What is Aircraft Noise and Where Does it Come From?
Air noise is created by aircraft approaching or taking off from airports and by aircraft taxiing/manoeuvring around the airfield.
This noise is caused by two main factors:
- By air moving over the aircraft’s fuselage (body) and wings – known as the airframe
- By the aircraft engines themselves.
When air moves over the aircraft fuselage, it causes friction and turbulence, which creates noise. The amount of noise created varies according to aircraft size and type as well as the way the aircraft is flown such as speed, the angle of approach and the way in which wing flaps are deployed. This means noise can differ even for identical aircraft. Engine noise is created by the sound of the engine’s moving parts and by the sound of the air being expelled at high speed once it has passed through the engine or propellers.
Noise is a very subjective issue and each person reacts differently to it. A noise which one person is affected by may not necessarily affect the next person. The time, the location and circumstances of any noise heard can all produce different reactions. Attitudes and reactions to noise are as important as the noise level experienced, but these attitudes are less understood than the technical science of sound-generation and measurement.
Southampton Airport has a dedicated Noise and Flight Evaluation Unit which records and investigates complaints and enquiries received from the local community about noise and routeings. The unit is manned during office hours by specially trained staff that can answer any questions and provide information on noise initiatives.
What are we Doing About it?
The Flying Controls Agreement
Southampton Airport operates under a strict Flying Controls Agreement which sets out controls relating to aircraft movements and airport operational activities. This forms part of the planning agreement between Southampton Airport and Eastleigh Borough Council. The Flying Controls Agreement is also known as the "106 Agreement." The controls as listed below will give you an idea of the restrictions in place.
No scheduled night flights
Night hours are defined as 23:00 – 06:00 hours Monday to Saturday and 23:00 hours on Saturday night to 07:30 hours on Sunday morning. The airport is closed at night for aircraft operations. Under certain circumstances, delayed flights and medical emergency flights may be allowed to operate during night hours. The 106 agreement allows for a maximum provision of 10 aircraft movements per calendar month with an upper limit of 100 in a calendar year during night hours.
The number of helicopter movements is not to exceed 7,500 in any calendar year. Helicopter movements are banned during night hours.
Types of aircraft
Certain specified large and noisy aircraft which do not meet the standards of ICAO Annex 16 Chapter 3 are not permitted at the airport. Southampton Airport was one of the first airports in the country to ban non ICAO chapter 3 aircraft.
The number of flying training movements is restricted. Although some training still takes place, the number of movements has reduced significantly in recent years and is more to do with professional aircrew familiarisation. Helicopter training flights are also restricted.
The monitoring of activity
The airport must prepare and submit to Eastleigh Borough Council and the Southampton Airport Consultative Committee, details of all aircraft movements including aircraft type, number of training movements, number of movements during night hours and the circumstances of any emergency activities or delayed movements. An annual assessment of changes to the aircraft noise environment around the airport must also be submitted in the form of a noise contour map. Aircraft movements can be monitored and tracked using a system called Webtrak. After receiving a complaint from the public, we will be able to input the date and time of the movement and Webtrak will show a screenshot of most aircraft in the area within a 30 mile radius. We will then be able to determine whether the aircraft was off track and how high it was. If further information is required, we enjoy a very close relationship with our airlines and NATS so investigations are always completed quickly with the results being communicated to the complainant within 5 working days.
In the coming months, we aim to make Webtrak available for the general public. Please check back here for updates.
The preferred routing of aircraft
Aircraft routes have been developed in consultation with local stakeholders with the aim of diverting aircraft away from populated areas as far as practicable. These routes are known as "Noise Preferred Routings."
When approaching to land at Southampton Airport, all aircraft will descend at an internationally recognised angle of 3.1 degrees. The angle of ascent can vary depending on the performance of the particular aircraft type. Other factors that affect the ascent angle include weight loading, engine type and atmospheric conditions.
Aircraft departing to the North must maintain runway track until reaching 2.5 miles from the runway (Brambridge area). This avoids aircraft overflying Bishopstoke, Eastleigh and Chandlers Ford.
Aircraft arriving from the North and carrying out an ILS approach must be aligned with the runway at no less than 8 miles from landing and follow a standard 3.1 degree approach until landing. This will position the aircraft to the North of Winchester. Aircraft carrying out a Visual approach must be aligned with the runway at no less than 2 miles from touchdown when arriving from a Southerly point of origin and at 5 miles when arriving from other directions.
Aircraft departing to the South must maintain runway track until reaching 500 feet above sea level (QNH) and then make a right turn to a heading of 217 degrees until reaching 2000 feet.
Aircraft arriving from the South must be aligned with the runway at no less than 4 miles from touchdown. At this point, the aircraft will be over Southampton Water.
It is important to say that these routes can vary from time to time due to factors outside of our control. These factors can include extreme weather such as storms or to maintain separation from other aircraft in the wider airspace.
Take off and landing directions are influenced by the wind. All aircraft must take off and land into the wind for performance reasons.
Although this is a rare occurrence at Southampton, we take all damage reports very seriously. For further information or to report damage please contact the Noise and Flight Evaluation Unit directly on +44 (0)23 8062 7070 (during office hours). For any incidents outside of office hours please contact 084 4481 7777 and press option 7 to speak to an advisor.
Further information can be found in our Managing noise Brochure.
Our Noise Action Plan was accepted by the Secretary of State for the environment in November 2011.
Southampton Airport Noise and Flight Evaluation Unit
Telephone: +44 (0)23 8062 7383
Write to: Noise and Flight Evaluation Unit, Southampton Airport, Southampton SO18 2NL
Southampton Airport Consultative Committee
Telephone: +44 (0)23 8068 8113
Write to: Hon Secretary to the Consultative Committee, c/o Eastleigh Borough Council, Civic Offices, Leigh Road, Eastleigh SO50 9YN