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Aircraft Noise

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Introduction

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 – collectively 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.

A key part of our noise strategy is to give out as much information as possible and to provide our neighbours and stakeholders with an insight into what is going on at Southampton International Airport. The following pages have been designed to provide information on aircraft noise and the mitigation measures in place to lessen the impact on our neighbours.

Flying Controls

Southampton Airport adheres to a strict agreement, which since its inception in 1990 has been designed to minimise the impact of the airport operation on the local community. This agreement forms part of our planning agreement with Eastleigh Borough Council, and is legally binding. It includes:

Night time closure

There are very strict limits on the number of scheduled night flights that we may operate during the night period. We define the night period from 23:00 to 06:00, or to 07:30 on Sunday mornings. The airport is permitted to operate 10 scheduled night flights per month, but not more than 100 in any 12 month period. However, occasionally flights operate during these times for unexpected reasons such as poor weather or as a result of en route air traffic control delays. Additionally some ambulance flights carrying patients or transporting donor organs are accepted during night hours, for emergency medical reasons.

Noise preferred routeing of aircraft

Noise preferred routes for departing aircraft and for aircraft arriving ‘visually’ (in good visibility) were introduced in 2007 following a wide scale consultation with local stakeholders, residents and councils. These routeings aim to divert aircraft away from the most densely populated areas where it is possible to do so. The airport ensures, as far as is reasonably practical, that aircraft using the airport adhere to the preferred routes. There are however occasions when the noise preferred routes cannot be followed by aircraft and examples of this are the avoidance of poor weather (thunder storms) or other air traffic in the area. Noise preferred routeings are constantly kept under review following feedback from our local communities.

Strict limits on helicopter movements

The annual number of daytime helicopter movements is restricted, and helicopter movements are banned during night hours, in order to minimise the noise for our neighbours.

Ban on noisier types of aircraft

Noisier aircraft which do not meet strict industry standards, referred to as ICAO ‘Chapter 3’, are not permitted to visit Southampton Airport. The airport was one of the first in the country to ban aircraft that do not meet this standard.

Strict limits on aircraft training movements

The number of flying training movements is restricted. Although some flying training takes place this has significantly reduced in recent years.

Engine ground running

There are strict limits on the times, the location and the number of occasions that aircraft engine ground running can take place, which is required for engine testing. No engine ground running is permitted during night hours.

In summary, this agreement is of great significance in order to minimise the impact of aircraft noise on the local community and provides governance on the way that we operate the airport in the interests of the local community. Monitoring and reporting against these regulations are undertaken at the Southampton Airport Consultative Committee.

Weather

Wind direction

The direction that aircraft take off or land depends on the wind direction. For performance and safety reasons, aircraft will take off and land into wind. Due to prevailing south west winds, around 70% of aircraft movements arrive from the North and depart to the South. When the wind is calm, the direction of runway is determined by the wind direction at between 1000ft and 3000ft. On the unusual occasion that the wind is light and variable at 3000ft, several factors are taken into consideration when determining which runway direction to use, including the most accurate approach system for arrivals, the weather, and the current air traffic in airspace around the airport. Due to the geography around Southampton Airport and its effect on the local weather patterns, it is important to note that the runway in use can change many times in a day.

If the wind is calm at ground level, the wind direction at 1000ft plus may determine the runway in use. Aircraft aim to get as high as possible, as quickly as possible, therefore, winds at altitude are a key factor in flight planning.

If aircraft land from the north or depart to the south i.e. from the Eastleigh end, in aviation terms they are described as using runway 20 as they are following a compass heading of 200 degrees. If aircraft land from the south or depart to the north i.e. from the Southampton end, they are described as using runway 02 and will be following a heading of 020 degrees. These numbers are clearly marked on the respective ends of the runway.

Weather and Noise

Aircraft will always produce a similar level of noise during day to day operations. Aircraft have to meet and maintain strict guidelines on noise levels as part of their certificate of airworthiness so noise levels directly emitted tend to remain consistent on a day to day operational basis.

One factor that does affect the way aircraft noise is perceived is the atmospheric conditions at the time of the flight. If we experience calm atmospheric conditions usually associated with warmer weather, sound waves will travel further and as such, it is perceived that the noise is greater. In more turbulent conditions associated with wind and rain, sound waves get dispersed and thus making aircraft appear quieter. It’s a similar scenario to dropping a pebble in a pond; the ripples travel further if the water is still. If you introduce waves, the ripples are dispersed more quickly so travel less distance.

Low clouds also have an insulating effect on aircraft noise. This is another reason why on a cloudless day, the noise seems greater.

During strong wind conditions, it has been shown that sound waves can be carried for large distances. This means that aircraft taxiing on the ground at Southampton can be heard some distance away from the airport in a similar manner to road noise.

