By Nick Barton, CEO
To the untrained eye, easyJet’s latest Airbus NEO looks like any other aircraft in their fleet. Inside there is a smart new interior including the latest slim-line seats. However, what’s so different about the Airbus NEO is not how it looks – it’s how it sounds.
This week I had the privilege of joining easyJet on the first flight to London Luton Airport (LLA) having taken delivery of their brand-new NEO from Airbus in Toulouse.
As we boarded the aircraft in the 37-degree heat of Southern France, the excitement and level of expectation was palpable. We’ve been told this aircraft is a game changer – finally we were going to experience it for ourselves.
It was very noticeably quieter than other aircraft as we rolled down the runway, with most of the noise not from the engines but from the wheels on the tarmac. As soon as we were airborne it was yet quieter still with a noticeably different pitch. Looking around the cabin it was clear from the reaction that the noiselessness had surpassed all expectations.
easyJet already fly some of the newest and quietest aircraft in the skies but the NEO really is in a class of its own. The new engines (which for those who love technical detail are the CFM Leap 1A) have a significantly reduced noise footprint on take-off and landing.
Over the next few years, easyJet will roll out 130 Airbus NEO aircraft, and other carriers have similar plans. At LLA, our second busiest carrier Wizz, is expected to take delivery of its first NEO later this year. Monarch and Ryanair are also introducing new quieter Boeing aircraft.
For our local communities living near LLA, the introduction of these quieter aircraft will make a significant difference, when added to our already stringent noise control measures – the toughest of any major UK airport.
Of course we can never eliminate noise entirely but we always aim to work constructively with our local communities and all of our partners to strike the right balance between minimising the impact of aircraft noise while maximising the positive social and economic benefits of a successful airport. For example working with local communities along our Westerly Match/Detling route, we introduced new GPS technology known as Area Navigation (RNAV) to reduce the number of people directly overflown by approximately 10,000. Right now, we’re also conducting trials to see if deploying an aircraft’s landing gear later reduces the noise for those living under arrival routes. This is ahead of work on a five year plan to design the most environmentally efficient routes avoiding as many communities as possible.
The arrival of the NEO is not just a major milestone for easyJet and the wider aviation industry but also for LLA and our local communities, as we continually strive to reduce the impact of aircraft noise.