Virgin Atlantic is today announcing an aviation-first, becoming the only airline to set itself robust noise targets and publish a strategy for delivering on those targets, in a fully peer-reviewed Noise Management Strategy.
Sir Richard Branson’s airline has also outlined a manifesto of five pledges it will honour as it works to a challenging target of a further 75 per cent reduction in noise energy per flight by 2020.
As an indication of its commitment, Virgin Atlantic is also the first airline to call for an independent ombudsman to be established to report on aviation noise output.
It proposes that airlines are accountable to this ombudsman, who could recommend the introduction of further noise measures and who would report on noise in a way that was fully transparent to local communities.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger said: “The challenge for us all in the aviation community is how we can play our part in minimising aircraft noise output, whilst continuing to deliver the social and economic benefits that air travel provides – both to local communities and the UK as a whole.
“The industry has taken enormous strides and aircraft are dramatically quieter than those manufactured half a century ago.
“At Virgin Atlantic we have achieved a two thirds reduction in noise energy per aircraft in our fleet since our inception in 1984.
“But we fully recognise the impact of aviation noise on communities and know that more must be done to reduce this further.
“Our Noise Management Strategy illustrates how aviation growth is not incompatible with noise reduction.
“In the coming years, despite an increase in traffic, we will continue to make demonstrable reductions in noise from our aircraft and Sustainable Aviation’s Noise Roadmap shows that noise from UK aviation will not increase in proportion to the projected growth in air traffic.
“We hope Roadmaps such as these will be taken into account by the Davies Commission and other key decision makers as they look at options for the future of UK aviation.”
Virgin Atlantic’s Noise Management Strategy has been peer reviewed by Noise Communication Solutions, who concluded that it was a robust piece of work that is a ‘trail blazer’ for the industry.
Key elements include the introduction of the Boeing 787-9 – which has a 60 per cent smaller noise footprint than aircraft of a comparable size – into its fleet, and working with industry to explore new operating techniques and procedures.
Virgin has also pledged to develop its engagement with local communities around key airports, with the intention of holding roundtable seminars in 2014.
In the coming weeks Virgin Atlantic will be meeting MPs, industry groups and particularly interest groups on both sides of the aviation debate to present the work.
The airline has committed to undertaking a review of its Noise Management Strategy at least every five years, during which period it will update and review how it performs against the challenging targets set.
The work will run alongside Virgin Atlantic’s ‘Change is in the Air’ sustainability programme.