Citizen Science Study of Overflight Noise from New and Old Generation Aircraft at London City Airport

Nold, Christian; Haklay, Muki; Walker, Tim; Doherty, John; Morris, Martin and Boon, Gregory (2023). Citizen Science Study of Overflight Noise from New and Old Generation Aircraft at London City Airport. Community Science



This study employs a citizen science methodology to compare the overflight noise of the Embraer E190-E2 with the older Embraer E190 aircraft at London City Airport. The study assesses whether new generation aircraft are quieter in a real-world overflight scenario away from the immediate take-off and landing area. The study uses six monitoring sites, which are an average of 9km from the airport runway and underneath the easterly wind arrivals flight path. The data was gathered using the Explane smartphone app that has a 2dB margin of error. Results from the study indicate a modest 1.7dB noise reduction in new aircraft, with instances of newer models being louder in certain locations and some of the loudest overall. This raises doubts whether a shift towards the new aircraft would create any meaningful reduction in aircraft noise for the communities overflown at London City Airport. It also raises questions about the airport expansion noise models, which are premised on the assumption that the new generation aircraft are significantly quieter. This study argues that airport stakeholders bear the obligation of conveying public environmental information with greater precision and nuance, both in terms of what is established and what remains uncertain concerning noise. They should avoid universalising and potentially misleading phrases like ‘cleaner, quieter new generation aircraft.’ The study suggests a need for a larger follow-up study of real-life noise monitoring at London City Airport using formal and citizen science methods to foster transparency and trust in airport management and policymaking.

Plain Language Summary

This research is a collaboration between community and professional scientists aimed at exploring if newer planes are quieter than older ones at London City Airport when they fly over houses and not only during take-off or landing as normally measured by the airport. The team used a smartphone app to collect the noise data. Measurements were made at six places not too close to the runway where planes come in from the east. The study found that the newer planes are a little quieter, but sometimes they can be noisier in some spots. The study says the airport should be clearer about what they know and don’t know about airplane noise and refrain from using catchy phrases like ‘cleaner, quieter new generation aircraft’ because they are not always true. There should be another bigger study to keep track of the noise at London City Airport in real-life situations. This study should involve experts and members of the public working together to better understand airplane noise.

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