The Trust, together with HACAN, co-sponsored a major research project pulling together studies on health and aircraft noise from around the world. The report, undertaken by the Aviation Environment Federation, was launched in Parliament in January 2016 and can be read here
The report identified that aircraft noise can no longer be considered simply as an inconvenience to people’s lives. Major studies have concluded that aircraft noise is negatively affecting people’s health and quality of life.
Exposure to aircraft noise can lead to short-term responses such as sleep disturbance, annoyance, and impairment of learning in children, and long-term exposure is associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, dementia, and may contribute to long-term mental health issues.
In the UK, over one million peopleare exposed to aircraft noise above levels recommended for the protection of health, estimated in the report to cost £540 million each year.
Around 460 schools are exposed to aircraft noise at levels around Heathrow that can impede memory and learning in children while around 600,000 people in the UK are exposed to average aircraft noise levels that risk regular sleep disturbance.
In 2006, to better understand the mood among the British public regarding air travel and its impact on the environment, the Trust commissioned Ipsos MORI to undertake a survey among UK residents (excluding Northern Ireland). The research also examined the potential acceptability of an increase in tax on air travel. Based on the results of this public survey, Ipsos MORI concluded that:
The aviation and climate change debate is often heated and confrontational, highlighting the need to have a rational debate based on scientific evidence and understanding of the problem. In response, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) launched a project to create an open dialogue between all stakeholders on aviation and climate change to raise awareness of the issues. Having an independent study was seen as an important resource for all stakeholders to begin that dialogue.The AET, together with the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, sponsored the inclusion of non-governmental organisations in this process, both to inform the study and to find common ground to promote change through creative leadership. The subsequent SDC report “Breaking the Holding Pattern” has created a foundation for an open dialogue on aviation policy in the future.
With the support of Awards for All, we sponsored a pilot project to take primary school children from two schools in Hounslow, situated under or close to the Heathrow flight path, on visits to a nearby country park. The UK education curriculum requires schools to deliver learning to primary school children not just in the classroom but beyond it, yet children in some areas have little access to the sights and sounds of the natural world. For children whose schools are affected by aircraft noise, outdoor learning can be very difficult. The potential benefit of this approach was recognised in the Government’s Air Transport White Paper, and this project gathered further evidence from staff, pupils and parents on the value of such trips, as well as developing recommendations on how the scheme could be extended to other schools in the future.
Together with the community-based organisation HACAN, the Trustees were pleased to sponsor research on the feasibility of introducing alternative operational practices at Heathrow with a view to minimising aircraft noise, particularly on arrival. Aircraft noise policy in the UK has aimed to minimise the number of people exposed, but this has led to significant overflying of communities under the flight path, with little or no respite except for runway alternation. The frequency of noise events experienced by these communities is masked by the average noise exposure contours produced for the airport as the methodology is relatively insensitive to changes in the number of flights. The research examined the current regime at the airport and how operations have changed over time; examples of procedures in other countries where dispersal of flight paths has led to a successful outcome, and; the potential of new operational concepts currently being evaluated including curved Continuous Descent Approaches and steeper glideslopes on arrival.
Air freight using UK airports is growing at a record rate and can give rise to a range of environmental problems, including the noise disturbance created by freight operations at night. But there are wider issues to consider, including whether it encourages unsustainable patterns of trade where “global markets” are favoured over the development of a thriving local economy; balanced against these arguments is the fact that many developing economies rely on such trade. As air freight is often overlooked by policy-makers, the Trust supported research to better understand these challenges and its implications for airport development in the UK. Undertaken by Rose Bridger, an expert on global supply chains, the research looked at the growth trends in air freight including an analysis of what is being flown in and out of UK airports, for what purpose, and its origins and destinations, and; what proportion of goods could be carried by other means (and the environmental, social and policy implications of this approach).
With companies increasingly focused on how to reduce their carbon footprint, many are beginning to look at how they use air travel. To help understanding of these issues and potential solutions, the AET supported non-governmental organisation particpation in Project ICARUS, an initiative created by the Institute of Travel and Meetings (ITM) and since acquired by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA). ITM, the recognised body for business travel brought together travel buyers and managers from major companies, partnerships and government, and created ICARUS as a definitive source of information, education and support for sustainability issues in business travel and meetings. Its four key components included: encouraging reductions in carbon emissions; developing an understanding of the wider sustainability issues; providing educational programs and events specialising in sustainability; and recognising companies who have adopted these best practices. Specific initatives have included the development of a tool kit for travel managers on how to measure and reduce emissions, as well as case studies on alternatives such as video conferencing.