Managing noise is a crucial factor for any airport to run efficiently and to build stronger links with the local community, which is why modern noise management systems have become a vital part of their infrastructure. On one hand, these complex platforms give rise to an incredible amount of data that gives valuable insights into the airport’s operations. On the other, they facilitate the sharing of this data with the public, helping environmental departments to be more transparent about aircraft comings and goings, and more responsive towards people who raise concerns about their environmental impact.
For Manchester Airports Group (M.A.G), upgrading their noise management technology was a unique opportunity to optimize operations across its network of UK airports and build on its already impressive and well-established Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme.
M.A.G is the country’s largest UK-owned airport operator. It currently runs a network of four airports – London Stansted, Bournemouth, East Midlands and Manchester – which together serve around 48.5 million passengers every year.
The group has always been actively engaged in environmental management initiatives and has taken a lead in maintaining world-class CSR standards. As a key driver to improve this, the group wanted to find new ways to reduce noise impact, optimize operations and facilitate dialogue with the surrounding communities in order to build trust and help to manage noise expectations. This is vital for the airport’s ongoing success; maintaining good community relations via a well-executed environmental management policy provides the licence an airport needs to expand and grow its business.
M.A.G therefore made the decision to replace the noise management systems across all its airports.
The existing systems at each airport had become very outdated and were built around several different technologies that made any form of centralized data integration, monitoring and reporting virtually impossible. In addition, the noise monitoring terminals in use were also beginning to show their age, and as a result, the whole system was becoming expensive to manage and maintain.
With the aim of bringing this all together under a single, easy-to-use system, M.A.G identified several key requirements that needed to be met, namely:
The solution came from Brüel & Kjær in the form of a highly sophisticated, flexible and integrated noise management system known as ANOMS, or Airport Noise and Operations Management System. The system is currently in its 9th generation and is the culmination of 40 years of knowledge and experience in flight tracking and noise measurement across 250 airport clients worldwide.
The platform fuses data from a wide range of sources (such as weather, radar, track points and flight information as well as data from noise monitoring terminals) to give a real-time, comprehensive view of an airport’s operations and to help them understand and manage the subsequent environmental impact.
A vast array of data is collected and processed by sophisticated algorithms that correlate and then display the results through an intuitive smart client that allows users to drill down, splice and analyse the information in a huge variety of ways. An additional Web-based application also gives users access to information via the Internet, anywhere and at any time. Furthermore, as a fully hosted solution the airport does not need to take on board any additional hardware investment or worry about system maintenance, downtime or upgrades.
The system’s added features and functionality are designed to provide M.A.G with a wide array of operational and efficiency benefits. Management is now able to keep a close check on aircraft activity to ensure that they are keeping to their airports’ infringement rules, noise-
abatement policies and night curfews, and that environmentally efficient procedures, such as Continues Descent Operation (CDO), are being used appropriately.
ANOMS 9 also gives M.A.G a depth and breadth of analysis that was never possible before. By centrally managing data across each airport, management teams can quickly and easily find and compare information to illustrate trends and report activity to all stakeholders – including members of the public who contact the airport to complain about excessive noise levels or unusual aircraft activity.
For M.A.G’s Environment Department, this is where the long-term value of ANOMS 9 truly lies. By having highly accurate realtime and historical information about the position, speed, height and noise of each aircraft, the Community Relations team can process and respond to complaints quickly and with transparency, which is an important factor to build trust within the local community.
Like every airport, worldwide, M.A.G’s Environment Teams receive complaints or enquiries ranging from where aircraft fly, to the noise generated on departure or arrival, to flight route changes, even to general questions about how the airport operates. By using a system that can automatically pull in these enquiries, log them in a database and reply quickly and informatively, the process becomes far more time and cost-efficient and people feel that their concerns are being heard, responded to and genuinely taken into consideration.
However, if people are also able to self-investigate the nature of their enquiry by checking detailed flight track data (down to aircraft type, number, altitude, flight track, holding patterns, distance to any point on the map and the actual noise levels), they can see for themselves whether they are justified in complaining before taking any action.
If not, then not only have they saved their own time and trouble, but the load on the airport’s Community Relations team becomes significantly lighter.
This is precisely what the public-facing side of ANOMS 9 – a community engagement portal known as WebTrak – provides. Designed to help facilitate dialogue as well as give flight information, WebTrak is an essential tool for anyone who wants to understand more about their airport’s activity or as a way of quickly, easily and directly making a complaint if necessary.
WebTrak MyNeighbourhood provides a slightly different perspective by allowing people to look more closely at flight trends and statistics rather than just at individual aircraft activity. This enables people to look deeper into the impact of an airport on their specific neighborhood by summarising data over long periods, helping them to get a more comprehensive overview of what sort of noise levels they can expect.
Right now, everything is in place andthe system has been launched across the group with great success. M.A.G is safely covered by a 5-year support contract with Brüel & Kjær that covers all system hosting and maintenance, including verification of radar data and the upkeep of all noise management terminals.
One additional and notable benefit that M.A.G also receives from this hosting agreement is system updates; Brüel & Kjær manages systems for a large number of airports worldwide, which, over time, require various tweaks and improvements. As these developments are made, they are standardized, implemented and shared across the entire ANOMS 9 platform.
The extent of the value that this new system gives M.A.G is almost impossible to quantify; however, there is no doubt that as time goes by it will continue to prove itself as an invaluable asset in many different areas. As Tim Walmsley, Environmental Manager at M.A.G, observes: “For the Environment Teams, ANOMS delivers what we asked for, which is the ability to quickly analyse performance and get that information out to our stakeholders that use the information, whether for other parts of the M.A.G business, the community or airlines.”
Tim also commented on the advantages the new system is already bringing to their CSR programme, saying: “The Web Client is already proving an invaluable tool, particularly with the Community Relations teams who have been able to sit down with members of the community at outreach events to immediately address any questions that they raise.”
All this, of course, is very good news for M.A.G; however, it is even better news for the many people who live close to its airports and whose lives are affected by them.
A dedicated airports division Brüel & Kjær brings almost 40 years of experience to building solutions that manage noise and operations for its 250 airport clients, including major locations such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Heathrow, Madrid, New York and San Francisco. Today, there are more than 100 people dedicated to airport noise management, including 30 developers, whose extensive knowledge and experience are culminated in the ANOMS 9 system.