New ‘Quiet’ Periods enforced at Paris Toussus Business Airport

 - October 4, 2011, 1:15 AM
In response to noise complaints from residents, officials imposed a mandatory silence period at Toussus-le-Noble. Authorities had previously warned that operators should embrace restrictions or face airport closure.

Paris Toussus-le-Noble airport has been subject to new noise-abatement rules since August 15, thus limiting traffic in response to complaints from local residents. The measures were proposed last spring. Flying schools and Héli-Union, a major operator with its maintenance base in Toussus, see the move as a threat to their business.

The airport is closed for a “total silence period” from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays and holidays, from April 1 to September 30 (the airport’s “summer” season). All year round, only VFR flights are allowed from 6 to 7 a.m., while jets cannot operate in VFR. Moreover, a white list is being worked out to determine which aircraft are allowed to fly in the traffic pattern at night (all year), on Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. and after 8 p.m. (in summer) and on Sundays from 3 to 4 p.m. (in summer). To be on the list, an aircraft has to be based at Toussus and be equipped with a hush kit.

Guillaume Martin, Héli-Union’s head of maintenance, told AIN that his company is not directly affected by the new restrictions. “Our aircraft movements do not take place on weekends or holidays,” he said. However, he fears a domino effect. If traffic at Toussus decreases, airport operator Aéroports de Paris might find it uneconomical to maintain services such as fuel, IFR ground equipment and fire crew. These are critical to Héli-Union’s activity.

Gérard Taunay, chief instructor with flying school Helidan and the representative of rotary-wing aircraft users in Toussus, said his company feels the effect of the new measures. “First, we have lost three hours of weekend activity for tourism and first flights,” he said. In addition, before and after this three-hour period, there are peaks of activity at the airport, which “increase pilots’ stress.”

Helidan also trains professional pilots. Under the new rules, helicopters are not allowed to fly in the traffic pattern at night. “What can we do to keep our training program valid? Once I flew to Le Havre [some 90 nm away] but this adds costs and just takes the nuisance to another place,” Taunay pointed out.

Most light helicopters cannot be fitted with a hushkit, Taunay said, unless such a system gets approval from the French civil aviation authorities–a prohibitively costly process. Taunay hopes Helidan’s aircraft can get a white-list exemption to fly at night and during the “lesser noise” periods. Finally, he fears Toussus is setting a precedent for other small French airports.

A source familiar with small airport noise concerns in Europe told AIN that Toussus’ new rules are “not so restrictive” and are similar to those already in place at many Swiss and German airports.

Toussus has few business aircraft movements, with only a handful of aircraft using the runway each week. Those that do use the airport are subject to several restrictions. The airport also has size limits for business jets, restricting access to airplanes with an mtow of 12 metric tons (26,455 pounds). The 3,600-foot runway presents yet another limitation. Finally, the airport is closed between 10:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.