Airport Noise and Capacity Act of 1990

In 1990, the first comprehensive airport noise regulation statute, the Airport Noise and Capac­ity Act (ANCA), became law.

ANCA recognized that a national aviation noise policy was vital to the fitness of the coun­try’s air transportation system. Former Secretary of Transportation Samuel Skinner is on record as asserting that ANCA is “the most significant piece of aviation legislation since the deregula­tion act.” ANCA effectively altered the land­scape in matters of aviation noise.

Federal noise regulations in 1990 classified aircraft as Stage 1, Stage 2, or Stage 3 aircraft, with Stage 1 being the loudest. All Stage 1 air­craft have been phased out of service. ANCA mandated that no Stage 2 aircraft could be added to the fleet or imported into the United States after November 5, 1990, and that all unmodi­fied Stage 2 aircraft be phased out of service by December 31, 1999. Stage 2 aircraft include the 727, DC-9, and early versions of the 737 and 747. These airplanes were developed in the 1960s and 1970s.

Stage 3 aircraft must meet separate stan­dards for takeoff, landing, and sideline measure­ments, depending on the aircraft’s weight and number of engines. Stage 3 aircraft are the newer and quieter 757, 767, and MD-80 series, later versions of the 737 and 747, and aircraft that have been retrofitted with quieter engines by the noise reducing “hush kits.”

Under the provisions of ANCA, which apply to aircraft of at least 75,000 pounds certificated weight, airport operators were specifically reg­ulated as to when and how they could restrict Stage 2 and Stage 3 aircraft operations at their local airports, reaffirming the supremacy of the federal government over aviation policy in the

United States. Airport operators were prohibited from issuing unilateral restrictions on Stage 3 aircraft, since such aircraft comprise the state-of – the-art in aircraft noise. To paraphrase, the federal government in effect said, “This is the best we can do in engine noise, these are the airplanes that are necessary to be used in air transportation, and they will be allowed to fly no matter what the locals say.” Any attempted local regulation of Stage 3 aircraft would thus amount to an unlawful usurpa­tion of the federal prerogatives regarding aviation. Subject to due process safeguards, such as notice and opportunity to be heard, airport proprietors were allowed to apply certain reasonable restric­tions on the operation of Stage 2 aircraft as long as such local authorities did not impair the national policy of “phase out” articulated in the statute.

The ICAO standards for aircraft noise are contained in “Chapters” to the above-referenced publication known as Annex 16, Environmen­tal Protection, Volume I, which deals with air­craft noise. The work done at ICAO on aircraft noise is also performed in the aforementioned Committee on Aviation Environmental Protec­tion (CAEP), which was established in 1983. Its Chapters 2 and 3 fairly track the standards found in the FAA’s designation of Stage 2 and Stage 3 aircraft.

In June 2001, ICAO adopted new, more stringent noise standards, as recommended by CAEP, which went into effect on January 1, 2006. These standards mandate a noise reduc­tion level of 10 dB below the standards previ­ously required (Chapter 3). These standards are referred to as Chapter 4 standards by ICAO.

These standards were adopted by the FAA by rule on July 5, 2005, designated as Stage 4 standards by the FAA, which also went into effect on January 1, 2006.4 These noise standards are intended to provide uniform noise certifica­tion standards for Stage 4 airplanes certificated in the United States. There is no weight limitation or exclusion for airplane type designs submitted after January 1, 2006; thus, all aircraft types will be subject to the Stage 4 noise standards.

Care should be taken to note the difference between the requirements of ANCA and the new FAA rule. ANCA, which requires compliance with Stage 3 standards, only applies to aircraft with certificated weight of 75,000 pounds and above. The new FAA rule, which requires new type designs to comply with Stage 4 standards, applies to all new airplane type design submis­sions, regardless of weight.

Although noise control of aircraft is exclu­sively a federal function, airport authorities and local governments do have the option to mitigate noise effects through land use controls, such as zoning and land acquisition, which the FAA agrees is the exclusive domain of state and local governments. Indeed, federal policy respecting Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funding favors the use of such funds for that purpose. Airport operators applying for funds for these purposes must design noise exposure maps and develop mitigation programs consistent with federal requirements to insure that noise levels are compatible with adjacent land uses. Noise compatibility projects include residential and public building sound insulation. They include land acquisition and relocating residents from noise-sensitive areas. Airports have also installed noise monitoring equipment and noise barriers to reduce ground run-up noise.

ANCA also provides for additional funding sources by permitting the use of passenger facil­ity charges (PFCs) for land use control. Airports have collected and used PFC funds for noise stud­ies and mitigation totaling $15 billion as of 2005.

Overall, ANCA provides a framework for the implementation of a national policy of aircraft noise control, and reaffirms that local govern­ments have the continuing obligation to adhere to that policy and to cooperate with federal authori­ties to secure the achievement of such national interests. The policy is working. According to sta­tistics supplied by FAA, exposure to airline noise has decreased significantly and consistently from 1975 to 2001. Airline noise levels are calculated using the number of persons exposed to 65 dbA, in millions. In 1975, some 7 million people were subject to noise levels in excess of that number, while in 2001, the number of persons exposed to 65 dbA had declined to just 0.4 million. (See Figure 34-5.)

Through FAA efforts, under the AIP set – aside programs, residential and school popu­lations in the hundreds of thousands are now exposed to reduced aircraft noise (at or below 65 dbA) as of 2010.

Continuous Lower Emission, Energy, and Noise Program (CLEEN)

The CLEEN program was initiated by the FAA in a partnership format with the aviation industry with the objective of reducing aircraft fuel bum by 33 percent and reducing oxides of nitrogen by 60 percent compared to ICAO emissions standards. This voluntary effort attempts to get out in front of the regulatory scheme favored by the EU (and acceded to by the FAA under ICAO guidelines).

The program also seeks to reduce aircraft noise by 32 decibels from the current ICAO standard. Technologies include lighter and more efficient gas turbine engine components, noise – reducing engine nozzles, adaptable wing trail­ing edges, optimized flight trajectories using NextGen flight management systems, and open rotor and geared turbofan engines. The CLEEN program will accelerate the development of these technologies for potential introduction into air­craft and engines beginning in 2015. [19] [20]

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