Exploring the relaunch of the aviation industry after COVID-19

By Matt Mills-Brookes, Senior Airport Specialist, Envirosuite

As a result of the global pandemic, the aviation industry has changed with the obvious impacts being closed borders, reduced air travel and the heightened risk of illnesses transmission. Whilst as a community we have experienced benefits of cleaner air, clearer water and far less noise from aircraft and the wider community.

These changes occurred following a period of high levels of community annoyance. As these changes have been sustained for an extended period, the community’s expectation and baseline have been effectively re-calibrated. Therefore, being able to manage change, show environmental compliance and do that proactively, will be crucial as we recover.

How is the aviation industry going to re-emerge, and how will it do so effectively? Read more about that in our newly published Whitepaper.

Envirosuite works with airports of all sizes, industry consultants and academic institutes worldwide, which provides us with a unique insight to the industry. Prior to the global pandemic, various international studies had started to identify that whilst society’s annoyance was connected to noise, it was actually driven by a wide range of factors. Some of which had no connection to noise at all. Known as the non-acoustical factors they include topics such as noise sensitivity, attitudes towards noise and the industry, trust, fear and expectations for the future. Whilst these factors are diverse, they are important in the noise annoyance relationship and can account for around 80% of the noise annoyance driver, far higher than the acoustical component.

As a result of COVID-19 our lifestyles and local communities have changed. Instead of traveling to work or school, we now do that at home, living out our daily lives in a new location. At the same time, these changes have reduced our daily noise exposure, potentially making existing sounds more noticeable than they were before. For example, realising your neighbour has a dog or that you are living under a flightpath.

This has been reflected in airport noise complaints received by some airports, which on a whole have reduced, but when you consider the number of complaints received per operation, they have risen, in some areas considerably.

Prior to COVID-19 the industry was seeking to address these non-acoustic factors through a number of initiatives and programmes that targeted areas such as transparency, inclusiveness and empowerment. All of which sought to build trust, manage fear and allow local communities to have a say in the future changes in their area.

The challenge will be implementing this approach in a post COVID-19 world. We have been treated to an extended period of quieter skies and cleaner air, which has created a new baseline from which careful change management is required. Not just for noise, but of the broader environmental impact.

Matt Mills-Brookes, Senior Airport Specialist, Envirosuite

In addition, it is highly likely that we would see new and disparate non-acoustic factors emerging. For example, the return of flights could signal negative factors surrounding the potential health effects of aviation, especially as it was a source of transmission early on. Whilst at the same time, that flight could signal the return to normality and economic security, especially in tourism areas.

The reality is that airports need to show how all of these factors are managed properly to the public; do so pro-actively and at scale to ensure the messaging reaches beyond the typical engagement groups. The skill comes in doing that effectively with limited resource, which is likely to be further constrained following the economic situation brought on by COVID-19.

Whilst ‘doing more with less’ is certainly going to be a running theme, it can also be an opportunity to explore new opportunities and dynamic strategies. You can find out more in our Whitepaper, available here.

As aviation’s most trusted Environmental Intelligence partner, Envirosuite has proven expertise in noise monitoring and abatement, community annoyance and engagement, flight tracking and procedure performance.

Author: Matt Mills-Brookes, Senior Airport Specialist, Envirosuite

Author bio: Matt is an aviation specialist dedicated to solving the strategic problems faced by Envirosuite clients. Prior to joining Envirosuite Matt was an air traffic management consultant and Airspace Lead at Gatwick Airport where he led a team responsible for the management of the airspace surrounding the world’s busiest single runway airport.

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