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 improvements made on their behalf. While aircraft noise has generally been increasing in line with growing traffic over the past 40-50 years, the industry as a whole has affected considerable improvements in noise output of individual vehicles. It is difficult or even impossible for non-technical residents to appreciate fully, or even take much interest in, the current airport noise situation's overall complexity as it exists today.
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 concerning runway orientation and associated flightpaths. Both factors also have significant inter-dependencies with and against multiple social and economic factors, all of which affect all airport operations' economic viability and environmental sustainability. Within this overall context, opportunities to effect significant change at individual airports may be limited or at least constrained to some considerable extent.
For example, while airport management might otherwise have preferred to accede to community demands to reduce or eliminate night-time traffic, they might be effectively prevented from doing so by requirements imposed by national or international policy. On the other hand, community tolerance may be enhanced by more effective public engagement, 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 total engagement.
Many examples of current noise management practices are adopted by most of the large airports throughout Europe. Evidence suggests that not all of these actions and interventions have been equally effective. Where resources are limited, only the most effective activities should be considered exemplars of best practice. It is important to remember that while aircraft noise is much the same everywhere, every airport is different in terms of the type and amount of traffic; the geographical distribution of flight tracks over surrounding residential populations; and the various sensitivities and tolerances of the local population which are too (at least to some extent) dependant on the history of traffic growth at their local airport; the different ways in which the economic and social benefits of the airport have been shared; and the differing effectiveness of public engagement and information campaigns conducted at different airports.