What to Do About Noise?

Airplane Noise Certification Standards

Over the years advancements in airframe design and engine construction technologies have reduced airplane noise. Before any airplane is allowed to operate it has to show that it benefited from noise reduction technologies that are available at the time of its design.

Maximum noise output of an airplane when operating around airports is used as the indicator of its noise technology level. It is measured by methods approved by the FAA and certificated if it does not exceed prescribed limits.

Noise Stage Designation of Airplanes

The jet powered and propeller driven large aircraft are grouped into stages which somewhat reflect their age of design. These stages are in turn used to phase out older designs from operating in U.S. as shown below:

  • Stage 1 aircraft over 75,000 pounds were phased out in 1985.
  • Stage 2 aircraft over 75,000 pounds were phased out by December 31, 1999.
  • Stage 3 aircraft are operating today.
  • Stage 4 aircraft are required for new type designs as of January 1, 2006.

For more information about these sources, see Sources of Aviation Noise and Noise Basics.

Precise Flight Tracks

This technology allows the user to see the path an aircraft flew over the ground and in the air (altitude). Using precise flight tracks, a noise abatement office can:

  • Track a specific flight
  • Pinpoint a specific incident that caused a noise complaint or issue
  • Monitor an aircraft's compliance with noise abatement procedures during take off and departure
  • Identify a violation and act accordingly ("Live Radar Flight Track")

Arrival/Departure Procedures

To reduce aircraft impact on communities surrounding airports, airplanes try to fly over water, highways, and less populated areas as much as practical. At times, achieving this goal is not possible.

  • Access to Large Bodies of Water: Some parts of the country do not have large bodies of water over which aircraft can climb to higher altitudes after takeoff.
  • Wildlife Reserves Restrictions: Pilots are asked to voluntarily maintain at least 2,000 feet above the ground.
  • Multiple Airports in the Vicinity: Air traffic control procedures require an aircraft to be lower to the ground further from the airport.
  • Arrival and Departure Flight Paths: Regulations and procedures have been established for arrival and departure flight paths. Air Traffic Control (ATC) also directly impacts flight paths as aircraft operators are required to adhere to ATC clearances.
  • Noise Abatement Procedures: Individual airports ask operators to be sensitive to surrounding communities. At times, ATC may need to provide a clearance conflicting with recommended procedures. For safety reasons, pilots always have the right to deviate from recommended procedures or even ATC clearances.

Noise and Operations Monitoring System (NOMS)

Airports with this system are able to collect, store and analyze information regarding

  • Flight tracks
  • Aircraft operations
  • Community noise levels
  • Individual citizen complaint data

NOMS compares flight track data with noise events at each noise monitor within the community.

Flight track data included:

  • Aircraft type
  • Altitude
  • Airspeed
  • Phase of flight information
  • Operator information

For more information please click here.

Noise Abatement Operational Procedures

Airports can control aircraft noise by designating a preferred runway for take off and landing ("Preferential Runway Use"). (Please see the section on runway use.)

Factors impacting preferred runway designation:

  • Wind and weather effects
  • Available navigation equipment
  • Safety issues

Flight safety is the ultimate determining factor for runway use.

Airports can also influence the time and location for engine operational checks (run-up). Run-ups must be performed by maintenance after all major maintenance operations. Run-ups are also performed by all aircraft operators before contacting the air traffic control for takeoff. More information on this topic can be viewed at the Oakland Airport website or the Chicago O'Hare website.

Additional sources:

CDA Fact Sheet. Retrieved March 21, 2006.

Department of Transportation. (2005). Stage 4 Aircraft Noise Standards. Federal Register: July 5, 2005. V70 (127).

Ground Run-Up Policies and Procedures. Retrieved March 21, 2006.

Live Radar Flight Track. Retrieved March 21, 2006.

Noise: Night flight and hushkits. Retrieved March 21, 2006.

Preferential Runway Use. Retrieved March 21, 2006.

State's First "Hush House" Expected to Reduce Maintenance Noise. (2002). Retrieved March 21, 2006.

Washington State Department of Transportation. (1999). Airports and Compatible Land Use: An introduction and overview for decision-makers. (1).

Glossary Words:

Air Traffic Control (ATC), air traffic control tower, altitude,

NOMS, decibels, FAA, flaps, hush kits, noise abatement, [[CommunityTools.Glossary#noise | noise, pilot, preferred runway, run-up, runway, Stage 2, Stage 3, thrust

For definitions of words used in this section go to the NoiseQuest Glossary of Terms.