Herman De Wulf/BRUSSELS

The Belgian Government has announced comprehensive measures to reduce aircraft noise at Brussels Zaventem Airport by up to 30% by mid-2003. The move will effectively ban most freighters, other than the Boeing 757, from night operations.

A 30% increase in aircraft movements, from 300,000 to 400,000, has been approved, along with better rail access, which should halve the number of passengers arriving by car from the present 85%.

There will be no curfew, but aircraft noise will be limited between 23:00 and 06:00 by banning some noisy types and by imposing a fivefold increase in landing fees.

The area around the airport has been divided into "noise zones", with perceived noise levels ranging from 70PndB in the open near the airport, to 50Pndb further away. The Belgian Government will buy houses from their owners at their request in noisier areas, while families in quieter areas will qualify for a subsidy to cover modifications to reduce noise.

Aircraft will be given a noise quotum, which will lead to noisier models being progressively banned. DHL will begin introducing its converted 757 freighters next year, allowing it to continue night operations. It seems, however, that few if any other freight aircraft will qualify to operate from Brussels at night after 2003, casting doubts on the future expansion of the Brucargo freight complex.

Noisier aircraft will be banned progressively between 2001 and 2003, with types affected including the hushkitted Boeing 727-200, McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30, Lockheed L-1011 TriStar and all Boeing 747 models, including the -400. The Airbus A300-600F, Boeing MD-11 and McDonnell Douglas DC-8-70 may be affected.

The Melsbroek air base on the airport's northern perimeter is to close and the general aviation area on the southern perimeter will be relocated. The air base will probably move to Brustem.

Meanwhile, the Belgian Government has ordered an independent study into the feasibility of constructing a new airport to handle air freight exclusively at night after 2010.

Source: Flight International