‘Significantly higher’: Spotlight on noise levels at Sydney’s new airport

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Posted April 14, 2019 08:14:39

The noise levels at the new Western Sydney Airport could be “significantly higher” than the Federal Government predicted ahead of approving its construction, a study finds.

Key points:

  • The Federal Government disputed the study’s findings and defended their noise modelling techniques
  • The study’s authors measured the noise generated from 330 planes flying in and out of the existing Sydney Airport
  • They claimed the Government’s predicted noise figures did not reflect real aircrafts

The study was lead by retired engineers Eric Ancich and Don Carter — the former having decades of experience in acoustics — who live in the Blue Mountains and could be affected by future flight paths.

The pair measured noise generated by individual planes as they departed and landed from the existing Sydney Airport.

They said the Federal Government’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the new airport underestimated how loud planes could be.

The EIS for stage one of the Western Sydney Airport, which will have only one runway, was considered by the Federal Government before the $5.3 billion project was approved in 2016.

“The idea was that we wanted to measure noise generated by real aircraft, in comparison to the noise figures in the EIS,” Mr Carter said.

“What we’ve concluded is, that the noise levels predicted in the EIS are well below the noise levels that we recorded.”

Mr Carter and Mr Ancich measured the sound from 330 aircrafts from Pymble, in Sydney’s north, and Mays Hill, in the city’s west.

The two suburbs were roughly the same distance to Sydney Airport as Blacktown and the lower Blue Mountains are to the site of the new Western Sydney Airport.

They said the EIS appeared to treat every inbound and outbound plane as flying the same height which didn’t reflect how planes actually flew.

“Surprisingly, the height of the aircraft over those locations varied quite dramatically,” Mr Carter said.

“We got heights of aircraft … as low as 1,800 feet and as high as 5,500 to 6,000 feet.”

Mr Ancich said the difference in heights meant planes could be up to 20 decibels louder at time.

“We were getting anywhere between twice … and four times the loudness,” Mr Ancich said.

“The EIS appears to have only used a single height at different distances from the airport.”

The report had the Mayor of the Blue Mountains Council Mark Greenhill calling for halt to earthworks at airport until draft flight paths were released to the public — something not due to happen until 2021.

“It’s deeply concerning if we can’t rely on the EIS for something as fundamental as aircraft noise,” he told the ABC.

The Federal Government was in charge of the new airport’s flight path design and disputed the pair’s findings.

It argued it was not representative of noise levels which would be experienced at Western Sydney Airport.

“The EIS applied best practice noise modelling techniques that took into account all variances of aircraft heights, both on approach and during departure, through to 2063,” said a spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure.

When flight paths for the new airport are released, they will be subjected to a separate environmental assessment.

Topics: environmental-impact, engineering, science-and-technology, federal-government, building-and-construction, pymble-2073, mays-hill-2145, sydney-airport-2020, sydney-international-airport-2020, sydney-2000

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