Night noise quotas at London's two largest airports are to be cut to take account of the greater use of quieter aircraft and maintain pressure for further improvement. The move reflects the UK's response to growing pressure throughout Europe to find ways of limiting the environmental impact of airport operations.

The noise regulator, in this case the UK's Department of the Environment, Transport, and the Regions (DETR), has said that the increasing use of quieter aircraft at Heathrow Airport in particular means that it is now using only 77% of its night noise quota. This has destroyed the incentive to improve noise performance further, so it has cut the airport's noise quota by 20% for the October 1999-April 2000 period.

Since the end of 1995, Gatwick has been taking on progressively more long haul scheduled operations displaced from Heathrow, which has increased the average noise per movement. As a result, the present quota, which has been the operational limiting factor since then, has been forcing the number of night movements to drop. Gradually, however, the introduction of quieter aircraft is restoring potential movement numbers within Gatwick's noise quota, so the DETR is to leave its quotas unchanged until 2002, then reintroduce the pressure for quieter aircraft by cutting it in 2003/4.

Meanwhile, Stansted's old role as mainly a night mail and freight airport has altered, and it is now also a major hub for regional and European passenger schedules and start-up carriers. The DETR, therefore, plans to allow Stansted's night noise quota to increase by 3.5% per annum in 2003/4 as it has become the growth-limiting factor. The maximum allowable number of night movements is not used up, so this is to remain the same.

Source: Flight International