Legislation will curtail politically motivated efforts to restrict night freight flights

Express package carriers are confident that rules obliging local governments to take a balanced approach when seeking to reduce noise at airports have made a repeat of DHL's forced exit from Brussels National airport unlikely.

DHL, which operates at Brussels through its European Air Transport subsidiary, announced plans to enlarge the hub early last year, but was unable to convince Belgian federal government and state governments to support its request for additional night-flight movements. DHL eventually chose to move its main European hub to Leipzig, Germany, as Brussels was unable to accommodate growth.

Roland Steisel, director of the European Express Association that groups DHL with TNT, FedEx Express and United Parcel Service, says despite the setback of the Brussels decision, its members are confident that safeguards have been put in place to prevent a repeat at another airport.

Procedures for imposing noise restrictions at European airports were prescribed in 2002 and enter national law this year. "The directive mandates a balanced approach that takes into account land planning as well as operational procedures, noisy aircraft and movement restrictions," he says.

Land planning, including noise insulation of areas directly under the flightpath and passive protection measures, such as limiting housing expansion close to the airport noise footprint, is expensive for regional governments and politically sensitive, which has in the past pushed these rulemakers to opt for easier methods, like quotas banning certain aircraft types and reducing movements.

"Mandating the balanced approach is a breakthrough for us, because an obligation is put on governments to do proper homework, so we have a fair chance to make governments reach a fair decision, rather than one politically motivated," says Steisel.

The EEA says the rise to local power in Belgium, France and Germany of green parties in the 1990s led to very sudden noise restrictions at several airports around Europe. "We're not saying 'no restrictions', but we are not happy with sudden change, and this directi


Source: Flight International