Pilots Ignore New Noise Regulations at Ben-Gurion Airport

The number of deviations from permitted noise levels for aircraft taking off from Ben-Gurion International Airport has increased drastically since January, when stricter noise standards came into effect. An internal Civil Aviation Authority report fingers El Al Airlines, the country's flag carrier, as the main offender.

On January 1 the maximum noise limit for takeoffs and landings was reduced by two decibels in an effort to improve the quality of life in communities adjacent to the airport, but the report indicates that pilots have been ignoring the new restrictions.

The report, prepared by the airport's noise monitoring officer, Yossi Zohar, indicates that in January noise limits were exceeded for 21 outgoing flights, representing 0.6 percent of the total. Of these, 16 were during the day and five at night. In December 2009 takeoff noise limits were exceeded on only three flights, or 0.1 percent of outbound flights.

The community most affected by airport noise is Mishmar Hashiva, which accounted for 39 percent of the noise violations, followed by Kiryat Ben-Gurion with 22 percent and Holon's Kiryat Sharett neighborhood, with 19 percent.

The airport's noise monitoring system had been inoperable for 11 months in 2009, until December, in part due to the replacement of the secondary radar system.

The maximum noise limits that came into effect in January of this year are between 85 and 91 decibels for aircraft weighing up to 300 tons and 88 to 93 decibels for heavier planes. The exact amount depends on the runway in use.

Staying within the new noise standards requires the use of newer, lighter aircraft equipped with quieter engines. Pilot behavior plays a significant in noise levels during takeoff and landing. Weather is also a contributing factor, with clouds and inclement conditions tending to increase noise levels.

Of the 21 outbound flights that exceeded the upper limits for noise during takeoff in January, 15 were for El Al flights. Other offenders included Italy Airlines and the U.S.-based cargo carriers Kalitta Air and Evergreen Airlines.

Most of the aircraft involved in exceeding noise limits were Boeing 747 of various models. The 747-200, which serve mainly as El Al cargo planes, accounted for 12 of the offending takeoffs, with 747-400 aircraft accounting for an additional seven.

The Civil Airports Authority and the Israel Airports Authority also intend to reduce the noise generated when planes extend their landing gear in the final approach to the runway. This noise is especially disturbing to residents of Tel Aviv, as the aircraft are flying over the city when this procedure is carried out.

In a response, El Al Airlines said: "El Al has not yet received the report and will study it once it does."