The Air Transport Action Group gathered experts and representatives from all over the Globe in Montreal last week to talk about air travel and the environment. Those gathered in the basement of the Hilton Bonaventure learned from Boeing’s Darrin Morgan that there was already 100 billion litres of biofuels being created each year, and though not all of it was jet-ready, as well as one of the reasons this is important to aviation: The US military, for all its globe-bestriding might, uses the rough equivalent in jet fuel as one mid-sized commercial airline. In other words, there’s a lot of this stuff being burnt, and since planes will remain liquid fuel dependent (at least for the next 50 years, according to British Airways’ Jonathon Counsell), biofuels — especially the sort made from waste rather than new crops — will continue to be a major issue and potential fix to aviation’s ills.
But it’s noise that people are pre-emptively complaining about at Billy Bishop. Jets are noisier than propeller planes, and more planes are noisier than fewer planes, so it’s all a very bad idea.
Like most Torontonians, I don’t live by the waterfront, but also like most Torontonians, I do spend time there. The planes are not bothersome as they are, though the mere fact that even the Q400 propeller planes fly out of there is a slap in the face to some who opposed the airport wholesale. But though I came to Montreal in favour — in principle — of adding jets to the downtown mix, I of course, like everyone else participating in the Deluce‘s debate, didn’t know just how noisy that would make things.
It turns out, noise is a slipper thing, more relative than absolute, less a thing of decibels than of something called Perceived Noise Decibels. It makes the discussion about planes in cities a lot more complex, anda good deal more interesting.
Stay tuned for “Noise, emissions and jets qua jets, part deux”, where we’ll talk about noise, noise complaints, and some of the world’s other city centre airports.