Noise from planes is regulated on several levels.

Tighter regulation

a. International noise regulations

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is part of the United Nations and regulates civil aviation across the world. It sets the standards that planes have to meet on a whole range of issues, including noise.

From time to time, ICAO sets new noise standards. Aeroplane and engine manufacturers then have to ensure that all new aircraft are built to these standards – or ‘Chapters’, as they are known (from the relevant chapter of Annex 16 of the ICAO Convention on Civil Aviation).

In 2001, ICAO set a new set of standards – called ‘Chapter 4’. They said that from 2006, all new aircraft must be 10 dB quieter than today’s standard (which is ‘Chapter 3’). Chapter 3 aircraft are themselves again quieter than their predecessor, ‘Chapter 2’, which are now completely banned in Europe.

As you can see, this is an on-going process, and ICAO will review its ‘Chapter 4’ standards again at some point in the future. This process shows that the international regulations have two functions: they drive the manufacturers to improve standards, and they also push out planes that only meet the older standards.

But do we have a say in how this works?
This is an important process. To get tighter noise regulations introduced more quickly, we talk to and lobby these international bodies – both directly and indirectly, through the national and international associations that we’re members of.

b. UK noise regulations

Noise at Gatwick is regulated by the Department for Transport (DfT). There are many regulations which must be kept to and which are referred to on this website. In summary, they are:

Night-time noise restrictions

The size of the Quota Counts.
The number of flights allowed at night.
It is our job to make sure that the airlines operate strictly within these restrictions.

How much noise a plane can make when it is taking off

94dB during the day.
89dB in the ‘shoulder period’.
87dB at night.
These limits set by the DfT apply at 6.5km from the start of the roll, ie the point on the runway where the plane starts to move in order to take off.
If a plane goes over these levels, we will fine them. We then use the money for local community projects.

The flight paths that a plane must follow when it is taking off

  • The height at which a plane can leave a take-off flight path.
  • Some specific procedures for take-offs and landings. For example, pilots have to avoid flying over Horley or Crawley when they take off.

The airport, airlines and ATC work with the airlines to try and improve their performance.

c. Local noise regulations and agreements

Gatwick is not just regulated by the DfT. It also has to comply with restrictions that the local authority and/or a panning inquiry impose as conditions of development at the airport.

In order to expand the airport to manage an expected 40 million passengers a year, Gatwick consulted with local people and entered into an agreement with local authorities about the best way to do this.

The agreement contains around 150 commitments some of which are legally binding. Gatwick takes these commitments very seriously and reports on them regularly to the local community. These cover many issues, including noise. One example is that the area covered by the 57dB contour has to be much smaller by 2008 that it was in 1996.