Stansted Airport noise issue: the facts

“STANSTED is one of the only airports in the world that fines airlines for breaking sound rules by flying off track,” says Dr Jefferson with a smile.

Airports may be getting louder, but could it be that as aircraft get bigger, the skies over homes in Uttlesford actually become quieter?

The question is an interesting one, so reporter Nick Thompson went along to meet BAA’s head of environment Dr Andy Jefferson at Stansted Airport to find out.

“STANSTED is one of the only airports in the world that fines airlines for breaking sound rules by flying off track,” says Dr Jefferson with a smile.

He is smiling because, although he works for the third busiest airport in the UK, he is very passionate about environmental issues and is proud of the groundbreaking work Stansted is conducting into noise and in-flight tracking.

Eager to dispel many myths about aircraft noise Dr Jefferson works with community leaders as part of the Noise and Track Keeping Working Group and also, importantly, with airline pilots on how to reduce noise above homes.

“I am the go-between,” he said. “If we get ideas from residents on how to reduce noise in an area we will always look into it and liaise with both groups to try and form a solution.”

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Stansted has been piloting numerous track-keeping and sound initiatives in an effort to be a “good neighbour” to the quiet villages and towns that surround the airport.

Most recently, a scheme to route aircraft directly between the villages of Hatfield Broad Oak and Hatfield Heath has been successful.

As one of six departure routes, the track between the two villages has attracted the most complaints in recent weeks – mainly due to perceived aircraft noise.

However, according to data, many of the rants about aircraft flying lower and louder than ever before are not correct.

“There are a few myths when it comes to noise,” said Dr Jefferson. “Often complaints come from the people that actually listen for aircraft, rather than those that get disturbed by them.

“Our biggest challenge is trying to find the solutions to the real problems. Our track-keeping projects, like the one over Hatfield Broad Oak is unique, in that, the airport is making a real effort to route aircraft very very precisely to reduce noise.”

Dr Jefferson admitted that the airport has got nosier over the last ten years, and will probably continue to, but that fact is down to the amount of aircraft using it.

Flight data shows that whilst more aircraft take-off now, each individual aircraft is on average far quieter.

And, according to the Dr Jefferson, the advances in engine technology and aircraft design means that more residents living around the airport can look forward to quieter skies in the future.

Some airlines have changed to fly more fuel-efficient take-off procedures – a move that was heralded as a huge environmental success.

But, after concerns from residents, environmental bosses under the guidance of Dr Jefferson agreed, to pilot the new flight path procedures.

He said: “We are in a rural area and so there is not much other noise around. No M25 like Heathrow, no big cities. It makes aircraft more obvious.

“Stansted and its airlines worked together for over the six months to develop the tracking procedure for the Hatfield’s. It really is groundbreaking work and shows how far technology has moved on.

“We’re now looking to pilot further trials following consultation with communities and naturally, we’ll report the findings back to residents.”