Aviation is an important element of modern societies as it provides scientific knowledge and is a part of technological evolution of the mankind. The activity in the sky presents several issues that need to be resolved. Noise is one of negative impacts that cause serious health problems. Aircraft noise is a major concern and requires a variety of measures to be applied in order to reduce its effects. Airports around the world with the support of official government programs develop strategies to mitigate the danger of noise. The current paper discusses the effects that noise has on environment and health and describes the most efficient mitigation strategies.
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Aircraft Noise and Its Origin
Noise is an integral part of the modern world and may cause damage to the urban environment. Aircraft sound is a noise that may be heard when engine works. In fact, there are three sources that produce noise, namely engine emission, vibration, and opening. Noise pollution is generated on different phases of a flight, for example, during a take-off of an aircraft. The noise produced by an aircraft can be divided into four categories. The first category is jet noise. It spreads when ambient air is mixed with exhaust gases of an airplane. The second category is combustor noise that is associated with the release of energy and a process of jet fuel oxidation. Turbomachinery noise is the third category that created a feeling of a place being very close to a person. Aerodynamic noise is the fourth category that appears when an airframe is blown by rapid air movements. Evidently, every type of noise has its particularities.
The World Health Organization defines noise as an unwanted sound that is subjectively perceived by people. Therefore, the notion of noise is grounded on individual variability. In the context of civil aviation, a sound is interpreted as noise when it exceeds control standards. The established standards correspond to the level of noise that does not harm human senses of perception. A specific system of measurement evaluates the loudness of sound in decibels (dB). In fact, human’s ears are able to hear sounds between 0 -140 dB. Usually, comfortable volumes are below 50 dB, whereas a sound between 50-70 dB leads to discomfort, and volume of 70 dB has negative effects. Noise influences not only a state of health but also the environment. Thus, the effects of aircraft noise need to be discussed.
Effects of the Aircraft Noise
Usually, individuals who take a flight do not suffer from noise. However, an area around an airport is constantly exposed to noise. Hereby, people who live near airports or work there may greatly suffer. Firstly, a sound higher than 70 dB makes people nervous and irritated and decreases their cognitive abilities, for instance, interacts with a learning process. Secondly, long-term exposure (sound over 85 dB) can lead to temporary hearing impairment, and if organs of hearing do not receive rest, it can lead to permanent loss of hearing.
Additionally, elevated noise levels can cause sleep disturbances, annoyance, aggression, hypertension, and stress and lead to workplace accidents. People who are located around airports often complain about noise. All the information is redirected to airports, and the administration is obliged to take action. Aircraft noise also affects animals. Animals have similar reactions to humans such as loss of hearing, weakened navigation abilities, changes in behavior, reproductive failures, and others. For these reasons, aircraft noise is a major issue that requires to adopt a number of strategies to control noise.
Noise Control Strategies
Noise control is grounded on collaboration of different organization. An internationally regulated approach (for instance, developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization) ensures that airports comply with the main principle designed to reduce the effects of noise. In order to address the question of aircraft noise, it is important to identify an airport that violates noise norms and choose the most appropriate direction for actions. The control is maintained by four main elements:
- One may try to reduce the source of noise (change the schedule, modify fleet, and others).
- In some cases, land-use planning is a preferable way that allows managing the problem taking into account the features of an area under consideration.
- Airports may also follow noise abatement procedures that are realized by establishing preferential runways.
- Operating restrictions are also used when it is necessary.
Among the most effective are the steps that are taken to restrict noise. Civil air navigation has to comply with approved and accepted terms. Sanctions are applied when airports fail to meet requirements that “may include rules on engine tests, management of flight paths and take-off and landing procedures”. Therefore, airports often set limits on a number of aircraft that may use an airport. This measure helps to decrease the level of noise but affects the economic sustainability. Taking this into consideration, the measures that “secure noise and economic sustainability are more promising”. In fact, measures can be aimed at different outcomes. For example, in an attempt to improve economic and noise indicators, some airports fine planes that produce noise above norms. Apparently, this effect may be achieved with special flight tracking systems that are able to monitor aircraft and measure noise. In this case, noise areas are decreased by means of reducing the number of airlines to avoid expenses.
Measures may be specifically designed and aimed at reducing noise. This step includes modernization of the fleet. Evidently, new and more innovative technologies are best suited for the sky. Here, Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is a good example. It is equipped with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines that are believed to be “one of the quietest engines in the world”. As an advantage, this aircraft has advanced aerodynamics that allows airframe to achieve noise reduction. Engines also make smooth turbulent air. Apart from Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Boeing also optimize their designs in order to reduce noise. It should be noted that “aircraft today are 75% quieter than those manufactured 50 years ago”.
Other strategies involve rather fundamental measures such as a runway rotation system that was implemented, for example, by the airport of Sydney (Kingsford Smith Airport). The airport processes approximately “36 million passengers and 500,000 tonnes of airfreight annually”. There are three runways at the airport that were a matter of public concern due to the noise issue. Therefore, a committee was selected to tackle the problem. After conveying the noise information to the Australian Noise Exposure Forecast System and receiving the Environmental Impact Statement, it was decided to adopt a Long Term Operating Plan. The plan was focused on the runway rotation system and changing flight paths using the three runways. This rotation ensured periods of respite from noise “during the weekday hours of 06:00-07:00, 11:00-15:00 and 20:00-23:00”. The system proved to be effective, and the general principle of rotation was further applied in the United Kingdom and other countries.
Noise control strategies also include restrictions on the number of night flights. The government may, for instance, limit aircraft movements at night (for example, from 23:00 to 06:30). However, these measures are not as effective as needed and are being replaced. Providing that all the measures described above are considered by airports and airline but with not result, airports may adopt so-called passive mitigation measures. These measures are available for noise sensitive buildings (for example, hospitals and schools) situated near airports. Furthermore, grants may be introduced to the injured party.
In the future, the significant growth in aviation is anticipated. However, it should not be reflected on the noise level. According to a prognosis made by different committees (for example, the US aerospace enterprise), the noise level will not violate the set standards due to the fact that new strategies will be developed and used. Operational, technological, and policy initiatives are already in action. According to the European Commission’s High Level group on Aviation Research, there is “a goal for the perceived noise emission of flying aircraft to be reduced by 65%, which translates to a 15dB reduction in noise by 2050”. The theory is supported by the fact that new airplanes are being used, and they produce less noise.
Aircraft noise is a common challenge that has negative consequences for people’s health and the environment. Therefore, the question requires immediate actions and long-term strategies that are able to reduce the level of noise. The issue is technically complex; thus, in order to identify possible solutions to it, it is important to understand the sources of noise and how they may be influenced. Some airlines, for example, afford new planes such as Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner that do not produce much noise and operate on advanced engines. Among other ongoing efforts, there are plans to influence the source of noise, use the land-use management, operating restrictions, and others. According to an official prognosis made by the European Commission, the situation is improving and will be partially resolved by 2050.
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