Noise pollution

The noise generated from the take-off, landing and flyover of aircraft is one of the more immediate and obvious disturbances related to airports. The noise produced by aircraft concerns a relatively limited number of events over the course of the day and whose maximum sound values are rather high. Numerous and structured European, domestic and regional regulations seek to measure, limit and/or regulate noise emissions to ensure a high standard of living for those within the areas surrounding airports.

Italian airport noise legislation is extensive and complex and involves the handling of the fundamental aspects concerning its measurement, the monitoring systems, the zones around the airport where compliance is necessary, the simulation models, the Airport Commissions, the mitigation actions and numerous other aspects. According to the current rules, each airport open to civil traffic must provide in areas surrounding the airport a continuous monitoring system which records any limit excesses and links this information with the data and the trajectory of flights generating such excess noise.

In addition, an Airport Commission has been set up to carry out the following duties:

  • classification of the airport in relation to noise pollution produced;
  • definition of the anti-noise procedures;
  • definition of the parameters to which noise limits are applied.

Noise monitoring at Malpensa and Linate

The SEA Group since 2001 has committed itself to aircraft noise monitoring at the Linate and Malpensa airports and has implemented a recording system comprising 22 fixed stations (16 at Malpensa and 6 at Linate), with 5 mobile stations, utilised for specific measuring campaigns.

SEA operates in collaboration and under the strict control of ARPA in order to improve the monitoring actions and protect the areas which surround its airports.

ARPA, based on the criteria of the Guidelines of the Lombardy Region (Resolution of October 11, 2005 No. 8/808 – Guidelines to ensure the maximum efficiency of the airport noise monitoring systems in Lombardy), classified as a “Monitoring” type 10 of the 16 Malpensa stations and 4 of the 6 Milan Linate stations, defining the remainder as an “Environmental” type. The noise data recorded by the stations is analysed with the assistance of an IT system; radar traces of individual flights provided by ENAV assist the distinction between aircraft noise emissions and general noise. The information breakdown concerning noise pollution and operations at the Milan airports is presented in a specific section of the SEA website:

Milan Linate - AEL dB (A) noise monitoring

Linate - AEL dB (A) noise monitoring

Note: AEL – Airport Evaluation Level: calculated, in accordance with Ministerial Decree 31/10/1997 – Airport noise measurement methodology, based on the AEL data relating to the three weeks with highest traffic identified in 2013.

Source: SEA

AEL db(A) noise monitoring

Note: AEL – Airport Evaluation Level: calculated, in accordance with Ministerial Decree 31/10/1997 – Airport noise measurement methodology, based on the AEL data relating to the three weeks with highest traffic identified in 2013.

Source: SEA

The Linate Airport Commission

In May 2009 the Linate Commission outlined a scenario for the rebalancing of the use of take-off routes at the airport in order to reduce the areas and population impacted compared to the situation in 2004, protecting also the most affected parties. The positive result during the experimentation with the new scenario and the improvement actions undertaken thanks to the contribution of SEA resulted in the Linate Airport Commission approving the noise zoning.

Linate – Noise zone map

Linate – Mappa zonizzazione acustica

The Malpensa Airport Commission

The Malpensa Airport Commission is involved in the rebalancing of traffic, which significantly altered following the de-hubbing of Alitalia. 

In September 2010 a scenario was adopted at the airport which allows an equal distribution of take-off traffic on the existing departure routes; significant positive results were also achieved, such as the absolute silence periods at regular intervals in the area, the shortening of a number of take-off routes with the consequent reduction of CO2 emissions and the reduction in the change of use of runways. The new scenario therefore resulted in the improved efficiency of the airports in relation to safety, environment and overall airport efficiency.

In 2011 the Malpensa Airport Commission approved the introduction of “offsetting criteria” to rebalance the misalignment in relation to the percentage usage of runways used for take-off; in addition, the introduction of a new take-off route with the objective to further minimize impacts on the surrounding area is currently under review.

Mitigation actions

The technological development of aircraft has resulted in a significant reduction in noise emissions: in 1999 the European Union banned the use of Section 1 aircraft and in 2002 also Section 2 aircraft, and a number of airlines have applied noise reduction systems to aircraft motors.

In recent years, the factors impacting the Italian market have resulted in a change to traffic and the type of aircraft used: in 2013 the type of aircraft used most at Linate and Malpensa airport were those belonging to the A320 family.

Further noise reduction actions at the airports related to the adoption, as established under the AIP, of particular restrictions (alternate use of runways, night time restrictions, reverse restrictions, APU use restrictions and motor testing), preferential use of runways and initial take-off procedures to be followed perfectly (within the limits of the aircraft specifications).

Awareness upon noise pollution issues in the last 10 years has increased greatly, resulting in the adoption of many European, domestic and regional regulations. This awareness reached a higher level with the enactment of European Directive 2002/49/EEC adopted in Italy by Legislative Decree n. 194 of 19/08/2005. The Directive, and therefore the enacting decree, introduced the concepts of noise mapping and strategic noise mapping: the legislature seeks through these measures on the one hand to represent in an easily understandable manner the noise pollution situation in the principal urban areas and the areas creating the greatest amount of noise pollution, and on the other to have available useful information and instruments to organically manage the noise pollution problem at a national and European level.

The tables below show the results of noise mapping for 2014. (The census dataset used by the University of Bicocca to calculate the population is composed of residents supplied by Arpa Lombardia).

Linate - no. population exposed

60-65 dB(A)65-75 dB(A)
Milano 41 0
Segrate 4,110 146
Peschiera B. 173 16
San Donato M. 710 165
San Giuliano M. 6,120 0

Malpensa - no. population exposed

60-65 dB(A)65-75 dB(A)
Somma L. 694 120
Arsago S. 82 0
Casorate S. 258 0
Cardano al Campo 0 0
Samarate 0 0
Ferno 28 0
Golasecca 0 0
Lonate 1.195 465
Castano Primo 247 0
Nosate 0 0
Turbigo 456 0
Rebecchetto con Induno 9 0

Source: SEA

European Regulation no. 598/2014 became effective in June 2014. It establishes rules and procedures for introducing operating restrictions for limiting noise in EU airports and repeals directive 2002/30/EC. The regulation only applies to airports with civilian traffic exceeding 50,000 movements a year, where a noise pollution problem has been found, and establishes procedures to follow to limit noise pollution and reduce the number of people exposed to noise according to a balanced approach principle. 

In addition, the Regional Administrative Court of Lazio handed down the following rulings:

  • no. 10119/2014 which repealed Presidential Decree 476/99 related to regulation of night flights. I the judges decided that the inclusion of the ban should be limited and differentiated based on the individual situations of actual noise pollution and actual damage or harm to health;
  • no. 10759/2014 which repealed Presidential Decree 496/97, granting SEA's appeal, related to the definition of rules to reduce noise pollution produced by civilian airplanes, since it was formulated without obtaining a technical-scientific contribution from the operator entities. Repeal of Presidential Decree 496/97 determines a regulatory vacuum for management of airport noise, which should be solved with the provisions which will be issued by the Government in terms of a delegate for overhauling the regulations in the noise field.