FAA proposes Stage 5 aircraft noise certification

faa stage 5 aircraft noise
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Unless you are an avid reader of the proceedings of ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), you may or may not have known about the imminent arrival of a new aircraft noise certification standard. The FAA in an NPRM, Stage 5 Airplane Noise Standards, 81 Fed. Reg. 1923 (January 12, 2016). Comments are due in the docket no later than April 13 at www.regulations.gov (Docket Number FAA-2015-3782).

FAA proposes Stage 5 aircraft noise certification

The S5 noise standard and the changes in the determination of compliance are the work product of CAEP. They will be found at Part 36 Appendix B B36.5 (e) (the text is NOT in the NPRM), but are incorporated by reference from Appendix 2 to ICAO Annex 16, Environmental Protection, Volume I, Aircraft Noise, Third Edition, July 2014, Amendment 11–B, applicable January 1, 2015. The NPRM explains the new criteria as follows:

“Chapter 14 imposes the stringency requirements at different times for different aircraft weights it identifies. In addition, for aircraft less than 8618kgs, the stringencies adopted are not parallel to the Stage 4 standards. The FAA understands the Chapter 14 requirements, proposed here as Stage 5, as follows:

a.) An airplane’s maximum flyover, lateral and approach noise levels are each subtracted from the maximum permitted noise levels for Chapter 3 airplanes defined in Annex 16. The differences obtained are the noise limit margins which must be 17 EPNdB or greater when added together; and

b.) An airplane’s maximum noise levels (flyover, lateral, and approach) have to be at least 1 EPNdB less than the maximum permitted noise levels for Chapter 3 airplanes.”  p. 192

[emphasis added]

FAA proposes Stage 5 aircraft noise certification

The dates of applicability of this more stringent S5 standard will be:

  • For new airplane types submitted for certification after December 31, 2017, for airplanes weighing more than 55,000 kilograms, and
  • December 31, 2020, for airplanes weighing less than 55,000 kilograms.

The FAA asserts, conveniently, that these dates will not create a burden, based on this statement (for which they invite comments to the contrary!!!):

“Several airplanes currently in production that have a maximum certificated takeoff weight of more than 121,254 pounds already meet the proposed Stage 5 noise limits. These airplanes include the Airbus A–380 and A–350, and the Boeing 747–8 and 787 models.”  p. 1927 

and later… 

“Recently, there have been technological advances in the lower weight classes such as the geared turbofan engine and the development of quieter control surfaces. Given these recent technological advances in lighter airplanes, the FAA expects all manufacturers to be able meet the new standards by the December 31, 2020, date. As this expectation is crucial to the minimal cost determination, the FAA requests comments regarding whether the existing and expected technological advancements will be sufficient to allow the manufacturers to achieve compliance with the provisions of the proposed rule by 2020. In 2017 and 2020, when the proposed rule would become effective, all new type design subsonic transport category large airplanes, followed by smaller airplanes, will be able to meet the Stage 5 noise limits by using then-current available noise reduction technologies. Therefore, the proposed rule would have minimal, if any, cost.

[emphasis added] 

The 9 page document should be carefully reviewed, particularly those more technically competent on noise engineering and science.

One must assume that ICAO CAEP and the FAA are well aware of the promising, but as of yet unrealized efforts of NASA and others to achieve greener noise performance.

The NPRM makes it clear that the creation of S5 is NOT accompanied with a death knell of S4 or S3 aircraft; at p. 1924, it states:

The adoption of the Stage 5 noise standard for new airplane type designs should not be interpreted as signaling the start of an action aimed at phasing out the existing noise standards that apply to the production or operation of current airplane models. There are no operational restrictions nor production cut-offs on the use of Stage 3 or Stage 4 airplanes in the United States. The adoption of the Stage 5 noise standard for new airplane type designs does not impact either of these existing noise standards that apply to the production or operation of current airplane models in the United States.

