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Aircraft Noise Issues

Aircraft and airport noise are complex subject matters which have been studied for decades and are still the focus of many research efforts today.Here you will find information about aircraft and airport noise and who to contact if you have a question, concern, or complaint about noise issues.

Aircraft and Airport Noise

The FAA recognizes that aircraft noise issues can be highly technical and complex. We have developed a variety of programs aimed at increasing the understanding of noise impacts, identifying solutions to reduce those impacts, and educating the public on the issues and our ongoing efforts. The website Noise Quest was specifically developed to offer the public a source of information on aviation and airport noise. This resource provides access to educational material as well as updated content, new publications on noise projects and research, and informational videos and audio. It also features an interactive mapping application, NQ Explorer, which allows the user to search for a specific airport and find the related airport website links as well as view the latest airport noise contours, if available. Results of our research can be found on our Environment and Energy Research and Development web page.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pursues a program of aircraft noise control in cooperation with the aviation community. Noise control measures include noise reduction at the source, i.e., development and adoption of quieter aircraft, soundproofing and buyouts of buildings near airports, operational flight control measures, and land use planning strategies.

The FAA's primary mission is to ensure the safety and efficiency of our nation's navigable airspace. The agency does not have the authority to prohibit aircraft overflights of a particular geographic area unless the operation is unsafe, or the aircraft is operated in a manner inconsistent with Federal Aviation Regulations. In order to handle high air traffic demands, runway configurations are used in accordance with runway selection criteria. Air Traffic's runway selection is based on several factors which include the following: runway availability, wind, weather, operational efficiency, and noise considerations.

FAA Noise Levels, Stages, and Prohibitions

Aircraft noise is regulated through standards. These standards are set internationally and are applied when an aircraft is acquiring its airworthiness certification. The standard requires that the aircraft meet or fall below designated noise levels. For civil jet aircraft, there are four stages identified, with Stage 1 being the loudest and Stage 4 being the quietest. For helicopters, two different stages exist, Stage 1 and Stage 2. As with civil jet aircraft, Stage 2 is quieter than Stage 1. In addition, the FAA is currently working to adopt the latest international standards for helicopters, which will be called Stage 3 and will be quieter than Stage 2.

The FAA has undertaken a phase out of older, noisier civil aircraft, resulting in some stages of aircraft no longer being in the fleet. Currently within the contiguous US, civil jet aircraft over 75,000 pounds maximum take-off weight must meet Stage 3 and Stage 4 to fly. In addition, aircraft at or under 75,000 pounds maximum take-off weight must meet Stage 2, 3, or 4 to operate within the U.S. In addition, by December 31, 2015, all civil jet aircraft, regardless of weight must meet Stage 3 or Stage 4 to fly within the contiguous U.S. Both Stage 1 and Stage 2 helicopters are allowed to fly within the U.S.

See additional Details on FAA Noise Levels, Stages and Prohibitions.

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Historical Order of Magnitude Noise Exposure Reduction Despite Traffic Growth

Noise Reduction and Research

In February 2013, the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO's) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) agreed to a new global noise reduction standard. The FAA participates in the CAEP meetings and supports this new standard. The most beneficial area of future noise reduction is technology development to reduce source noise. The FAA has an active program, The Continuous Lower Energy, Emissions, and Noise (CLEEN) program, to advance the development of technologies to further reduce noise from aircraft. This program supports FAA's technology and alternative jet fuel solution sets. CLEEN will develop and mature environmentally-friendly technologies for civil subsonic jet aircraft. These technologies will help achieve NextGen goals to reduce aviation noise and emissions impacts. One of the goals of the CLEEN program is to develop certifiable aircraft technology that reduces noise levels by 32dB cumulative, relative to the ICAO noise standards. The program also focuses on maturing and demonstrating aircraft and alternative jet fuel technologies to accelerate commercialization of these technologies into current and future aircraft.

Noise in NextGen

The movement to the next generation of aviation is possible by a shift to smarter, satellite-based and digital technologies and new procedures that combine to make air travel more convenient, predictable and environmentally friendly. The environmental vision for NextGen is to provide environmental protection that allows sustained aviation growth. Noise, air quality, climate, and energy are the most significant potential environmental constraints to increasing aviation capacity, efficiency, and flexibility.

The FAA has established several programs and activities aimed at addressing these constraints. For noise, that involves limiting the number of people exposed to significant noise levels. Significant noise is defined as Day Night Average Sound Level (DNL) 65 decibels (dB). The number of people exposed to significant noise levels was reduced by approximately 90 percent between 1975 and 2000. This is due primarily to the legislatively mandated transition of airplane fleets to newer generation aircraft that produce less noise. Most of the gains from quieter aircraft were achieved by 2000. There have been incremental improvements since that time. Absent further advances in noise reduction technologies and fleet evolution, the remaining problem must be addressed primarily through operational procedures and airport-specific noise compatibility programs.

Noise Abatement Studies and Sound Insulation Programs

For questions about FAA noise abatement studies and sound insulation programs, please contact the appropriate FAA Airports Regional & District/Development Offices for more information.

Contact Information

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