white clouds above silhouette of clouds at day

Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Aircraft Noise and Emissions

Mahashabde, A., P. Wolfe, A. Ashok, C. Dorbian, Q. He, A. Fan, S. Lukachko, A. Mozdzanowska, C. Wollersheim, S.R.H. Barrett, M. Locke, & I.A. Waitz. (2011). Assessing the environmental impacts of aircraft noise and emissions. Progress in Aerospace Sciences, 47(1):15-52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paerosci.2010.04.003


With the projected growth in demand for commercial aviation, many anticipate increased environmental impacts associated with noise, air quality, and climate change. Therefore, decision-makers and stakeholders are seeking policies, technologies, and operational procedures that balance environmental and economic interests. The main objective of this paper is to address shortcomings in current decision-making practices for aviation environmental policies. We review knowledge of the noise, air quality, and climate impacts of aviation, and demonstrate how including environmental impact assessment and quantifying uncertainties can enable a more comprehensive evaluation of aviation environmental policies. A comparison is presented between the cost-effectiveness analysis currently used for aviation environmental policy decision-making and an illustrative cost–benefit analysis. We focus on assessing a subset of the engine NOX emissions certification stringency options considered at the eighth meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection. The FAA Aviation environmental Portfolio Management Tool (APMT) is employed to conduct the policy assessments. We show that different conclusions may be drawn about the same policy options depending on whether benefits and interdependencies are estimated in terms of health and welfare impacts versus changes in NOX emissions inventories as is the typical practice. We also show that these conclusions are sensitive to a variety of modeling uncertainties. While our more comprehensive analysis makes the best policy option less clear, it represents a more accurate characterization of the scientific and economic uncertainties underlying impacts and the policy choices.