Noise Abatement

Aircraft Noise

As the owner and operator of Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Fraport AG has always felt committed to contribute to minimize the airport’s noise footprint. The basis was created by continuous measurement of flight noise occurrences since 1964. Since that time, Fraport AG has continuously expanded and improved its comprehensive measuring and monitoring system. Even before the inauguration of Runway Northwest in 2011 two new measuring stations were installed. At present the aircraft noise measuring system of Frankfurt Airport is made up of 29 stationary measuring points and 3 mobile measuring containers.

FRA.NoM (Fraport Noise Monitoring) shows current noise values measured at Fraport's stationary aircraft noise measuring points as well as landings and takeoffs at Frankfurt Airport. For technical reasons, the values displayed in the “current” mode come with a time delay of 2 hours.

The “active” mode shows previous data. This mode allows the display of the verified noise values identified as aircraft noises. Due to the multiplicity of the measured values, which are recorded at our measuring points daily, the clear recognition of aircraft noise occurrences for all measuring points takes some days.

Further information about flight operations, aircraft noise and active noise abatement measures can be viewed on FRA.Map. Visualized on a map of the airport perimeter, users can learn more about their noise situation. This service is only available in German.

Noise Abatement

As the operator of Frankfurt Airport, we endeavor to continuously reduce our noise footprint by active and passive noise-abatement measures. An example for this is setting incentives by emission-based airport charges. This is supposed to induce air carriers to use airplanes with low pollutant and noise output.

Active noise-abatement measures solve the problem right at the source of the noise and aim at avoiding or reducing or aircraft noise or at ensuring improved distribution of noise.

Reducing ground-level engine noise by using electrically driven aircraft tractors (TaxiBot/E-taxi)

Thanks to electrical drives, taxiing movements of aircraft performed at the airport with running engines should be reduced or made without the airplane’s own engines. One way to accomplish this is to use electrically driven aircraft tractors, controlled in the cockpit of the towed aircraft (TaxiBot). Another way consists in fitting a wheel hub motor to an aircraft’s main landing gear serving as an electrical drive (E-Taxi). This application is still being evaluated.

Noise-reducing screening walls

An engine test-run facility reduces the noise emissions towards nearby residential areas. The facility built at Frankfurt Airport was the subject of a zoning request by Fraport. This facility allows reducing the peak level from engine test runs by up to 5 dB(A) thus affecting the residential areas considerably less.

Provision of Pre-Conditions Air Units    

Both with a view to noise emissions and pollutant emissions, stationary units operate considerably more efficiently than auxiliary power units. Consequently, this measure allows reducing ground noise in the immediate surroundings.

Monitoring the use of reverse thrust

An acoustic monitoring system was implemented at Runway Northwest for westerly operations (runway designator 25) in May, 2015. This system is now being tested and optimized. A reverse thrust with higher load levels represents a disturbing noise event in the nearby residential areas. Reducing such cases of use equals means less disturbances.

Improving departure procedures

Limiting the speed at a certain point in the departure route results in the fact that the thrust brought about by the engines results in a higher altitude rather than in greater speed. Consequently the aircraft climbs somewhat more steeply.

Introducing Continuous Climb Operations (still under development)

Normally departures take place in a stepwise pattern until cruise altitude has been reached. There are phases between these stepwise segments where aircraft fly higher horizontally, thus not gaining altitude. Continuous Climb Operations (CCO) are meant to bridge these level flight segments by a continuous climb.

More frequent Continuous Descent Operations

This procedure allows aircraft to descend from high altitudes almost without any horizontal flight phase, without intermediate thrust, and therefore also quieter.

Gliding angle of up to 3.2 degrees

Fraport AG acted as sponsor of this measure, which has been in use since October 18, 2012. Raising the approach angle from 3.0 to 3.2 degrees on the Runway Northwest became standard on December 19, 2014 after more than two years of testing this measure. The results of the test operation had been completely positive. Measurements made by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR) during the entire test phase at seven noise measurement stations at Frankfurt Airport and at the Environmental Station (UNH) showed a reduction of the maximum noise level from 0.5 to 1,5 dB(A) depending on the site of the measurement station and the type of aircraft.

