Aircraft Noise Levels & Stages
The FAA regulates the maximum noise level that an individual civil aircraft can emit through requiring aircraft to meet certain noise certification standards. These standards designate changes in maximum noise level requirements by "stage" designation.
The U.S. noise standards are defined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Title 14 Part 36 – Noise Standards: Aircraft Type and Airworthiness Certification (14 CFR Part 36). The FAA publishes certified noise levels in the advisory circular, Noise Levels for U.S Certificated and Foreign Aircraft. This advisory circular provides noise level data for aircraft certified under 14 CFR Part 36 and categorizes aircraft into their appropriate "stages."
Any aircraft certified for airworthiness in the U.S. must also comply with noise standard requirements to receive a noise certification. The noise certification ensures that the latest safe and airworthy noise reduction technology is incorporated into aircraft design and enables the reductions in noise experienced by communities.
As noise reduction technology matures, the FAA works with the international community to determine if a stronger noise standard is needed. If so, the international community, through the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), conducts a comprehensive analysis to determine that new standard.
Stage 5 is the current FAA noise standard for jet and large turboprop aircraft. It is equivalent to the ICAO noise standards.
The international community established and approved this standard, and recognized the need to allow more time for smaller aircraft to comply. This standard goes into effect starting December 31, 2020. The new standard applies to certain aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of less than 121,254 pounds. For helicopters, the FAA has noise standards for a Stage 3 helicopter effective on May 5, 2014. These more stringent standards apply to new type helicopters and are consistent with ICAO noise standards.
Noise Stage Rule and Laws
The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, in Section 513, prohibited the operation of certain aircraft weighing 75,000 pounds or less that did not comply with Stage 3 noise levels. On July 2, 2013, the FAA published a Final Rule in the Federal Register adopting this prohibition.
In 1990, Congress passed the Aviation Noise and Capacity Act, which required that by the year 2000 all jet and large turboprop aircraft operated at civilian airports be Stage 3.
Special Flight Authorizations (SFAs)
All certified aircraft flying in the United States need to be Stage 3 or quieter. The exception is that the FAA may issue an SFA to allow a specific aircraft that does not meet Stage 3 standards to fly. The FAA is only allowed to provide SFAs for specific reasons, such as humanitarian aid or to have the aircraft fly into the United States for maintenance of the aircraft.