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EU ministers back airport noise rule changes

European Union Member States have backed revision of EU rules covering noise at airports.

A meeting of the European Council covering transport issues has seen transport ministers support new measures covering noise from airports.

The measures, which will see the repeal of Directive 2002/30/EC and its replacement by a new regulation, are being portrayed by the Commission as a balancing act between the need to provide more air transport and to control noise from airports.

They will now go for consideration by the European Parliament.

The European Commission said the new measures try to seek a balance between noise and airport growth

Speaking after the European Union Council meeting yesterday (June 7 2012) in Luxembourgh, Siim Kallas, the European Commission vice-president in charge of transport, thanked the Danish Presidency for its “energetic management of the Better Airports proposals, which has now seen agreement reached by the Council both for groundhandling (on 22 March) and today for noise.”

Mr Siim continued: “Transport ministers have been able to reach a general approach on this politically sensitive issue which is an important step. Decisions on noise restrictions will remain clearly for Member States, but I am also conscious of the impact of restrictions on the aviation network. So we have to ensure a process which is fair and which respects international rules.”

First proposal

Originally, the Commission on 1 December 2011 adopted a proposal for a regulation on noise-related operating restrictions, in the context of the “Better airports package”, together with proposals on groundhandling and airport slots.

The Commission said, after yesterday’s meeting: “Air traffic noise is affecting the quality of life of citizens in the vicinity of airports. At the same time, the travelling public wants to maintain a large choice of air services and aviation is a regional engine for growth. The challenge is to strike the balance between these two objectives and take more evidence-based decisions, with due respect for the global character of aviation. The proposal also makes it possible to phase out the noisiest aircraft of the fleet, which contribute in a disproportionate way to air traffic noise.”

And, the Commission said that the main aspects of its proposal are:

  • The new rules will more clearly identify all actors in the noise assessment process with their respective rights and obligations. Citizens living in the vicinity of an airport will become involved in the noise assessment process and will be formally consulted before an authority decides on an operating restriction.
  • Competent authorities should be able to focus on the noisiest aircraft of the fleet (the so-called ‘marginally compliant aircraft’) and phase them out first, instead of introducing general night flight bans, which would also affect aircraft operators which have been investing in quieter aircraft. The transport ministers have accepted a more stringent definition of such ‘marginally compliant aircraft’, with step-by-step implementation towards greater stringency.
  • The Commission will have a right to review the quality of the decision-making process to ensure that all steps in the process have been respected, in line with international commitments.
  • The Commission will be empowered to update the noise standards in view of international developments within the International Civil Aviation Organization, the UN body for international civil aviation responsible for setting noise standards for aircraft.
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