Raising the minimum downwind approach angle by 1,000 feet

On October 18,2012 the minimum flight altitude both on the Northern and on the Southern downwind legs were raised by 1,000 feet (approx. 300 meters).

Raising the altitude for starting final approach up to 5,000 feet

The altitude for aircraft coming from the South and turning to start final approach is raised from 4,000 to 5,000 feet (approx. a 300 meter difference). In the parallel independent operation the turning operations from the South must continue to be by 1,000 feet lower than from the North, thus 4,000 feet in the South and at least 5,000 feet in the North.

Lengthening the Instrument Landing System (under development)

It is envisaged to raise the altitude for approach flights turning to start final approach by 1,000 feet (300 meters). When turning from the North, this will be accomplished by gearing to the ILS approach light beacon at 6,000 feet and when turning from the South at 5,000 feet. In order to implement this measure, the range of the instrument landing system (ILS) needs to be expanded.  

Introduction of a Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS)

GBAS is a satellite-based precision landing aid that is additionally supported by a ground station. This technology considerably improves the accuracy of satellite navigation. Aircraft equipped with GBAS receivers may determine their own position so accurately that precision landings are possible without the need of an ILS. In the medium term the new landing system will also permit to raise the approach angle from 3.0 degrees to 3.2 degrees on Runway South and on Runway Center (25L/C and 07 R/C), a measure that had so far only been possible on Runway Northwest. In addition, the GBAS technology provides the possibility to use curved, segmented approach procedures without affecting capacity. Such procedures make it possible to direct arrivals around densely populated areas.

Steeper Approach procedures (under development)

In this procedure the approach flight is initiated from a relatively high altitude, at about 8,000 feet, (approx. 2,400 meters) using an angle of 4.49 degrees. Once approximately 2,000 feet (600 meters) have been reached, the light beacon of the instrument landing system (ILS) is geared to from above in a 3.0 or 3.2 angle.

Point Merge procedure (under development)

Point Merge is a novel method for sequencing arrival flows. Instead of using the current flight paths, arrivals are bundled into funnel-type structures and guided towards final approach. In theory this technique is to support continuous descent operations in higher altitudes for a longer span of time.

Modified Arrival Routes

By raising the minimum altitude of arrival sectors, approaches will be kept in higher flight altitudes for a longer period of time.

The Noise Respite model

It is the goal of noise respite periods to lengthen the neighbors’ nighttime rest by one hour. While this does not change the total number of aircraft movements, such alternating noise intermissions make sure that a part of the neighbors will not be bothered by flights between 22.00 PM and 05.00 AM, and the other part of the residents will be free from aircraft noises between 23.00 PM and 06.00 AM.    

Fitting the engines of Lufthansa’s B737 fleet with acoustic panels

This is a noise reduction measure for Boeing 737 jetliners with CFM-56-3 engines. Replacing twelve acoustic panels at the engine inlet reduces the aircraft noise both during takeoff and landing. Lufthansa implemented this measure for the B-737 aircraft stationed at Frankfurt Airport already at the end of 2011. This has led to a recertification for the B737 fleet into the quietest noise category.

Withdrawal of Lufthansa’s B737 fleet

It is envisaged to have all B-737s replaced by newer aircraft by 2017. Noise reduction will then be possible in all takeoff and departure flight phases.

A320 vortex generators

Fly-over measurements at an Airbus A320 identified two piercing sounds generated by tank pressure compensation openings on the underside of the wings. Mounting so-called vortex generators on the wings alters the air stream and these annoying sounds disappear completely.    

Modernization of fleets

Upgrades at engines, fuselage parts and control panels made during the last decade have brought about a significant noise reduction.Further reductions of acoustic emissions “right at the source” are expected by new, even quieter aircraft generations, which, among other features, will be equipped with the so-called geared turbofan.In 2014, Lufthansa placed a large order for modern long-haul aircraft. Along with the use of Boeing B 777-9X and Airbus A 350-900 jetliners, it is expected that kerosene consumption, and thus also CO2 emissions, can be reduced even further, and that acoustic emissions will decrease, too.