Aircraft Activity to the North

The current aircraft routes explained on this page were developed and established following in depth trials in 2006/2007 and were introduced in consultation with local stakeholders. The aim of the “Noise Preferred Routings” is to minimise the noise impact on local people, and divert aircraft away from populated areas as far as practical.

Specialist Approach Guidance Systems

Aircraft arriving from the North will utilise one of two approach methods to arrive into the airport.

ILS – Instrument Landing System

The ILS utilises three radio beams which are emitted from ground based infrastructure located within the airport boundary. One beam ensures that the aircraft is aligned with the runway centreline, one creates a “glide path” for aircraft to follow to allow them to descend at the correct speed and angle and one gives distance away from touch down. This system works in conjunction with specialist systems on board the aircraft and allows for a consistent flight path. The ILS approach is used for all arrivals during low visibility and low cloud and is classed as a precision approach.

Visual Approach

A visual approach is where pilots position the aircraft to land by using a visual reference to the airfield. The pilot will manually fly the aircraft and will align with the runway using a combination of visual referencing and various lighting systems that are on the ground at the airport. A visual approach can only be flown when visibility is good and when the clouds are above a certain height. The flight path over the ground for a visual approach can vary slightly.

Aircraft Departing to the North (Runway 02)

Aircraft departing in a northerly direction are required to continue along the runway heading until reaching two and a half miles from the end of the runway. This avoids overflying the village of Bishopstoke to the north east, and densely populated areas of Eastleigh and Chandler’s Ford to the North West. After this point aircraft will then route towards their next navigational waypoint.

Aircraft Arriving from the North (Runway 20)

Non-Visual Approach (using specialist navigation equipment - ILS)

Aircraft will join the standard approach path from no less than 8 nautical miles and at a constant 3° angle of approach.

Visual Approach

Aircraft making a visual approach will be aligned with the centre line of the runway from not less than 2 nautical miles when arriving from a southerly point of origin, and at 5 nautical miles when from northerly, easterly or westerly directions.

Exclusions from Noise Preferred Routes

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has a strict consultation process in place to ensure that all stakeholders are made aware of, and given an opportunity to feedback on any proposed permanent flight path changes. It is important to note that Southampton Airport will not permanently change any flight paths without following this process of consultation. However, there are conditions when noise preferred routes will not be flown on a temporary basis. These include:

Type of aircraft

These routes only apply to commercial aircraft above 5700kgs and to all jet aircraft. Smaller aircraft types, such as the Trislander aircraft, smaller propeller aircraft and helicopters will not follow these routes as this would result in significantly increased journey times and increased fuel usage.

Operational activity

Occasionally aircraft will be directed by NATS not to fly the Noise Preferred Route due to weather conditions, other air traffic in the area, or for aircraft performance reasons.

In addition, communities around the airport are likely to see and hear aircraft even if they do not fly directly overhead.

Aircraft Activity to the South

The current aircraft routes explained on this page were developed and established following in depth trials in 2006/2007 and were introduced in consultation with local stakeholders. The aim of the “Noise Preferred Routings” is to minimise the noise impact on local people, and divert aircraft away from populated areas as far as practical.

Specialist Approach Guidance Systems

Aircraft arriving from the South will utilise one of three approach methods to arrive into the airport.

VOR/DME – Very High Frequency Omni-directional Range Finder with Distance Measuring Equipment (Black Line)

The VOR is best described as a bicycle wheel on its side. There are 360 spokes each representing 1 degree of a compass and each spoke will emit a straight line radio transmission which the aircraft will tune into, and follow, to guide them into the airport. Aircraft utilising this approach will follow an offset approach path to the runway and position with the runway centreline once the pilot has sight of the airport.
The reason for the offset approach is because the VOR is located in a position to the north east of the runway so it is not in line with the runway. The VOR is used in conjunction with the DME which, like the ILS, will inform the pilot of their distance from touchdown.

NDB – Non-Directional Beacon (Yellow Line)

An NDB is a single aerial transmitter that does not transmit specific directional information to an aircraft, unlike a VOR. Instrumentation on board the aircraft will home into the transmissions, and the aircrew fly towards the beacon, making adjustments to the track as they fly towards the runway. The NDB flight path over the ground can vary slightly. As the NDB beacon is located off to one side of the runway, as per the VOR approach, aircraft will follow a slightly offset path.

Visual Approach (Red Line)

A visual approach is where pilots position the aircraft to land by using a visual reference to the airfield. The pilot will manually fly the aircraft and will align with the runway using a combination of visual referencing and various lighting systems that are on the ground at the airport. A visual approach can only be flown when visibility is good and when the clouds are above a certain height. The flight path over the ground for a visual approach can vary slightly.

