Management of aircraft noise
Aviation activity, both within and to and from Australia, has grown
strongly in the past two decades and is projected to continue to grow over the
next twenty years. Despite disruptions and the impact of world and local
events, passenger movements have almost trebled over the last two decades, with
73.5 million people carried on domestic and international air services to
and from Australia in 2008-09.
The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics forecasts
the number of aircraft movements through Australia's capital city airports
(Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney)
will increase from around 1.1 million in 2008-09 to 1.7 million in
This represents an expected annual increase of 2.2 per cent to 2029-30. Noting
this projected continued growth, aircraft noise will remain a persistent
challenge for those responsible for managing the environmental impacts
associated with the operation of aircraft.
Airservices Australia is a statutory authority established under the Air Services
Act 1995 and has responsibility for the provision of safe air traffic
management services. Under the Act, Airservices Australia has responsibility,
as far as is practicable, to ensure the environment is protected from the
effects associated with the operation and use of aircraft (including noise
The Act specifies that in undertaking its role, Airservices Australia must
regard the safety of air navigation as the most important consideration.
In performing its duties, Airservices Australia is required to consult
and cooperate with government, commercial, industrial, consumer and other
relevant bodies and organisations.
The requirement to consult with communities is contained within a Ministerial
Direction, which states that Airservices Australia is to initiate and
participate in discussions, consultations, studies and research with the
aviation industry and the community in relation to the environmental aspects of
air traffic management (including noise impacts).
Airservices Australia is also subject to the Environment Protection
and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Before adopting or implementing an
airspace management plan involving aircraft operations which have, will have,
or are likely to have, a significant impact on the environment, Airservices
Australia must consider advice from the Minister for Environment Protection,
Heritage and the Arts.
Regardless of size, purpose or ownership, all civil aircraft operating
in Australia are required to comply with the Air Navigation (Aircraft Noise)
Regulations 1984 (Regulations) made pursuant to the Air Navigation Act 1920
(Air Navigation Act).
An aircraft may not operate in Australia unless:
it has a noise certificate; or
- it has been issued with a permit to operate without a noise
- it has been assessed as being in an exempt category.
A noise certificate is a document issued by Airservices Australia which
attests that an aircraft of a type described on the certificate meets the noise
level standards specified for its class.
The noise level standards required under the Regulations are those set
down in the International Civil Aviation Organisation's Annex 16 Volume 1
(Environmental Protection - Aircraft Noise) to the Chicago Convention.
Compliance with noise standards is shown by noise certification testing
of the aircraft.
Permission to operate without a
There are three grounds on which permission to operate an aircraft
without a noise certificate may be granted:
- the extent to which the aircraft exceeds the noise standard is
not significant (this ground is not available to jet aircraft); or
- the historical significance of the aircraft justifies the
- the aircraft is to be used solely for a purpose that is in the
Aircraft exempt from noise certificates
Some aircraft are exempt from the requirements of the Regulations. These
are state aircraft, hot air balloons and propeller-driven aircraft that are
specifically designed and exclusively used for aerobatics, fire fighting or
Non-chapter 3 jets
Australia has implemented the program agreed by the International Civil
Aviation Organisation for the phasing out of subsonic jet aircraft not meeting
the noise standards of Annex 16 Volume I Chapter 3.
The Regulations prohibit the operation of non-Chapter 3 jet aircraft in
Aircraft Noise Management
Noise abatement measures and noise
Airservices Australia's website provides general information about
curfews and noise abatement measures at major airports. Noise abatement
measures vary between airports, however measures may typically include:
- preferred runways to be used at different times of the day,
- preferred flight paths, local restrictions and 'fly friendly'
- curfew restrictions.
All major Australian airports have noise abatement measures in place.
For example, one of the key noise mitigation measures at Sydney Airport is the
The curfew at Sydney restricts both aircraft size and runway
usage between the hours of 2300 and 0600 local time. Additional restrictions
limit specific runway use between 2245 - 2300 daily and 0600 - 0700 and 2200 -
2300 on weekends.
