Back in February I was invited to speak at the UC Davis Aviation Noise & Air Quality Symposium in Palm Springs. My subject was around community engagement and how modern aircraft navigation technology can provide respite from noise for those living under airport flight paths.
You might be familiar with the trial we ran last year with Heathrow Airport and community group HACAN, in which we created ‘no fly zones’ that would alternate from week to week. The idea was to try and provide predictable respite from noise by ensuring our controllers funnelled arriving aircraft only through the designated zone.
The trial had mixed results. 100,000 people were given some respite from aircraft noise, but equally we found those who were not regularly overflown before experienced more noise. It was a lesson in the delicate balancing act that needs to be observed when trying to address the issue of aircraft noise around an airport.
So in December we started a new trial, this time focused on departures while taking advantage of the latest aircraft navigation technology.
Together with Heathrow, we designed new Standard Instrument Departure routes that allow departing aircraft to not only climb more quickly, but also follow a defined route much more accurately.
The secret is the use of precision navigation.
Precision RNAV, otherwise known as RNAV1 is a capability that uses the aircraft’s Flight Management System (FMS) to fly routes with an accuracy of 1 mile or better. In practice this is a minimum standard and the aircraft actually fly very much more accurately than that. The advantage over conventional procedures is that routes can be designed to optimise trajectory for fuel burn, noise, air traffic control capacity and safety without being constrained by the position of traditional ground based navigation aids.
With aircraft being able to follow a defined route much more accurately, it is possible to concentrate them over a smaller area, radically reducing the number of people exposed to aircraft noise. The problem of course is that those under the new departure route could potentially experience more noise.
The best solution is obviously to create routes that carefully avoid populated areas, but when that’s impossible we can look to create multiple routes that can be used alternately in order to provided assured and predictable respite.
That’s exactly what we’re currently trialling at Heathrow until June. As you can see from the radar tracks, it is already having quite an impact.
I look forward to sharing with you the full results later in the year.
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