Aircraft Departing to the South (Runway 20)

Aircraft taking off to the south will climb straight ahead to 500ft above mean sea level, and then turn right to follow a 217° heading. This heading will direct aircraft towards the path of the River Itchen and the track will be maintained until reaching Southampton Water or 2000ft above mean sea level, whichever is reached first. The exact point, at which aircraft reach 500ft and subsequently turn, will vary depending on many factors, such as engine type, aircraft weight and weather conditions.

Aircraft Arriving from the South (Runway 02)

Non-Visual Approach (using specialist navigation equipment)

Please see above for VOR (Radio Beacon) Approach.

Visual Approach

The point at which aircraft are required to be on alignment with the runway’s centre line, when making a visual approach is four miles. Aircraft join the approach path over the less densely populated Southampton Water area to manoeuvre onto the runway centre line for arrival. The aircraft are then required to follow a 3º angle of approach for operational reasons.

Exclusions from Noise Preferred Routes

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has a strict consultation process in place to ensure that all stakeholders are made aware of, and given an opportunity to feedback on any proposed permanent flight path changes. It is important to note that Southampton Airport will not permanently change any flight paths without following this process of consultation. However, there are conditions when noise preferred routes will not be flown on a temporary basis. These include:

Type of aircraft

These routes only apply to commercial aircraft above 5700kgs and to all jet aircraft. Smaller aircraft types, such as the Trislander aircraft, smaller propeller aircraft and helicopters will not follow these routes as this would result in significantly increased journey times and increased fuel usage.

Operational activity

Occasionally aircraft will be directed by NATS not to fly the Noise Preferred Route due to weather conditions, other air traffic in the area, or for aircraft performance reasons.

In addition, communities around the airport are likely to see and hear aircraft even if they do not fly directly overhead.

Community Forums

The Consultative Committee meets three times a year, to review the airport’s latest developments, monitor the airport’s adherence to regulations which minimise noise, as well as evaluate the levels of community feedback received by the airport’s dedicated Noise & Flight Evaluation Unit. The committee has over 20 members, consisting of a range of stakeholders including local councillors and officers, resident associations, disability groups, industry bodies and airport users. The Consultative Committee is independently chaired, with the following purpose:

  • To act as a means of consultation in relation to Southampton Airport in accordance with the provisions of Section 35 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.
  • It allows the concerns of interested parties to be raised and taken into account by the airport operator, with a genuine desire on all sides to resolve any issues that may emerge.

The Technical Working Group has been established to provide technical guidance and advice to the Consultative Committee on measures to minimise the disturbance to communities around Southampton Airport. This focuses primarily on issues relating to aircraft noise, arising from airport operational activity.

Members of the group include:

  • NATS
  • Consultative Committee Chair
  • Representation from one or more of the base airlines
  • Southampton Airport operational experts
  • Local authority technical officers from Eastleigh Borough Council, Southampton City Council and Winchester City Council.

If you would like further information on the Southampton Airport Consultative Committee, please find the contact details in the FAQ’s and Contact us section.

Noise Action Plan

Southampton Airport is required to develop and maintain and action plan designed to manage noise issues and effects arising from aircraft arriving and departing the airport, including noise mitigation measures where necessary.

Action Plans are a legal requirement under Directive 2002/49/EC relating to the Assessment and Management of Environmental Noise. This Directive is commonly referred to as the Environmental Noise Directive or END4 and the requirements are laid down by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

A copy of Southampton International Airport’s noise action plan can be found here.

FAQs and Contacts

I’ve noticed an increase in noise and over flight of my property; have you changed your flight paths?

The current noise preferred routes have been in operation since 2007 and are reviewed as part of the Technical Working Group’s remit. The current routes were introduced following a consultation with stakeholders and local residents and if the airport was to change any routes, the same level of consultation would be required. However, the noise preferred routes may not be followed by certain types of aircraft or due to various safety reasons. Please see the aircraft activity to the south and aircraft activity to the North sections for more information in your area.

Flight paths can also be influenced by wind direction as this dictates the direction in which aircraft can take off or land. Please see the weather section for more information.

Flight paths in the wider airspace away from the airport can vary and are directed by NATS. All flights are sequenced with other traffic arriving and departing Bournemouth airport, Heathrow and Gatwick and other aerodromes in the area so activity at these locations can affect flight paths taken.

I was woken by an aircraft after 23:00; I thought that you weren’t allowed to operate flights after this time?

We do not currently schedule night flights; however Southampton Airport is permitted 10 night movements per month, limited to 100 per year to allow for medical flights, technical delays and any schedule delays that may occur. We class a night flight as taking place after 23:00 but before 06:00 Monday to Saturday and 07:30 on a Sunday. It is important to note that aircraft arriving or departing other airfields may transit our airspace, even when Southampton Airport is closed.

What is airspace?

