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BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 27, 2002 (ENS) - Noisy European airports will not become quieter by banning older aircraft fitted with mufflers called hushkits. Strenuous objections by the United States caused the European Union first to postpone a legislated ban, and now to eliminate it.
At their Council meeting here Tuesday, European Union transport ministers endorsed a new law on aircraft noise. It will replace the regulation that would have banned aircraft equipped with hushkit mufflers from European airports beginning April 1.
The United States accused the EU of erecting a trade barrier against its older jets many of which are reaching the end of their commercial life in the U.S. and are destined for export.
A combination of threats of retaliatory trade action if the EU went ahead with the ban, and a promise to cooperate to get a new, stricter, international standard on aircraft noise was successful in persuading the Europeans to back away from the ban.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said today the action removes "a major obstacle to productive engagement on aviation environmental issues" between the United States and the European Union.
The EU hushkit regulation has been the subject of a U.S. complaint filed at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The United States complained that the hushkit regulation violated international law and harmed U.S. industry without an appreciable contribution to its stated goal - reducing aviation noise.
With the repeal of the hushkit regulation, the United States will ask for termination of the complaint at the upcoming International Civil Aviation Organization Council meeting beginning in mid-April.
Still, Boucher said the U.S. intends to monitor implementation of the EU's new "noise management directive" against an ICAO resolution - adopted unanimously last October - that establishes an international framework for airport noise management based on a "balanced approach."
"This approach gives the international community the tools and flexibility to address aircraft noise problems where they occur - at individual airports - in a deliberative and measured process while providing a degree of stability to the aviation industry," said Boucher.
Each airport identifies a noise problem based on objective data, considers all available alternatives for addressing the noise issue, and selects the most cost effective approach.
The U.S. will be watching for ways in which the directive "deviates from the letter and spirit of the resolution agreed to by the EU Member States and all International Civil Aviation Organization members last year," Boucher said.
ACI Europe, the trade body that represents Europe's airports, has no immediate comment on the action to drop the hushkit ban.
During the long dispute, ACI Europe Director General Philippe Hamon said, "With forecast air traffic volumes doubling over the next decade, only a progressive and credible reduction in the noise of each and every aircraft movement can make this growth sustainable. Clearly, the continued operation of hush-kitted, but still noisy, aircraft is incompatible with this goal."
Research cited by ACI Europe shows that the noise impact of hush-kitted aircraft is "significantly higher than that of most modern types of aircraft," the organization said.
"A 12 percent increase in the number of hush-kitted aircraft at an airport is equal to a 50 percent increase in the noise contour - the zone around the airport affected by aircraft noise - thus having a significant environmental impact on the communities around airports," ACI Europe said.
Current International Civil Aviation Organization airport noise rules incorporating the "balanced approach" are online at: http://www.icao.int/cgi/goto_atb.pl?icao/en/env/noise.htm;env
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