[emphasis added]

The writers of the proclamation obviously were not around for the phasing out of Stages I and II. Before those deadlines became effective, airports created programs which either preferred the new noise airplanes or excluded those certificated under the old standards. Congress passed ANCA and the FAA implemented 14 CFR Part 161 to limit the imposition of local rules which would burden interstate commerce.

Though the S5 rule does not phase out the earlier, noise-compliant aircraft, Part 161 protects S3 aircraft. Is it possible that some of the noise-impacted airports may issue schemes which would effectively preclude the S3 or 4 planes in preference to the S5 “quieter” birds?

FAA proposes Stage 5 aircraft noise certification

The scribes who drafted the S5 rules did, however, read about the industry which facilitated the transitions to the more rigorous noise standards of S3 and S4. Acoustical and powerplant engineers, primarily, designed “retrofits” which qualified the older aircraft for the new, more exacting standards. They developed “kits” which would reduce the noise recorded and a new, short-lived industry developed. The FAA initially resisted, but “the numbers are the numbers”; so they relented. Some of the more ingenious retrofitters even modified the parameters under which the plane could fly to reduce the acoustical impact.

The NPRM almost signals the return of this business:

“…a new paragraph (e)(5) is proposed to specify that a Stage 3 airplane that becomes a Stage 5 airplane would have to remain a Stage 5 airplane. Paragraph (f) would be redesignated (f)(1), and a new paragraph (f)(2) would be added to specify that a Stage 4 airplane that becomes a Stage 5 airplane would have to remain a Stage 5 airplane. A new paragraph (g) would be added to specify that a Stage 5 airplane that underwent a change in type design would have to remain a Stage 5 airplane.”  p. 1924

and later…

“The FAA is proposing to add new §36.106 entitled ‘Flight Manual statement of Chapter 14 noise level equivalency.'” The need for a noise level equivalency statement evolved from problems experienced by U.S. operators when they were operating outside the United States. Because the FAA does not issue noise certificates, some foreign entities were confused as to the noise status of U.S. aircraft, and questioned whether Stage 3 references in the flight manual were sufficient to meet Chapter 3 requirements (especially since the two standards were not identical). When the FAA adopted Stage 4 in 2005, we included in §36.105 a requirement to include a statement in the manual that the noise levels represent compliance with Stage 4. It then states that the FAA considered Stage 4 noise levels to be equivalent to the Chapter 4 noise levels required by ICAO countries.  p. 1926

[emphasis added]

In order to become a lawful final rule, any NPRM must meet a whole host of tests administered by the OMB (and reviewed on occasions on appeal). Chief among these reviews are Executive Orders 12866 and 13563, basically cost/benefit analyses as well as the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, which measures the proposal’s impact on small businesses (proposals like this are excluded from NEPA scrutiny). In one of the more deft exercises of linguistic legerdemain, the NPRM avoids those telling tests with the following words:

“Recently, there have been technological advances in the lower weight classes such as the geared turbofan engine and the development of quieter control surfaces. Given these recent technological advances in lighter airplanes, the FAA expects all manufacturers to be able meet the new standards by the December 31, 2020, date. As this expectation is crucial to the minimal cost determination, the FAA requests comments regarding whether the existing and expected technological advancements will be sufficient to allow the manufacturers to achieve compliance with the provisions of the proposed rule by 2020. In 2017 and 2020, when the proposed rule would become effective, all new type design subsonic transport category large airplanes, followed by smaller airplanes, will be able to meet the Stage 5 noise limits by using then-current available noise reduction technologies. Therefore, the proposed rule would have minimal, if any, cost.”  p. 1927

[emphasis added]

SIMPLY BRILLIANT!!! 

The noise abatement community, which has been energized by the NextGen implementation process, has been clamoring for new thresholds for noise policy. The possibilities for a Stage 5 preference rules (without the protection of Part 161) might result in a surge in law firm revenues and FAA legal headaches.

The FAA’s assumptions about the availability of the technology to attain Stage 5 and the economic feasibility are either great news for the greening of aviation or a fatal flaw if industry cannot meet the regulatory expectations.

 

ARTICLE: FAA Proposes Stage 5 Noise Standards for New Aircraft
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