The true definition of Airspace is the portion of the atmosphere controlled by a country above its territory, including its territorial waters or, more generally, any specific three-dimensional portion of the atmosphere. The airspace over Southampton Airport is classed as controlled airspace. Controlled airspace exists where it is deemed necessary that air traffic control has some form of positive executive control over aircraft flying in that area. This is for the safe passage of commercial aircraft and is for the safety of passengers on board the flight. Air Traffic Control will sequence flights within controlled airspace to ensure that strict separation is maintained, both laterally and horizontally between aircraft. An aircraft can manoeuvre anywhere within an area of controlled airspace.

Why do your aircraft fly over populated areas when there are fields just to the South of my property?

All commercial aircraft operating into or out of Southampton Airport will be required to stay within the confines of controlled airspace. This includes the areas of controlled airspace that immediately surround Southampton Airport and also the wider airspace including airways which are the “motorways in the sky for aircraft.” These areas of controlled airspace span a large portion of the skies above our heads and form corridors where aircraft fly. The position at which the aircraft take within the corridor of airspace can vary for a number of reasons including whether the aircraft is arriving or departing an airport, the size of the aircraft and also sequencing with other airport traffic is considered. It is also key to note that all traffic routing will be under the control of air traffic controllers. These controllers will not see areas of population on their radar screens, all they see are the boundaries of controlled airspace so it is not possible for them to avoid particular properties or roads.

For aircraft on final approach to land, the flight crew will aim to be aligned with the runway as soon as possible. This is for safety reasons so the pilots have ample time to ensure that the aircraft is set up and ready to land safely. For aircraft on departure, the aircraft will aim to get as high as possible as quickly as possible as flight at higher altitudes is more efficient. The routings taken will vary depending on whether the aircraft is departing to the North or South. Please see the relevant section for more information.

What height will aircraft be whilst in my area?

The general rule of thumb for aircraft operations is to get as high as possible as quickly as possible. The reason for this is because an aircraft is more efficient at higher altitudes due to the thinner air which results in better fuel efficiency and reduced noise for those on the ground.

Aircraft heights in any individual area will vary depending on many factors including the route taken by the aircraft, your distance away from the airport, aircraft/engine type, weather conditions and the weight of the aircraft. If you have a question about a specific movement, please contact the Noise and Flight Evaluation Unit for more information.

I see aircraft over my property one day and the next, I see nothing. Why is this?

The main reason for this will be down to wind direction. The wind direction dictates the direction of take-off and landing for all aircraft at all airfields around the world. For safety and performance reasons, an aircraft will always take off and land into wind. Due to the prevailing South West Wind, we do see a large majority of flights land from the North and take off from the South but due to the nature of the surrounding terrain and areas of open water, the wind direction can change daily, even hourly. Where the surface wind at the airfield is calm, winds at 1000ft -3000ft are taken into consideration.

What happens to my complaint after I have logged it?

All feedback relating to Southampton Airport air traffic is recorded and investigated using our flight tracking software if necessary. The information is reviewed, analysed and presented to the Southampton Airport Consultative Committee, and the Technical Working Group. It is important for us to listen and engage with local communities in order to understand how our operations affect our neighbours, and make positive changes where possible and practicable.

What happens when an aircraft is found not to follow the noise preferred routes?

There are occasions where aircraft are instructed by NATS not to follow the noise preferred routes, usually due to weather conditions or other safety reasons. However, if an aircraft deviates for no reason, a full investigation will be carried out in conjunction with the aircraft operator and we reserve the right to impose a financial penalty on the airline, with all monies being invested back into community projects.

I’m moving to the area, where can I find more information about flight routes?

Firstly we always recommend that you spend some time in the area to gain an understanding of where aircraft fly in the vicinity. It is best to pick different times over a number of different days so you can understand how the schedule and routes can vary. We also encourage you to get in touch with us so we can give you an accurate picture of flight paths and any more information to better inform your decisions. Your estate agent should be able to put you in touch with the seller of the property to discuss their experiences but please remember that noise is subjective, what affects one may not affect another!

Where can I find out about your wake vortex policy?

For any questions concerning our wake vortex policy please contact us.

If you are concerned that your property may have experienced wake vortex damage, please contact
0344 481 7777 and select option 7 and ask to speak to the Airport Duty Manager.

Contacts and useful links

Noise and Flight Evaluation Unit
Telephone: 02380 627070
Email: sounoisecomplaints@southamptonairport.com
Write to: Noise and flight evaluation unit
Southampton Airport
Southampton
SO18 2NL

UK Civil Aviation Authority Aviation Related Environmental Enquiries

OFCOM for TV signal concerns

MOD Low Flying Complaints and Enquiries Unit
Email: CAS-lowflying@mod.uk
Telephone: 01780 417558

Southampton Airport Consultative Committee
Telephone: 02380 688298