Experiments with new trajectories when planes take off and the increase in night flights at Toulouse-Blagnac airport have sparked debates on air pollution. For limiters, the Airport Nuisance Control Authority (Acnusa) issues specific recommendations. Its president Gilles Leblanc reviews the specific situation of the Ville Rose airport and the way to reduce noise and pollution. Maintenance.
Le Journal Toulousain: Like all airports in France, Toulouse-Blagnac has long been the target of residents living under the air corridors. Is the situation exacerbated in the Pink City?
Gilles Leblanc: It is at least special. Toulouse being the European capital of aeronautics, many people are very qualified in this field, they have experience and are, suddenly, more demanding. Discussions are therefore more difficult than elsewhere to manage in general. Thus, more than in other regions, the confidence of the population in the capacity of the sector to reduce local impacts such as noise and pollution is weakened. So the situation is not worse or better. On the other hand, the expectation is stronger. And today, Toulouse is not the showcase it could be.
JT: Did the privatization of Toulouse-Blagnac airport in 2015 worsen the air pollution?
GL: This operation has surely created tensions between the players and this may have delayed collaborative work between manufacturers, the airport itself, airlines and navigation services. But there is not yet enough hindsight to draw any conclusions.
As for the increase in rates denounced by residents, there is no evidence that it is inherent in deprivation. Perhaps it is due to the multiplication of the clientele, quite simply. Still, this increase in traffic is real. In particular, there were overflows at night. Nighttime traffic was poorly controlled and this was a source of strong reactions. But that is the challenge of the current period: while traffic is resuming after a period of collapse linked to Covid-19, how can we ensure that the nuisances are less important than before the crisis? Today, this is the challenge for the sector and the Toulouse conurbation.
JT: What are the recommendations of the Airport Nuisance Control Authority (Acnusa) to reduce noise and pollution?
GL: Different levers can be operated. The first of these remains reduction at the source. In other words, we inform the renewal of fleets operating at the airport, knowing that the most modern aircraft less impact. Likewise, the ban, little by little, of the most polluting or noisy aircraft. Moreover, the Airbus A220, presented a few days ago, before its environmental performance.
Our recommendations also relate to operational procedures. More clearly, they concern the movement of planes on the tarmac, or taxiing, which must become as sober as possible (this is where 6 to 8% of noise or atmospheric emissions take place). But also during the approach procedures (in particular the generalization of the continuous descent on optimized trajectories to avoid “mitigating” trajectories) and take-off (aiming for precision trajectories with satellite navigation). This last issue also crystallized the debates in Toulouse.
Then, it is possible to act on the planning. For this, it is necessary not to increase the population in the most exposed areas. But also on soundproofing. The additional tax on the plane ticket makes it possible to finance the soundproofing work of health establishments, schools, or housing located in areas of more intense noise. This is a repair device to be sure, but it is important.
Finally, the lever of price adjustment, on which French airports, including Toulouse, do not go far enough according to Acnusa. It is a question of modulating the charges that airlines pay according to the environmental characteristics of the aircraft and flight schedules.
JT: Precisely, concerning night flights, they have increased at Toulouse-Blagnac airport. How to limit these nocturnal nuisances?
GL: There has indeed been a flagrant slippage in this area. To deal with it, at the airport and the airlines to work on the scheduling of flights. A passenger who would have taken a low-cost ticket to go from Toulouse to Portugal, does not need to take off at 3 am. At the same time, regulatory measures can be put in place. First, the Minister of Transport could, on a local proposal, ban the noisiest aircraft during the night. Then it could be put in place with a cap on night flights or a curfew.
JT: In Toulouse-Blagnac, none of these measures is in force. Is the increase in night flights the result of this lack of regulation?
GL: Celebrating. When there is no rule, there is no sanction. As long as no ministerial decree caps nighttime traffic or sets a curfew, there will be no violation. The only increase in traffic is not reprehensible. Certainly, if Toulouse-Blagnac airport were equipped with such facilities, the overflows would not take place, since they would be punishable.
Note that, to be effective in reducing air pollution, this regulation must be implemented at the same time as the other levers above. In Toulouse, this is what will restore confidence between the sector and residents. If the latter noted the improvement in air quality and the reduction in air traffic noise, the debates should be much more peaceful. And the challenge of more sustainable aeronautics.