Noise from aircraft mostly impacts those who live around airports and underneath landing and take-off flight paths

The industry has been working to reduce noise for decades. On average, aircraft are already 50% quieter today than they were 10 years ago, according to Boeing and Airbus. It is estimated that the noise footprint of each new generation of aircraft is at least 15% lower than that of the aircraft it replaces.

Mandated decreases

In 2006, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations’ intergovernmental body on aviation, introduced a new noise certification standard, Chapter 4, that aimed to ensure new aircraft were at least 10 decibels (or one third) quieter than those built to the previous Chapter 3 standard.

The certification was one in a series of measures to reduce jet engine noise. In fact, ICAO estimates that between 1998 and 2004, the number of people exposed to aircraft noise around the world was reduced by 35%.

ICAO advocates a balanced approach to noise reduction. This combines noise reduction at source; land-use planning and management; operational procedures; and flight restrictions. The aim is to maximise the environmental benefit at lowest cost.


From looking at such factors as the proportion of air travelling through the engines, the size of the fan blades in the engine, the position of the engine on the aircraft body and even the size and number of flaps that help control the wing shape, research and development on noise has been extensive. The latest large aircraft, the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 have noise ‘footprints’ that are remarkably small – with the highest noise contours actually remaining in the airport boundary. The new Bombardier C-Series aircraft will make use of new Pratt & Whitney technology, ‘geared’ turbofan engines, which further cut noise and emissions.

The Bombardier C-Series uses Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan engines, which help reduce its noise footprint

The industry is working hard to make aircraft a further 50% quieter by 2020. There is a powerful incentive to continue tackling this issue, as concerns over noise pollution can - and do - affect the viability of airport expansion plans. 

A General Electric GE90-115B jet engine, undergoing acoustic testingA General Electric GE90-115B jet engine, undergoing acoustic testing


However, in tackling some environmental issues, compromises need to be made. For example, the aviation industry has to make a choice between shortening routes to reduce the amount of fuel used and maintaining noise abatement procedures – sometimes the shortest route into an airport can take flights over communities. This is a delicate balancing act.

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