Modulation of noise-related airport charges

Airport charges are another way for Fraport AG to contribute to reducing aircraft noise levels. When fixing airport charges, Fraport has been taking aircraft noise into account since the Nineties. In 2001, Frankfurt Airport was the first airport ever in Germany where a component related to in-situ noise was considered in the takeoff and landing fees. Up to then, certification data of the aircraft had served as the basis for noise differentiation of these charges.

Segmented Final Approach between 11.00 PM and 05.00 AM

Segmented RNAV (GPS) approach is a satellite-based approach procedure. Approaches can be directed along the segmented approach trajectories in both operation directions and around residential areas.As a result of its capacity-reducing effect, the segmented approach procedure can by used only when traffic is low.

Increased use of westerly direction

As shown in the above illustration, some residential areas in the western part of the airport are directly adjacent to the airport premises, which means that they are flown over in the landing direction 07 at very low altitudes. This is the reason why operation direction 25 is the preferred scenario at Frankfurt Airport. On a yearly average this direction is used at some 70 percent of all days.

Flying around densely populated metropolitan areas

Analyses of the Airport and Region Forum, FFR showed that the target parameters for a regular operation had already been reached in May 2013:Already back then almost no aircraft were starting final approach above the residential areas of Mainz and Offenbach; the area affected by aircraft noises, therefore, concentrates on the direct ILS approach baselines. Fly-over altitude is generally higher in these areas.    

Fewer takeoffs via Frankfurt and Offenbach during easterly operations

The original design assumed introducing an additional departure route which, for flights taking off at the parallel  runway system  during easterly operations, would have been located east of the existing 07-N departure route (long) and would also have been used for northbound departures. This plan, however, was never realized. The expert committees are looking into this matter to examine relocating the takeoffs from the 07-N (long) to 07-0 departure route to relieve the urban areas located below the 07-N (long), in particular Frankfurt and Offenbach.

Adaptation of “Amtix”-departure route to decongest the city of Darmstadt (under development)

This measure aims to reduce aircraft noise over densely populated areas in the northern part of Darmstadt.Changing the “Amtrix” (short)” departure route has the objective to cease flying over this area. Beyond this area, the flights would continue on the existing trajectory.  

Households may make claims for passive noise abatement protection for their homes in the framework of the Passive Noise Protection Program. These noise abatement protection measures are meant to reduce the noise level within buildings.

Within the framework of the current “Passive Noise Abatement” program, corresponding measures are being brought forward beyond the statutory regulations and are given extra budgetary resources from the Regional Fund. The budget comprises some 150 million euros for the Passive Noise Abatement Program and 265 to 2570 million euros for the Regional Fund. The Regional Fund is part of the “Alliance for Noise Abatement 2012”, launched on February 29, 2012.

The program differentiates between four protected zones, which were created in compliance with the applicable limit values shown in the amended noise protection laws. The noise protection areas thus determined are composed of two daytime protection zones and one nighttime protection zone and since 2013 also of one area covered by the Regional Fund.

As part of its voluntary Casa program, Fraport AG was buying residential properties that are flown over at especially low altitudes, i.e. beneath 350 meters (985 feet), or compensated the owners financially. The application deadline for the program was on October 1, 2014. This offered an alternative to homeowners who had purchased or built a property before the plans about the airport’s expansion were discussed and who now found their house right under the entry line to the airport.

Within the context of the noise-abating package of measures “Together for the Region - Alliance for Noise Abatement 2012” Fraport AG had significantly upgraded the Casa program in 2012 (“Casa 2”). Altogether the volume of measures taken within the Casa program amounted to over 100 million euros. Fraport AG is proud to draw up a positive balance of its voluntary Casa program, another valuable contribution to the compatibility between air traffic - which is important for the region - and the protection of residents.

Roof Safety

In 2013, the issue of “Wake turbulence” became the focus of media attention. This refers to turbulence which arises during flight as a result of air-flow equalization on the wing surfaces. In certain weather conditions they can descend to the ground in a relatively stable manner over a period of several minutes. There may be a few cases of tiles being loosened from their anchor point on the roofs of buildings located in the vicinity of the airport. During the first half of 2013, there was an increased number of complaints about damage caused to roofs in the approach area of the new Runway Northwest which was either actually caused by wake turbulence or alternatively residents believed this to be the case. Fraport immediately initiated a roof inspection program at short notice carried out by accredited experts. In spring 2013, these inspectors performed visual inspections in a defined area. We also engaged the German Aerospace Center to carry out more in-depth investigations. The instances of damage reported were also published on the company website in anonymized form in order to increase transparency.

