Research Projects

Aircraft flight procedures: successful implementation to minimize noise exposure

Flight procedures are a key element to predicting and minimizing noise impacts. Deviations from these procedures are causing unnecessary community noise exposure. Identifying deviation-related increases in noise and ways to minimize the deviations will help to reduce noise in communities in the vicinity of airports.

Background (Describe the current situation or problem in the industry, and how your idea would address it.)

Aircraft flight procedures, including waypoint locations, altitudes, and ascent/descent rates, affect noise in the vicinity of airports. Noise analyses incorporate these flight parameters to evaluate/minimize noise exposure to communities. Deviations from the prescribed paths/procedures can lead to adverse noise exposure. Recent implementation of the NextGen navigation system, which allows more precise navigation, has concentrated flight paths, thus magnifying potential noise issues related to particular types of deviations. Although some horizontal deviation of flight paths can help to equitably disperse noise exposure, vertical deviations (aircraft too low) and path deviations (aircraft flying over communities by skipping waypoints), for example, can lead to unnecessary noise exposure.
Many airports are contending with numerous noise complaints and lawsuits from surrounding cities. There is currently not a fair or clear picture on the impact that NextGen has on communities in terms of noise, because noise procedures are not always being followed. In some cases, deviations causing adverse noise effects are occurring for a majority of flights. Understanding the increase in noise due to adverse deviations will help to define their contribution to noise in communities surrounding airports. Finding a solution to maintain implementation of prescribed noise procedures (e.g., altitudes, waypoints, etc.) is a key element to minimizing unnecessary noise due to adverse deviations.

Objective (What is the desired product or result that will help the airport industry?)

The objectives are to identify deviations from prescribed flight paths/waypoints, determine related changes in noise, identify avenues for minimizing deviations, and develop stakeholder training or other material to minimize unnecessary deviations.

Approach (Describe in general terms the steps you think are needed to achieve the objective.)

There are four main tasks for this project:

  1. Identify types and causes of flight path/procedure deviations that can increase noise exposure.
  2. Calculate the potential related noise exposure increases.
  3. Identify avenues for minimizing deviations not related to safety.
  4. Recommend and develop related material (for stakeholders) for the most promising avenue (choice requiring ACRP panel input). (E.g., for training air traffic controllers, this may include training material, a schedule for required training, and a method of accountability).
    The research should include a minimum of three U.S. airport examples where such deviations occur or have the potential to occur.
Cost Estimate and Backup (Provide a cost estimate and support for how you arrived at the estimate.)

Estimated $300,000. Additional funds would be needed if additional airports are added as examples. The cost includes a survey or data gathering from airports or examining historical data, modeling several scenarios for flight deviations, identifying who is responsible for flight deviations then avenues for minimzing them, and finally developing stakeholder materail (which may be training, documents, etc.).

Related Research - List related ACRP and other industry research; describe gaps (see link to Research Roadmaps above), and describe how your idea would address these gaps. This is a critical element of a synthesis topic submission.

We do not have a fair or clear picture on the impact that NextGen has on communities in terms of noise, because we don't know the effect that deviations (e.g., too low elevation or missed waypoints) has on the overall noise problem (a clearly known problem due to the number of complaints and lawsuits). There was a related ACRP project that was cancelled: The new proposed project has a focus that is different enough to warrant consideration. Rather than focusing on changing NextGen, the new proposed project focusses on successful implementation of noise procedures already in place as part of NextGen. Although the attached project would not solve all the noise problems, it could certainly lead to reducing complaints and community exposure to noise.



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Idea No. 292