I stumbled upon this article (sorry, in French!) stating that in order to avoid fines, Ryanair pilots start take-off procedures at the beginning of the runway (rather than at the "intersection"), with extra engine power (24klb instead of 22klb in Brussels airport) -> this allows pilots to take tighter turns and avoid the noise-sensitive Brussels region.

I know that most (if not all?) major airports have noise monitoring terminals (NMT) in their vicinity which constantly measure the noise as it is perceived on the ground.

From the article, it seems like a single aircraft can be fined for being too "noisy" (i.e. noise generated at monitor above a certain limit). If such is the case:

  • What is the noise fining policy around an airport / Are there internationally agreed rules on noise limits around airports?
  • Is it common practice (is it even possible) to "single out" an aircraft and fine the pilot/company for generating too much noise on ground?
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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking for a specific jurisdiction the answer may change at different place around the world. $\endgroup$
    – Dave
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ @Dave I was interested in Brussels area jurisdiction in particular, but more generally it would be interesting to know whether an airport can fine a pilot/company for emitting too much noise at a given point where sound exposure is being monitored (I understand that limits may vary from one airport to another). $\endgroup$
    – harveyAJ
    Commented May 15, 2017 at 14:07

2 Answers 2


Ill answer this for the FAA (here in the US) but keep in mind this differs around the globe.

The FAA outlines some of their noise abatement information here. They created a special website that has a lot of the data here if you are interested.

There are 2 basic scenarios here in the US, towered and un-towered operations. There can be a noise abatement or related procedure in place in both cases and it is both the pilots and towers (when applicable) responsibility for knowing them and abiding by them. Some of them may be set in place by local governments (if its say a municipal airport) and you may face local legal action for violating them.

At a towered airport that has a noise abatement the tower will generally not vector you to that area or have you use a given runway provide conditions allow. For example when I fly out of KPNE there is an abatement in place, in this case they only list Rwy 15 arrival (stay above the glide slope) however there is another abatement in place on the weekends to keep you from flying over the heavily residential areas early in the morning. The tower vectors you appropriately for that one.

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At un-towered airports there may be a published noise abatement that you are requested to follow. For example I fly out of KDYL which has a noise abatement in place (to keep you from flying over downtown). In this case we can see it noted in the AFD. Although its not fully explained the procedures are for RW 23 turn to 250 as soon as practically possible, for RW05 no turns under 1200 ft. and there are no touch and go's at any time.

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In both cases the procedures have a similar outcome to what you have described, keep the airplanes away form the populated areas. The procedures vary heavily per airport and scenario but all generally strive for the same outcome.

The FAA advises you to first report a violation to the airport but also provides contact info for directly reporting to the FAA. You can single out a given aircraft by accurately reporting the time of the incident (and if its visible) describing the aircraft. Granted it can be difficult at an un-towered field to know who exactly was departing if no one was around to see it or on the radio to hear it. Once reported the local authorities may have the right to fine you for the violation (if that is the punishment on the books). For example in the NY/NJ area the Port Authority handles the violations and does hold the ability to issue fines.

Long beach airport lists their fines on their site

If a plane violates the Noise Ordinance, how much are they fined?

  • The initial phases of our violation process are educational: the first time an owner/operator violates, they will receive a complete packet including a copy of our Noise Ordinance, an outline of what the infraction was, a letter from GANC offering assistance with procedures, and a warning letter asking them to contact noise abatement staff.

  • The second violation involves a notification letter of infraction and a request for a written noise abatement program, where we ask the owner/operator to communicate how they plan to operate without violating our ordinance in the future.

  • The third violation is a fine of $100 dollars. The fourth and every subsequent fine of 300 dollars. Please note that Military aircraft are exempt from this policy.

And it looks like, according to the regulations, the airport manager issues the fine and the payments go to the airport. This may vary by jurisdiction on how they chose to govern things like this. Over all the answer to your question is, yes airports can fine pilots (well really owner/operators) for noise violations.

There are also noise limits on aircraft that deal with engine noise but are generally handled during the certification phase of the air frame. This helps to reduce airport noise overall.

As for global regulations the IATA has outlined some stuff here with the full text here. ICAO has a set of policies you can find some references to here.

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    $\begingroup$ Individual airports can also ban aircraft from using them if they violate their noise requirements (like Santa Monica). $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 0:55
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @Notts90 for pointing that out and thanks Dave for updating! I'm impressed by the level of detail! Will need a couple of hours to go through all that :) $\endgroup$
    – harveyAJ
    Commented May 16, 2017 at 11:56
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    $\begingroup$ I will add a bit of extra info, in case people are interested in noise fining policiy in the UK (Heathrow airport). Stumbled upon this: your.heathrow.com/heathrow-departure-routes-explained there is a table explaining the fine policy at Heathrow airport in the UK (scroll down to section "Noise limits on departure"). The table details (for departures only) the different penalties applied for aircraft that go above noise exposure limits $\endgroup$
    – harveyAJ
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 14:01

In the EU, regulation differ from airport to airport. However, every major airport use a system which logs every radar track from every movement around the airport. Every airplane can by using the radar logs be "singled out". A movement is defined as either an approach or a departure.

If someone complains about aircraft noise and provides a time for the inconvenience the airport can always go in and see which aircraft individual that caused the noise. All movements/tracks is usually controlled on a regular basis. If the pilot/airline has broken any of the environmental conditions the following will happen:

A polite letter is sent to the owner/airline of the aircraft telling them that they have violated a condition in the environmental permit, how, where and when. If multiple violations from the same airline occurs the airport manager contacts the airline management. Usually it stops there. Otherwise it will end up in court.

In Sweden where I come from the airport manager is responsible to make sure that the conditions in the environmental permit is fulfilled - not the aircraft owners. The regulating authorities can issue a fine to the airport if multiple violations occurs, not to airlines or pilots.

However, by using the airport you must as a pilot agree to follow the designated routes for approach and departure. By following the routes (SID, STAR) and the instructions from the ATC the aircraft will not violate any environmental condition. If the pilot cannot follow SID, STAR and ATC instruction the pilot will end up lose the license to fly.

EDIT: Some (I would guess all) airports have fines on noisier aircraft models, based on the ICAO noise certification value that exist for every aircraft model. That has nothing to do with fines from pilot errors (turn to early or to late) that also causes noise over certain areas, that can be no-fly-zones.

  • $\begingroup$ How do you work out whether an aircraft has breached the law from radar data only? Sure, the altitude clearly has an incidence on noise, but I guess you need to have a look into power-setting which is not part of radar data (or is it?).... I guess my question is, how can you be sure the aircraft has broken the environmental conditions when the airport isn't equipped with noise monitors? (I am aware that I just split hairs here :)) $\endgroup$
    – harveyAJ
    Commented Dec 5, 2017 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ How would they use radar to single out no-transponder targets (given that primary radar returns are reliably intermittent and reliably vague about an aircraft's precise position)? $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 4:39

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