The [Sydney Airport Curfew Act] provides for a strict quota
of international passenger jet aircraft to land during the 'curfew shoulder period'
- 11.00pm and midnight, and 5.00am to 6.00am - if they meet certain criteria,
including the strictest International Civil Aviation Organisation noise
In order for a larger aircraft to have access to Sydney
airport outside curfew hours it must apply to the [Department of Department of
Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local
Government] for an exemption.
Some secondary and local airports also have noise abatement measures in
place. For example, the following are the procedures in place at Cairns
Turbojets will be routed clear of populous areas until
seawards of the coastline or established on their final approach course. To
assist with noise reduction on final approach course, pilots are requested to
delay flap deployment until as late as is operationally practicable.
Circuit training by jet propelled aircraft...is not permitted
between 2200 and 0700 local time.
No aircraft is permitted to conduct engine runs (unless
associated with the normal preparation of flight) between 2300 and 0600 local
time without permission from the Cairns Port Authority.
Operators and pilots of jet aircraft are requested to
cooperate in limiting the use of reverse thrust when landing between the hours
of 2300 and 0600 local time.
Where noise abatement procedures exist for airports, these procedures
are detailed in the Airservices Australia's publication 'Departure and Arrival
Noise sharing is a principle that seeks to share the burden of aircraft
noise over communities as equitably as possible, and to provide respite for
noise affected communities in different areas. The principle of noise sharing
has been formalised in Sydney through the Sydney Airport Long Term Operating
Plan (LTOP). The LTOP seeks to place as many flights over water as possible
(to the south), with the remaining flights shared between communities to the
north, west and east of the airport.
Monitoring Aircraft Noise
Australian Noise Exposure Forecast
and the Australian Noise Exposure Index
The Australian Noise Exposure Forecast (ANEF) is a scientific measure of
the aircraft noise exposure levels around aerodromes. ANEF takes into account:
- the intensity, duration, tonal content and spectrum of audible
frequencies of the noise of aircraft take-offs, approaches to landing, flyover
and reverse thrust after landing;
- the forecast frequency of aircraft types and movements on the
various flight paths; and
the average daily distribution of aircraft arrivals and departures
in both day time and night time.
ANEF charts show the forecast of aircraft noise levels that are expected
to exist in the future. ANEF charts are prepared for all the major and regional
airports and most of the minor aerodromes that have a large number of annual
movements throughout Australia.
The Australian Noise Exposure Index (ANEI) charts are contour maps based
on historical data from a previous year, where actual numbers and types of
aircraft used at the airport are known. It shows the average daily aircraft
noise exposure around the airport for that year. ANEI charts are used
principally as benchmarks or indicators of change of aircraft noise exposure.
Noise and Flight Path Monitoring
A Noise and Flight Path Monitoring System (NFPMS) is used at Australia's
major airports (Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Coolangatta, Sydney, Melbourne,
Essendon, Adelaide and Perth) to collect noise and flight path data. NFPMS
operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and records the identity, flight
path and altitude of each aircraft operating to and from the airport, the noise
levels produced by individual aircraft, weather data and general background
The NFPMS consists of a number of noise monitoring terminals (NMT),
which are located around individual airports. The NMTs consist of a microphone
on top of a six meter mast and an electronics box. The microphone on the NMTs
continuously records and transmits data to the NFPMS central computer. The
NFPMS also consists of secondary surveillance radar at the airports, which are
used to acquire flight track information on aircraft operating into and out of
NMTs record 'noise events' – noises that are of a level and duration
which exceed the threshold level set for the particular NMT site. The time and
location of the noise event are checked against movement times and radar tracks
of aircraft operating in the vicinity. If the time and the NMT location of the
noise event match the movement and radar track of an aircraft, the noise event
is attributed to that aircraft. Otherwise, it is regarded as part of the
The information collected from NFPMS is used to:
- determine the contribution of aircraft to overall noise exposure;
- detect occurrences of excessive noise levels from aircraft
- assess the effects of operational and administrative procedures
for noise control and compliance with these procedures;
- assist in planning of airspace usage;
- validate noise forecasts and forecasting techniques;
- assist relevant authorities in land use planning for developments
on areas in the vicinity of an airport; and
- generate reports and provide responses to questions from government,
industry organisations, community groups and individuals.
