Generally, current understanding of the factors that influence community responses toward aircraft noise is inadequate. Moreover, an airport’s grasp of these factors is important to its ability to manage local aircraft noise issues within the community. When aircraft noise causes community opposition to airport operations or planned development, airports have often attempted to overcome the project-specific opposition rather than manage community expectations for the long term. Without effective, long-term management of community expectations for aircraft noise, airports face a significant constraint to meeting future airport-capacity needs.
It is increasingly important for airport decision makers to understand the aircraft noise issue and to take advantage of successful practices at other airports to manage community aircraft noise expectations. Airports also need new techniques or assessment methods to communicate more effectively and thereby manage community expectations.
Even where the airport eventually succeeds in reducing community opposition to airport development or expanded operation, the process can delay completion of needed facilities because of political action or lawsuits. Apart from the direct costs of legal action, these delays can add significantly to the costs or benefits of specific projects. In extreme cases, despite implementing many known noise mitigation procedures, airports have been forced to abandon development of much needed new facilities because of unmanaged expectations from aircraft noise.
As demand for more air travel forces more metropolitan regions to expand existing airports or seek sites for new secondary airports or even to relocate existing airports from constrained sites, community attitudes toward new and expanded airports will become an even more important element of airport system planning. Although various factors influence community attitudes about airport operations, aircraft noise is the dominant issue at many airports. Research is needed to provide airports with tools to manage these noise issues.
The objectives of this project are to (1) develop an informative guidebook about local aircraft noise to inform readers with a direct interest, involvement, or investment in airports; (2) develop a toolkit that airport decision makers can use to manage expectations related to aircraft noise within the community; (3) investigate alternative metrics to communicate noise issues to the community; and (4) suggest other improvements that go beyond current practice to ease aircraft-noise issues. For this project, the term “noise issues” involves the socioeconomic, political, operational, safety, environmental, and legal impacts of aircraft noise on an airport; the complaints about aircraft noise from neighbors; the effects that noise has on neighbors; and the communication between the airport and its neighbors. This research should identify the actual jurisdictional authority over various aspects of the aircraft-noise issue, and the obstacles to airport operations and development because of community perceptions of local aircraft noise.
Status: The guidebook has been published as ACRP Report 15: Aircraft Noise: A Toolkit for Managing Community Expectations.