In May 2013 and May 2014 planning addendum resolutions were passed by the Hesse Ministry of Economics, Transport and Regional Development. This requires Fraport to take precautionary measures to secure the roofs of houses where the flight altitude is less than 1,100 feet (335 meters) under certain circumstances. Around 3,000 households close to the airport are entitled to benefit from this precautionary measure.

Flight Operations

Frankfurt Airport (FRA) features a four-runway system, three of which are pointing in the same direction (parallel  runways). While the northern runway is dedicated to aircraft landings only, the southern and central parallel runways may be used both for takeoff and landing. The fourth runway is arranged in north-south direction. This runway, named “Runway 18 West”, may be used for takeoffs and in north-south direction only.

The route maps depicted in Fra.Map show a schematic representation of the approach and departure route for direction 25, in westerly direction, and for direction 07 in easterly direction, respectively. The red dots refer to the locations of 29 aircraft-noise measuring stations of Fraport AG.

To display the current data for approaches to and departures from Frankfurt Airport, click on  FRA.NoM.

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The runways are designated according to their compass directions: According to the graduation of a compass a number is assigned to each runway direction. Runway West is designated by the number 18 because it is arranged exactly in the southbound direction, thus towards 180 degrees on a compass.

The three parallel runways are marked depending upon the direction in which they are operated, either by the number of 07 for 70 degrees or by the number of 25 for 250 degrees.

The parallel runways are differentiated in a way corresponding to the relative position to teach other: “L” (left), “C” (center/) and “R” (right). When using the parallel runway system in a west-east direction, the runways are also differentiated from north to south into 07C and 07R and 07L; with east-west operation differentiation is made from north to south into 25R, 25C and 25L.

On the parallel  runway system, the operation direction is changed according to the prevailing wind direction and wind speed. Pursuant to the operating concept for the four-runway system at FRA, in normal operation the two outer parallel runways should be used for landings; both the central parallel runway and Runway 18 West should be used for takeoffs.

To make sure the runway is long enough for takeoff or landing, aircraft should always take off and land against the wind. With easterly winds the flight operations are always arranged from west to east. This is referred to as “eastern approach” in operation direction 07. Yet, the operation direction 25 with westwards flight operations (western approach) is always arranged from western direction. The name for the respective operation direction is derived from the orientation of the takeoff and landing direction. Taking the compass wind rose as an orientation aid, the designation “07 operation” is used for takeoffs and landings in easterly direction, since in this case arrivals and departures occur in direction rotated clockwise by 70 degrees relative to the north.

A long-term average of wind conditions for Frankfurt Airport and its surrounding area has shown that a westerly operating direction (operating direction 25) prevails in about 70 percent of the time. In approximately 30 percent of the time, aircraft are landing in easterly direction or in the 07 operation direction. When viewed for a short period of time only, deviations from the long-term mean may occur. Regardless of the operation direction, roughly 60 percent of the aircraft take off from Runway 18 West.

Departing from this principle is possible within the existence of a so-called  tailwind component.

The principle that takeoffs and landings should occur against the wind may be ignored if a permissible  tailwind component  exists. On the parallel  runway system  a tailwind component of 5 knots as a maximum (approx. 2.6 m/s) is permissible. This means that change of the operation direction on the parallel runway system is not mandatory in case the tailwind speed is 5 knots or less. The permissible tailwind component for Runway 18 West is a maximum of 15 knots (approx. 8 ms/s). This is due to the fact that the tailwind components for takeoffs are generally higher, unless aircraft performances are in conflict with such components. However, Frankfurt Airport hardly experiences wind with such a power. The final decision whether takeoff should occur from Runway 18 West or from the parallel runway system despite the tailwind present, rests with the pilot in command who is bound by security and safety considerations.