Quarterly reports are available for all the airports that are covered by
Webtrak is an online information service to provide the community with
information about noise levels of aircraft.
WebTrak uses information from air traffic control secondary surveillance
radars to monitor aircraft:
- within 55 km of the airport (Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney,
Coolangatta, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth);
- up to a height of 3000m above ground level.
Aircraft noise data is downloaded daily from noise monitors
strategically located about the communities close to the airport. The information
is then displayed on a detailed map (road or aerial) which enables the user to
zoom down to their street level.
Information can be viewed of current operations (delayed by 40 minutes
for aviation security reasons) around the airport, or in 'replay mode', which
shows flight information and noise data for the previous two weeks.
A National Aviation Policy Statement – 2009 Aviation White Paper
On 16 December 2009, the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport,
Regional Development and Local Government released the government's National
Aviation Policy Statement (White Paper).
The media release accompanying the White Paper highlights three steps
the government intends to take to address the impacts of aircraft noise:
- establishing a new Aircraft Noise Ombudsman;
- regulating to stop older, noisier aircraft flying over
residential areas; and
- maintaining curfews at Sydney, Adelaide, Gold Coast and Essendon
In terms of the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman, the White Paper states that
the Ombudsman's office will be located within Airservices Australia and will
have the following roles:
- independently review noise complaints handling procedures and
make recommendations for improvements where necessary; and
improve Airservices Australia's consultation arrangements and the
presentation and distribution of aircraft noise–related information to the
The White Paper foreshadows a role for the Council of Australian
Governments (COAG) to put in place a planning regime for land near airports:
The Australian Government will continue to work with the
aviation industry to ensure the impacts of aircraft noise are minimised and to
find practical solutions for noise amelioration.
To help all stakeholders understand their respective roles
and responsibilities in relation to the management of aircraft noise impacts on
the community, the Government will...ensure future airport operations and their
economic viability are not constrained by incompatible development and protect
existing and future communities from undue exposure to aircraft noise by
working through COAG and other forums to put in place an effective national
land use planning regime for land near airports and flight paths. 
Partnership approach to the management of aircraft noise
The committee heard that the effective management of aircraft noise is a
partnership between key industry stakeholders including:
- airlines and aircraft operators, who are responsible for using
noise-compliant aircraft, implementing noise-abatement principles for flight
operations, and contributing to noise-reduction initiatives;
- air navigation service providers, which are responsible for
flight track, noise-sharing and traffic management components, and noise
monitoring and complaint reporting;
- airports, with a responsibility for community engagement,
development of noise management plans, and participation in noise-reduction
programs and noise monitoring;
federal government agencies, which can assist in providing
improved noise information to home owners, communities and councils; reviewing
the current approach to noise measurement and assessment; identifying best
practice noise management options, assisting with programs where necessary to
address high levels of noise exposure; continuing regulatory responsibilities,
including managing curfews and slots, and accelerating the phasing out of noisy
- state and local governments which need to work in partnership
with airports to ensure zoning is consistent with noise exposure information,
in addition to introducing appropriate land-use planning around airports and
under flight paths; and
- residents, who should be adequately informed of their aircraft
noise exposure near airports and under flight paths and able to contribute
effectively to debate about management of noise issues affecting their
The committee noted the inter-related responsibilities of aviation
stakeholders and the partnership approach to noise management presents a
challenge for Airservices Australia. For example, there are a range of matters
over which, although they affect aircraft noise, Airservices Australia has no
responsibility or control. These include:
- the location of airports and the configuration of airport
- the mix, density and scheduling of aircraft operations.
Accordingly close collaboration and cooperation between the key aviation
stakeholders is essential to enabling Airservices Australia to fulfil its
legislated responsibility for ensuring the environment is protected from the
effects associated with the operation of aircraft.
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