As regards noise hindrance, ICAO has approved the « Balanced Approach » principle (A33-7 resolution, October 2001) that defines the main elements of a concept allowing noise from aircraft to be managed around the airports. This principle has been adopted by the European Union in the form of Directive 2002/30/EC that establishes rules and procedures on the introduction of operational restrictions regarding noise at the airports. Its aim is to tackle the noise hindrance problems through a method that meets the environmental aspects and can at the same time be economically justified. This Directive has been translated into Belgian law by the Royal Decree of 25 September 2003.

The balanced approach comprises four elements:

  • noise abatement at the source;
  • operational restrictions at aircraft level;
  • operational noise abatement procedures;
  • land-use management and planning.

Noise abatement at the source

Noise abatement at the source takes into account the technological improvements of aircraft and the modernisation of air fleets.

Operational restrictions at aircraft level

Operational restrictions are achieved through tariff rates intended to penalise the noisiest and reward the least noisy aircraft. These charges take into account noise categories and periods (day/night), access restrictions for the noisier aircraft categories (by using quota counts) and restrictions of the number of movements and/or allowed quotas. This system has been applied at Brussels Airport for several years now and is made up by six noise categories (since November 2011) and a much higher rate at night than by day in order to encourage airlines through a financial incentive to use the least noisy aircraft.

Operational noise abatement procedures

The geographical distribution of the areas suffering from noise hindrance due to the landings and take-offs depends entirely on political decisions taken by the Belgian federal government and by the Regions (for the regional airports). The role of Belgocontrol is to advise on the applicability of the measures from an operational point of view with safety as its prime criterion. At Brussels National Airport, Belgocontrol is responsible for implementing the Preferential Runway System (PRS) after a safety survey. The application of the PRS by Belgocontrol is verified by the Belgian Civil Aviation Authority and the Belgian Supervisory Authority (BSA). The Preferential Runway System is available in the AIP.

The operational noise reduction procedures recommended by ICAO are already being applied by Belgocontrol. Since a few years, Belgocontrol's efforts to reduce noise hindrance focus on an innovative technique called Continuous Descent Operations (CDO): a flight technique that enables the aircraft to descend with minimal engine power, in function of the flight characteristics and the air traffic situation. This results in the reduction of noise hindrance, kerosene consumption as well as greenhouse gas emissions. CDO is applied in a test phase by our services and the pilots of 5 airline companies for the landings at Brussels National Airport. Considering the Belgian airspace is particularly complex, the technique is not systematically and generally applicable. However, the B3 project studied the possibilities to apply CDO to the fullest extent. This project was financed by SESAR JU and united Belgocontrol, Brussels Airlines and The Brussels Airport Company.

The procedures of Collaborative Decision Making (CDM) also contribute to noise abatement near airports.

Land use management and planning

The government of the Walloon region has tackled the noise hindrance problem at the airports of Liège and Charleroi. Noise contours were defined and land use planning was implemented, yielding very positive results.

At Brussels National Airport the situation is more complex, considering the historical nature of the location of the airport and the sustained and relatively recent development of air traffic.
Belgocontrol is not in any way authorized to register or handle the complaints concerning noise hindrance around the airports. This mission is entrusted to:

Annual report 2017  
Video: Our Mission  
Video: Air traffic control - Main task