A sustainable airport noise reduction strategy not only protects nearby residents from unwanted disturbances, it also improves airport operations, thereby indirectly benefitting the local community in terms of economic growth.

But finding the correct balance between keeping local communities happy and preserving the economic growth facilitated by the aviation sector is not an easy task, particularly in Europe, where communities are in closer proximity to airports than in, say, the US or Canada, and environmental regulations are strict.

Not only is it essential to deploy state-of-the-art noise monitoring and reduction technology, it is also crucial to engage local residents and MPs, carefully evaluate the financials of the situation and ensure current regulations are being followed to the letter.

It’s by no means an insurmountable problem, however, as Budapest Airport, which has recently augmented its comprehensive noise reduction strategy with a high-tech ground run-up enclosure (GRE), clearly demonstrates.

Balancing protection and airport efficiency

The latest addition to Budapest Airport is a state-of-the-art GRE installed by Blast Deflectors (BDI), a world leader in jet blast deflectors and acoustic enclosures for aircraft run-ups. Implemented to substantially reduce the run-up sound levels in communities near the airport, it also improves the safety and speed of airport operations.

"We wanted a facility that serves the needs of the aircraft maintenance companies for 24-hour unrestricted use with proper ancillary installations, as well as providing sufficient noise protection to our closest communities," confirms Gábor Szarvas, director of community affairs, environment, health and safety at Budapest Airport.

"The facility was designed to offer a minimum insertion loss of 15dB, which will generally translate to a substantial reduction of run-up sound levels in communities near the airport."

Prior to installing this facility, the airport’s existing GRE had been closed because it was not suitable for the modern Boeing-Airbus fleet and engine test runs were being performed at a remote location on one of the airport’s taxiways. According to Szarvas, despite the negligible contribution ground run-ups add to the airport’s noise burden in comparison with take-offs and landings, this temporary solution had resulted in several noise complaints from local communities.

"We received some complaints from the closest residential areas about ground run-ups," he notes. "For historical reasons, the community near to the current temporary run-up locations is particularly sensitive to the issue."

The new facility will certainly put this issue to rest, according to Don Bergin, director of technical sales at BDI.

"The facility was designed to offer a minimum insertion loss of 15dB, which will generally translate to a substantial reduction of run-up sound levels in communities near the airport," he says.

Moreover, there’s little doubt that the new GRE – only the second modern version installed at an airport in Eastern Europe – will offer higher-quality service for aircraft repair companies too.

"For them, the new GRE is conveniently located, properly lit and, instead of 15-20 minutes of aircraft towing, this facility can be approached within a few minutes without crossing runways, which is also an important safety consideration," says Szarvas.

"Poor air flow and turbulence can create technical problems during ground running of aircraft engines, but this GRE offers a high level of aerodynamic performance in order for facility users to safely test aircraft engines," Bergin adds.

When it came to cost, the new facility also met Budapest Airport’s criteria.

"The main goal was to design and establish a state-of-the-art facility in a cost-effective way with strict deadlines," Szarvas explains. "BDI was selected in a public procurement procedure based on its proven technical skills and track record, as well as consideration of its financial offer for the project."

Moreover, the Budapest GRE has been designed to be easily expandable so that it can be adpated efficiently as environmental regulations and airport policies change.

"Essentially, the initial construction is a two-sided GRE offering noise protection on the rear and one side of the facility," Bergin remarks. "Eventually the facility can be upgraded to include a third acoustic wall."

Community engagement

But a sustainable noise reduction strategy does not just mean installing leading-edge technology, and ensuring it meets regulations and budgetary restrictions; engaging other key stakeholders including local residents and politicians, and educating them about the multiple, long-term benefits of the technology, is also a key component of Budapest’s strategy.

"Budapest Airport has not sacrificed operational efficiency or its potential positive impact on the local economy in order to engage and protect communities in the vicinity."

This has been high on the agenda at Budapest Airport since 2007, when it was privatised and BAA took over the majority of the airport’s shares.

"I can proudly tell you that the privatisation and the current major owner’s takeover in 2007 heralded a new chapter at Budapest Airport," Szarvas emphasises. "Budapest Airport launched a proactive community engagement campaign including a wide range of consultations with all affected municipality, civil and community partners, public consultations and an intensive media campaign.

"Talking honestly about aircraft noise, making commitments to reduce noise burdens on a voluntary basis and launching initiatives were considered to be a totally new approach and therefore it was highly appreciated both by politicians and residents."

Now, because of this history of careful consultation with nearby communities, the public is just as excited as Budapest Airport about the new GRE facility.

"The mayors and councillors of neighbouring municipalities as well as local MPs have been emphasising the importance of this investment for years, because they believe that a modern GRE can significantly contribute to the airport tackling ground noise effectively," Szarvas stresses.

"We are proud of what we have achieved at our airport in the space of a few years. Budapest Airport has matured from a slow, bureaucratic, state-owned company into a successful, environmentally conscious and community-oriented team."

Crucially, though, Budapest Airport has not sacrificed operational efficiency or its potential positive impact on the local economy in order to engage and protect communities in the vicinity, as the successful installation of the new cost-effective and aerodynamically stable GRE clearly demonstrates.

"It is our duty to balance the benefits and the other impacts arising from the operation of the airport," Szarvas concludes.