Noise levels near airports are a headache for local residents and also one of the biggest factors in the controversy of whether Heathrow should get a third runway.
This summer the Fly Quiet survey tested noise levels from fifty airlines using Heathrow over the period July to September, with a view to naming and shaming the worst offenders. The ignominy of noisiest airline went to the Polish carrier LOT, with Israel’s El Al and Thai Airways coming close behind. The accolade of quietest carrier went to BA (short haul) with Virgin Atlantic’s Little Red service (domestic flights) and the Irish carrier Aer Lingus in second and third places respectively.
It seems that the age of the plane is significant in determining how noisy it will be, as well as the way in which it is flown. For instance, a steep descent is less noisy than a long steady descent because it needs less engine thrust and also keeps the plane higher in the sky for longer. Forty out of the fifty airlines surveyed met the airport’s minimum noise regulations with forty-seven satisfying five out of the six criteria.
The full report was available on Heathrow’s official website and it was easy to see by means of a “traffic light” system used in the league table just who are the offenders and in which areas. For instance, BA (long haul), Cathay Pacific and Vueling get the thumbs down for unscheduled landings before 6 a.m.
A spokesperson for HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) has hailed the league table as a “constructive move to improve the noise climate”.