21 Mar Aircraft noise exposure around European airports


Our recent analysis of aircraft noise exposure revealed some important aspects to consider in dealing with the growing attention to negative effects of aviation on the environment. Our Infographic provides interesting insights for Europe’s busiest airports. In this first in a three-part series exploring the challenges, we look at choosing noise mitigation measures based on the communities they affect.

Which measure to use depends largely on the affected population's distance from the airport

Different solutions for different communities

The encroachment at many airports brought on by increasing demand for air travel is pushing the aviation industry to find better measures for aircraft noise mitigation.

A critical part of developing an effective noise mitigation action plan, is to first determine which community to target. Because different noise reduction measures are more effective at different distances, which measure to use depends largely on the affected population’s distance from the airport.

Continuous Descent Operations measures designed to reduce fuel use and noise, for instance, are effective for populations living more than 10km from the airport[1]. Applying noise preferential runway use, on the other hand, can provide relief to communities closer by.

Observations from the infographic

Our Air Traffic Around Airports infographic shows the size of populations living near Europe’s largest airports within a radius of 5km, 10km and 20km. It also compares the number of people to the number of aircraft movements.

A few interesting observations:

  • At 5km, the Lisbon, Paris Orly and Dusseldorf airports have the largest populations. They also have the highest ratios of population to aircraft movements at this radius.
  • At 10km, the airports with the highest exposure per aircraft movement are Lisbon, Paris Orly and Madrid.
  • Of all the European airports, Amsterdam Schiphol, London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle accommodated the highest number of air traffic movements in 2017. Yet, none of these is in the top 3 of populations exposed per aircraft movement.


Those airports with heavy populations within a 5km range would see the most benefits by implementing aircraft noise mitigation measures that affect the communities nearest the airport.

The airports with large populations at the 10km radius and beyond would benefit more from medium to long-range solutions.

Determining the best options

While we cannot draw complete conclusions from just the information presented in this infographic, population density and aircraft movement levels provide clues for which aircraft noise mitigation measures might work best. Further analysis of runway location, aircraft mix, flight path design around residential cores, and even ambient noise at an individual airport would be needed to determine actual noise annoyance and the most effective noise reduction options.

When developing practical and feasible solutions for environmental planning, it is important to fully understand the effects of all these aspects, as well as the impact of airspace use, air traffic operations and aviation policy. Environmental impact studies and the analysis of existing impacts, for example, are an important part of our process for designing and evaluating operational changes and policy frameworks.

Later in this series: Part 2 explores the challenges for authorities in balancing spatial planning and noise mitigation with economic benefits from aviation growth, and Part 3 compares noise mitigation measure efficacy at the various distances from an airport.

[1] Canso & ACI, 2014, Managing the Impacts of Aviation Noise

About To70. To70 is one of the world’s leading aviation consultancies, founded in the Netherlands with offices in Europe, Australia, Asia, and Latin America. To70 believes that society’s growing demand for transport and mobility can be met in a safe, efficient, environmentally friendly and economically viable manner. To achieve this, policy and business decisions have to be based on objective information. With our diverse team of specialists and generalists to70 provides pragmatic solutions and expert advice, based on high-quality data-driven analyses. For more information, please refer to


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Maya De Best
Maya De Best
I studied Airport Planning & Management at Cranfield University, and have been working in the aviation industry since 2011. As an aviation consultant at To70, I am mainly involved in noise impact studies, aviation policy community engagement projects.
Vincent Bijsterbosch
Vincent Bijsterbosch
Since Vincent started here, he contributed in projects related to noise modelling, third party risk assessments, fast-time-simulations studies and aeronautical studies. The projects at to70 are diverse and challenging, which makes this job for Vincent interesting.
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