Ban on Night Flights

Sleep is a fundamental need of all human beings. Sleep deprivation and being subjected to noise can amount to torture and represent two of the so called five interrogation techniques which the European Court of Human Rights considers to be “inhuman treatment” in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights1.

In its Night Noise Guidelines for Europe (2009) the World Health Organisation came to the following conclusions:

  • Sleep is a biological necessity and disturbed sleep is associated with a number of adverse impacts on health.
  • There is sufficient evidence of the biological effects of noise during sleep: increase in heart rate, arousals, sleep stage changes and awakening.
  • There is sufficient evidence that night noise exposure causes self-reported sleep disturbance, increase in medicine use, increase in body movements and (environmental) insomnia.

According to these Guidelines of WHO a fixed interval of eight hours is a minimal choice for night protection. An eight-hour interval protects around 50% of the population but it would take a period of 10 hours to protect 80%.

The Night Noise Guidelines for Europe refer to the Guidelines for Community Noise (1999) of WHO which already cover the impact of night-time exposure to noise and sleep disturbance as stated below:

"If negative effects on sleep are to be avoided the equivalent sound pressure level should not exceed 30 dBA indoors for continuous noise. If the noise is not continuous, sleep disturbance correlates best with LAmax and effects have been observed at 45 dB or less. This is particularly true if the background level is low. Noise events exceeding 45 dB should therefore be limited if possible. For sensitive people an even lower limit would be preferred. It should be noted that it should be possible to sleep with a bedroom window slightly open (a reduction from outside to inside of 15 dB). To prevent sleep disturbances, one should thus consider the equivalent sound pressure level and the number and level of sound events. Mitigation targeted to the first part of the night is believed to be effective for the ability to fall asleep."

 

Since then important new studies have become available and the thresholds are now known to be lower than LAmax of 45 dB (outside) for a number of effects (WHO-Night Noise Guidelines for Europe - Executive Summary).

Each passage of a starting or landing aircraft exceeds 45 dB significantly, even miles away from the airport. All European airports are located either in the middle of or near densely populated areas.

We refuse an “airport to airport approach” as suggested by ICAO and IATA because it just leads to a shifting of aircraft night noise from one suffering group of population to another.

We request an absolute and unconditional ban on night flights (landing and take-off) at all European airports for an uninterrupted eight-hour interval as a minimum standard of protection of human health.

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1) Decision dated 18 January 1978, Irland v. Vereinigtes Königreich, 5310/71.