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Increasing air traffic in “one of the most densely-populated regions in the world”, Europe, warrants the introduction of “new, more stringent” noise standards, say the European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI) in its response to EC Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio’s Communication on Air Transport and the Environment.

The EC is at odds with the USA over the use of retro-fitted hushkits on aircraft (see related story) but hopes to avoid a trade war on the issue by securing a general improvement in aircraft noise standards at the next meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

Interestingly, ACI Europe would support a unilateral tightening of aircraft noise regulations by the EU if the ICAO talks fail. “The ICAO process is relatively slow,” acknowledges ACI Europe. “If an agreement at an international level proves impossible to reach in 2001, ACI Europe believes that the EU should adopt its own noise standards.”

ACI Europe has also responded positively to EC plans for improved land-use guidance for development near airports. The organisation says that poor planning has led to inappropriate development – including a considerable amount of residential development – close to airports. Residents’ complaints regarding aircraft noise have become heated in many European cities including Brussels (see related story), Amsterdam and Paris.

“Although the establishment and enforcement of land-use planning controls are the responsibility of local and national governments, the Commission could encourage governments to enforce such legislation by producing guidelines based on best practice techniques,” says ACI Europe.

The environmental cost of aircraft being delayed landing clearance – and therefore being forced to circle the destination airport – is also referred to in ACI Europe’s submission to the Transport Directorate General. “It is widely accepted that the greatest source of these delays is the fragmented nature of air traffic control in Europe,” states the submission. “The only effective means of dealing with this is to reform European air traffic control urgently.”

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