Under the ICAO Balanced Approach, aircraft noise management's responsibilities are shared between manufacturers, operators, and national and international regulatory authorities. In addition, and at least partly due to the unavoidably long-time delays involved in any changes made to effect improvements, many airport residents are often (relatively) unaware of any changes made to reduce noise exposure. Nevertheless, the efforts made by industry to reduce sound generation at source and associated operational improvements mean that noise levels on the ground (as measured by Leq) at many European airports have reduced over the past 20-30 years. Unfortunately, these noise exposure reductions have not been associated with a commensurate fall in impacts such as expressed annoyance and sleep disturbance. Indeed many surveys have shown, for example, an increase in annoyance for a given level of noise exposure. This phenomenon underpinned the rationale for ANIMA in which the relationship between exposure and impact has been a key focus, highlighting the critical importance of community engagement if interventions to reduce impact are to be more effective. However, this is not an easy task as the highly technical and complicated nature of airport noise management means that understanding noise can be difficult or even impossible for non-technical residents.
The two most significant factors affecting the overall amount of exposure to aircraft noise around any airport are the amount and type of traffic and the geographical distribution of resident populations in relation to runway orientation and associated flightpaths. Both factors also have significant inter-dependencies with and against multiple social and economic factors, all of which affect an airport’s operational options. Within this context, opportunities to effect significant change at an airport may be limited or at least constrained to some considerable extent by considerations such as national policy and safety guidance. Thus, one element of community engagement should be to increase resident’s understanding, and hopefully, appreciation of noise management actions that have been adopted on their behalf within any constraints imposed by economic and regulatory necessity. Public engagement should always be a two-way process, notwithstanding that any airport has multiple stakeholders, each of which may need to be engaged separately in addition to more general engagement.
Many examples of noise management practices are adopted by most of the large airports throughout Europe, however ANIMA research has shown that not all of these actions and interventions have been equally effective. This is due to the complexities of noise management, the wide range of characteristics that define each airport, and the different noise challenges that are presented as a result. This means that what might be effective at one airport at managing noise exposure or noise impact may be less effective at another. As such there are no best practice solutions to noise management – only effective practices determined on an airport-by-airport basis and developed through rigorous processes that comprise certain features as described through this portal, for example, communication and engagement, evaluation, consultation, and so on. In other words, communication and engagement that informs decisions over the nature of interventions creates the capacity to better tailor interventions to community needs/expectations and, thereby, deliver change that is valued by noise-affected communities making the most use of the resources available for noise management.