwise aviation industry will  be facing a “reverse globalization” in the next years (Iata.org, 2019). 

On top of this, the growth of the aviation industry, with the number of aircrafts taking-off increasing everyday, increases the noise pollution. 

This threat on the aviation industry has already been taken into consideration and every actor of the aviation world are working on limiting these nuisances.

Regulatory bodies develop new procedures, pilots apply them, airports design new types of approach and manufacturers constantly look for development of more environmentally friendly aircrafts.

European Environment Agency. (2019). Environmental noise. [online] Available at: https://www.eea.europa.eu/airs/2018/environment-and-health/environmental-noise [Accessed 28 Aug. 2019].

SHANNON, G. (2019). How noise pollution is changing animal behaviour. [online] The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/how-noise-pollution-is-changing-animal-behaviour-52339 [Accessed 28 Aug. 2019].

Gatwickairport.com. (2019). Causes of aircraft noise | Gatwick Airport. [online] Available at: https://www.gatwickairport.com/business-community/aircraft-noise-airspace/noise-explained/causes-of-aircraft-noise/ [Accessed 28 Aug. 2019].

Schmidt, F.P., Basner, M., Kröger, G. et al. (2013) Effect of nighttime aircraft noise exposure on endothelial function and stress hormone release in healthy adults. European Heart Journal. DOI:10.1093/ eurheartj/eht269 [Accessed 28 Aug. 2019].

Valdes, C. (2008). Comparing methodologies that correlate property values and airport noise. [online] San Jose State University, pp.27-38. Available at: https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.google.be/&httpsredir=1&article=4616&context=etd_theses [Accessed 28 Aug. 2019].

Operational procedures. (2018). Oxford: CAE Oxford Aviation Academy, pp.165-166.

Aena.es. (2019). Corrective measures – Aeropuerto Madrid-Barajas – Aena.es. [online] Available at: http://www.aena.es/en/madrid-barajas-airport/corrective-measures.html [Accessed 28 Aug. 2019].

Soo Kim (2019). Is the Dreamliner worth the hype? Here’s 10 reasons why it might just be. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/news/boeing-787-10-dreamliner-features/ [Accessed 28 Aug. 2019].

Heathrow.com. (2019). Slightly steeper approach trial update. [online] Available at: https://www.heathrow.com/noise/latest-news/slightly-steeper-approach-trial-update [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

Heathrow.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.heathrow.com/file_source/HeathrowNoise/Static/Heathrow_Blueprint_for_Noise_Reduction_2.pdf [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

ana.co.jp. (2019). Reducing Environmental Impact in Our Operations. [online] Available at: https://www.ana.co.jp/eng/aboutana/corporate/csr/reading/various/ [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

Skybrary.aero. (2019). Continuous Descent – SKYbrary Aviation Safety. [online] Available at: https://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Continuous_Descent [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

Aci-europe.org. (2019). Airport Capacity & Airport Slots | ACI EUROPE. [online] Available at: https://www.aci-europe.org/policy/position-papers.html?view=group&group=1&id=1 [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

The Independent. (2019). London councils and campaign groups prepare legal challenge to Heathrow expansion. [online] Available at: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/heathrow-expansion-judicial-review-legal-challenge-greenpeace-london-councils-a8417281.html [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

La Croix. (2019). La pression sociétale, un dopant pour l’innovation de l’aviation. [online] Available at: https://www.la-croix.com/Economie/Monde/pression-societale-dopant-linnovation-laviation-2019-06-24-1201030957 [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

Leeham News and Analysis. (2019). Airbus delivers record 718 aircraft amid strong sales – Leeham News and Analysis. [online] Available at: https://leehamnews.com/2018/01/15/airbus-delivers-record-718-aircraft-amid-strong-sales/ [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

Annual report 2018. (2018). [ebook] Airbus, p.2. Available at: https://www.airbus.com/content/dam/corporate-topics/financial-and-company-information/Airbus-Annual-Report-2018.pdf [Accessed 5 Sep. 2019].

Iata.org. (2019). IATA Forecast Predicts 8.2 billion Air Travelers in 2037. [online] Available at: https://www.iata.org/pressroom/pr/Pages/2018-10-24-02.aspx [Accessed 8 Sep. 2019].


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