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Aircraft noise

Noise generated by aircraft arriving into and departing from George Best Belfast City Airport can be detectable over an extended area and can therefore be an important issue for the local community. In addition to this, noise from aircraft taxiing and engine testing can affect those living in the immediate vicinity of the Airport.

  • Our Policy
It is our policy to promote the development of airport capacity in harmony with the environment. We aim to achieve this through the implementation of noise management strategies to limit the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise, and to engage with statutory authorities, elected and community representatives, and other stakeholders in a programme of continuous communication.

Since the Airport began commercial operations in 1983, we have consistently sought to develop and improve the range of management strategies to minimise the impact of aircraft noise on our local community. Our noise management strategy revolves around stipulations in our Planning Agreement (with the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland) and other noise management measures.

  • Stipulations in the Planning Agreement

Restricted operating hours: flights may only be scheduled to operate between 06:30 hours and 21:30 hours. Extensions may be granted to facilitate delayed aircraft up to 23:59 hours in exceptional circumstances.

Movements limit: the Airport may only operate 48,000 aircraft movements in any 12 month period.

Seats for sale limit: airlines may offer no more than 2,000,000 seats for sale on flights from the Airport in any 12 month period.

Flight routings: the majority of flights must take off and land over Belfast Lough. However, as aircraft are required to take off and land by flying into the wind, operating flights over Belfast Lough is not always feasible.

Restricted aircraft types: the Airport is only to accept jet aircraft that are at least Chapter 3 certified (Chapter 3 refers to the noise standard laid down by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO)) and not accept aircraft that are only ‘marginally compliant’ with the Chapter 3 standard as defined under the Aerodromes (Noise Restrictions) (Rules and Procedures) Regulations 2003.

The majority of aircraft operating at the Airport comply with the more stringent Chapter 4 noise standard.

Noise Contours: the Airport must produce on an annual basis, noise contours based on operations during the summer 92 day period (16 June - 15 September). The purpose of doing so is to report the extent of noise impacting upon the local community. These reports are lodged with the relevant government departments and members of the Airport Forum for scrutiny purposes.

Noise and Track Monitoring System: the Airport must operate a noise and track monitoring system.

The Airport has invested approximately £150,000 in a Noise & Track Monitoring System (NTMS). The purpose of this system is to record actual aircraft noise data and flight paths for the ongoing assessment of the impact of aircraft noise on the community. The NTMS is used when investigating specific queries about aircraft movements. Noise data obtained from two fixed noise monitors located under the flight path at each runway end is also used to validate the annual summer noise contours.

We monitor and record data in relation to these stipulations including the number of aircraft movements, flights after 21:30 hours and the number of flights over Belfast Lough and publish this information on our website on a rolling three month basis.

Click here to view these statistics

  • Other Noise Management Measures

Noise Abatement Procedures: the Airport has in force a series of noise abatement procedures for both arriving and departing traffic. These are designed to minimise noise disturbance on the surrounding community while ensuring the safe and efficient management of air traffic at the Airport. These procedures can be summarised as follows:

  •  Departures over Belfast Lough
On attaining a height of 500 feet, aircraft taking off over Belfast Lough must execute a left turn to take the aircraft over water. Only on reaching certain altitudes may aircraft turn south over the North Down coastline (1,500 feet for turboprop aircraft less than 13,000kg, 2,000 feet for turboprop aircraft greater than 13,000kg and 3,000 feet for jet aircraft).
  •  Departures over Belfast City
Similarly, aircraft departing over Belfast City must maintain a straight course until reaching the altitudes set out above. It is only after reaching these altitudes that aircraft may execute a turn.
  • Arrivals over Belfast Lough
Aircraft arriving over Belfast Lough are to cross the North Down coast at an altitude not below 2,500 feet before establishing on the final approach track 5 miles from the runway threshold.
All arriving aircraft are to descend to the runway threshold at an angle of 3 degrees.
  • Arrivals over Belfast City
Aircraft arriving over Belfast City are to establish on the final approach track no later than 5 miles from the runway threshold at an altitude of not below 1,500 feet.
All arriving aircraft are to descend to the runway threshold at an angle of 3 degrees.

Track Monitoring: The Airport’s track monitoring system allows for the monitoring of airline adherence to the above procedures.

Example of departing flight tracks over Belfast Lough

Example of departing flight tracks over Belfast Lough

Ground Noise:
  •  Fixed Electrical Ground Power
To minimise the impact of ground noise, we have installed Fixed Electrical Ground Power (FEGP) on all aircraft stands in front of the terminal which provides aircraft with a silent electrical supply.
  • Engine Testing
There are procedures in place surrounding the timing and location of aircraft ground testing. All engine tests shall be subject to the prior approval of the Airside Standards Department and the test running of aircraft engines is prohibited between 22:30 hours and 06:30 hours.

Community Fund: GBBCA has in place a penalty system on all flights arriving into or departing from the airport after 21:30 hours in order to discourage delays beyond this time. Monies are placed into the Community Fund which is used to support a variety of worthwhile projects in the East Belfast and North Down communities.

  • Our Performance
Link to Statistics web page