Gatwick noise footprint shrinks by 7% in 2018

Improved operational procedures have helped shrink the noise footprint at Britain’s second busiest airport.

Smoother descents that reduce drag and use less power – the phasing out of the noisiest aircraft and the introduction of new, quieter aircraft have combined to reduce the size of Gatwick’s noise footprint (54dBA Leq) by 7 per cent in 2018 – compared to the previous year – according to the annual noise exposure contour analysis carried out by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Using the nationally recognised standard measurement (54dBA Leq), Gatwick’s noise footprint shrank from 82.7 km2 to 77.1 km2 in 2018 – compared to 2017 – with the number of people living within this noise contour also falling to 10,200 from 10,950.

Cumulatively, over the last two years, 900 people have been taken out of this noise footprint as it shrank 11 per cent – reducing in area from 86.5 km2 in 2016 to 77.1 km2 in 2018.

Year                Area             Reduction                     Residents

2018                77.1 km2         7 per cent                               10,200

2017                82.7 km2         4 per cent                               10,950

2016                86.5 km2                                                          11,100

Gatwick’s noise footprint has reduced by 48 per cent over the last 20 years and by 14.5 per cent over the last decade.

In terms of future noise reductions, the next generation of aircraft – including the Airbus A320neo, A321neo and A350; and Boeing’s 787 (Dreamliner) – are up to 50 per cent quieter than their predecessors. In the future, the airline fleets that operate from Gatwick will be dominated by these quieter aircraft, with forecasts showing that this type of next generation aircraft will make up 86 per cent of Gatwick’s aircraft fleet by 2032/33, up from 3  per cent in 2017/18.

The independent Noise Management Board at Gatwick was formed in 2016 and brings the local community and the aviation industry together within a formalised structure and is considered to be an industry-leading approach to managing noise issues at a local level.

Andy Sinclair, Gatwick’s head of airspace, said: “We are making good progress against our objective of reducing the impact that aircraft noise has on our local communities, but we recognise that more must be done. We are delighted with the work of the Noise Management Board and we hope that it continues its strong influence in decision making at the airport. We will continue to challenge ourselves and our industry partners and will be introducing a range of new initiatives to reduce noise further in coming years.”

“Over time, aircraft noise has dramatically reduced at Gatwick and in the next few years I expect to see further improvements as more next generation aircraft are introduced in significant numbers. The large-scale redesign of airspace across South East England is also underway and has the potential to significantly reduce noise impacts around the airport.”

Each year the Environmental Research and Consultancy Department (ERCD) of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) calculates the noise exposure around London Gatwick Airport. The UK civil aircraft noise model ANCON, validated with noise measurements, is used to estimate the noise exposure. The model calculates the emission and propagation of noise from arriving and departing air traffic.

Noise exposure is depicted in the form of noise contours, i.e. lines joining places of constant Leq, akin to the height contours shown on geographical maps or isobars on a weather chart.

The noise exposure metric used is the Equivalent Continuous Sound Level, or Leq 16-hour (0700-2300 local time), which is calculated over the 92-day summer period from 16 June to 15 September.

Historically in the UK, Leq 16-hour noise contours have been plotted at levels from 57 to 72 dBA, in 3 dB steps. However, the Survey of Noise Attitudes 2014 found that the degree of annoyance (based on the percentage of respondents highly annoyed) previously occurring at 57 dBA, now occurs at 54 dBA. The Leq 16-hour contours have been plotted down to the lower level of 54 dBA since 2016.

 For comparison over time the previously recognised standard measurement (57dBA Leq) shows the reduction in Gatwick’s noise footprint over the last 20 years has been a 48% and 14.5% over the last 10 years.

2018     40.0 km2     15 per cent reduction     2,700 people

2008     46.8 km2     39 per cent reduction    4,450 people

1998     76.4 km2                                                9,000 people

New A321neos started service at Gatwick last year and are up to 50 per cent quieter – 4 decibels (dB) quieter on take-off and 2dB on approach – than existing aircraft types operating from the airport. These aircraft are expected to become the new ‘workhorse’ of the airport replacing many of easyJet’s existing 65-strong fleet.

Gatwick’s Airport is the UK’s second largest airport. It serves more than 230 destinations in 74 countries for 46 million passengers a year on short and long-haul point-to-point services. Gatwick is also a major economic driver and generates around 85,000 jobs nationally, with 24,000 of these located on the airport. The airport is south of Central London with excellent public transport links, including the Gatwick Express, and is part of the Oyster contactless payment network.

Gatwick’s 2018 draft master plan sets out proposals for the airport’s ongoing development and sustainable growth. It also outlines the airport’s latest thinking on how it can meet the increasing demand for air travel and provide Britain with enhanced global connectivity. A 12-week public consultation closed on 10 January 2019, and a consultation response summary and final master plan will be published later in 2019.