European Parliamentarian calls for noise ban exemption for ‘hushed’ aeroplanes

A new draft report on aircraft noise for the European Committee on Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism (RETT) has urged a selective ban on ‘hushkitted’ planes to replace the existing temporary blanket ban on marginally compliant aircraft.

The report, from German MEP Georg Jarzembowski, says there is “a certain urgency” attached to finalising the proposals, which are to go before the committee next week for a first exchange of views.

Mr Jarzembowski warns that continuing the 100% ban will lead to problems with the US, where most of the ‘hushkitted’ aircraft originate from – these are older aircraft retrospectively fitted with noise-suppression equipment.

The report contrasts with the previous draft opinion from the environment committee rapporteur Hans Blokland, which called for greater flexibility to enable countries to ban noisier planes quickly. The Jarzembowski report calls for a “much more differentiated” ban, which would allow some of these aircraft to use EU airports.

Mr Jarzembowski warns that if the committee fails to reach agreement before the 1 April deadline, the ‘hushkitted’ aircraft will be banned from EU airports, hence the requirement for a rapid compromise.

The committee pointed out that it has been able to relax its Hushkits Regulation because the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) updated its standards in June 2001, producing a new noise certification standard that established a new cumulative limit 10dB lower than the limits in the existing standard. The ICAO assembly also adopted new guidance on noise management, particularly for ‘marginally compliant’ aircraft, in particular imposing noise-related operating restrictions at particular airports.

These changes have allowed the Commission to repeal the Hushkits Regulation and incorporate the ICAO guidelines into its new Directive.

The recommendations of the draft report will form a key element of the proposed Directive on establishing rules and procedures for introducing noise-related operating restrictions at EU airports in urban areas.

The proposals will see ‘competent authorities’ being given the power to impose restrictions on marginally compliant aircraft at these airports. According to Jarzembowski’s amendment, the authorities will have the power to ban these aircraft from an airport at an annual rate of not more than 20% of the operator’s original aircraft movements. This is a change from the previous proposal, to remove not more than 20% of the operator’s fleet, a move that will make the mix of the fleet irrelevant.

The changes will also see developing countries gain a ten-year period of grace during which they will still be able to land marginally compliant aircraft at restricted airports.

The European Union has been trying to reduce noise pollution at its airports for some time, introducing a tranche of legislation to achieve this end. A lack of other measures at an international level was the impetus for reform.

The EU was also keen to prevent a proliferation of local noise-related operating restrictions at Community airports, fearing that this might create operational confusion and distort competition.

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