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50k kids’ ‘cognition’ hurt by Brisbane Airport noise, say campaigners

written by Adam Thorn | July 14, 2021

NEW RUNWAY @ BNE OPENS - VH-YFW - 1272020 737800 (Craig Murray)
A Virgin Australia 737-800 becomes the first commercial flight out of Brisbane Airport’s new runway, VH-YFW on 12/7/2020 (Craig Murray)

A community alliance campaigning against noise generated from Brisbane’s new runway claims 50,000 children’s “cognition” is being damaged by new flight paths.

The Brisbane Flight Path Community Alliance (BFPCA) said it has “devastating data” that shows more than 50 schools across the Queensland capital are being subjected to “excessive noise pollution”.

Brisbane Airport’s new runway opened one year ago but the business has consistently denied new flight paths have made the noise worse and argued it has been actively engaging with the community.

Last week, it said just 0.1 per cent of aircraft taking off from the new runway flew over the city’s inner suburbs at night, with most now directed to fly over the bay.

However, BFPCA has overlaid flight path routes over maps of the city to deduce that 50 schools are now affected by noise – and cited evidence from esteemed science journal The Lancet that noise hurts children’s cognition and health.


It also argued evidence from International Civil Aviation Organization proves aircraft noise harms children’s reading and memory as well as academic test scores.

BFPCA chair David Diamond said: “It’s much worse than what we thought. We knew BAC’s estimate of nine schools affected was nowhere near the actual number of schools underneath flight paths.

“And this only scratches the surface, as we have been very conservative in our estimates, and we haven’t yet included other vulnerable groups such as people in aged care, retirement villages, and hospitals.

“As the airport reaches its pre-COVID capacity, there will be a doubling of the frequency of overflights.

“Now with the additional capacity from the second runway, BAC targets demand from both passengers and cargo for 110 flights an hour, so there will be no respite for teachers or students.”

Brisbane said in response it never mislead the community when it released an “Environmental Impact Statement” approved by the federal government in 2007, and never stated only nine schools would be under the flight path.

“BAC welcomes the Post Implementation Review (PIR) that will be conducted by Airservices Australia,” it said.

The news comes in response to growing community anger over apparently excessive noise over the inner-city Brisbane suburbs closest to the airport.

Last month, residents of Brisbane’s inner suburbs protested outside Brisbane Airport Corporation’s head office over “constant” noise pollution due to the new flight paths, which they argued is a direct result of the airport’s newly opened parallel runway.

Amid their attempt to speak with BAC staff, protestors were ultimately locked out of the BAC building, which only brought more buzz to the situation.

The airport’s new $1.1 billion runway, which runs parallel to its existing runway, opened in May 2020.

Since the secondary runway’s opening, the number of aircraft utilising either runway each month has increased by 195 per cent, from 4,130 aircraft movements in May 2020 to over 12,200 in June 2021.

According to local Green’s candidate Max Chandler-Mather, residents near the airport were told that the addition of the new parallel runway would see more flights taking off and landing over Moreton Bay, thus reducing current aircraft noise pollution, particularly at night.

Brisbane has released data suggesting that 70 per cent of all night-time flight operations, which occur between 10pm and 6am, were conducted over Moreton Bay, as opposed to the suburbs closest to the airport, in the other direction.

The remaining 29.9 per cent of night flights flew over the suburbs and utilised Brisbane’s existing legacy runway.

In addition to the recent statistics, BAC announced last week that it would be publishing monthly reports detailing exactly how many flights take off and land over the bay, rather than the city and suburbs, to be published across its social media channels “for easy access by the community”.

BAC executive general manager communications and public affairs, Rachel Crowley, said that publicly releasing monthly reports into current air traffic movements over the bay versus over the city recognised the community interested in the airport’s operations.

“Whilst the social and economic benefits of Brisbane Airport’s operations are enjoyed right across Brisbane and Queensland, we acknowledge the burdens of aircraft noise are carried locally,” she said.

“The new parallel runway system at Brisbane Airport was designed to allow for greater distribution of aircraft movements and increased use of over-the-bay operations compared to the old system, and in line with our commitment to the community, currently 70 per cent of operations between the hours of 10pm and 6am are over the bay.

“We hope this additional monthly runway operations snapshot will give people a better understanding of how the airport operates.”

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Comments (13)

  • KW


    BAC misled the community from the early 2000’s by representing the new runway as the solution to Brisbane’s aircraft noise problem. They sold the community on the use of the new runway to allow flights to both take off and land over the bay simultaneously. That mode of operation is used zero percent of the time between 6 a.m and 10 p.m., and only 70% of the time from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. 30% of flights going over our homes after 10 p.m. is an appalling statistic, and there is no reprieve at all other hours. Unfortunately this is not limited to suburbs close to the airport. Suburbs as far as 30 km away are recording noise levels over 70 decibels. It has destroyed a large swath of our city.

  • Jim


    BAC only shares stats about flights at midnight. How about late evenings and early mornings? I invite BAC executives to come to my place for dinner and a sleepover so they can see firsthand what it feels like to have dinner with 30~40 planes flying over sometimes 2 minutes apart, and then wake up next day at 6am to the sound of another chain of departing planes, at times with one flying over while the sound of the previous one is still fading. They promised reduced noise over residential areas and the outcome is exactly the opposite. Residents under the legacy flight paths are enjoying a temporary relief, but BAC is aiming for significant traffic growth over the next decade which means in a few year’s time, more people than ever will be exposed to constant aircraft noise. Their EIS was flawed, their noise modelling was so off, many of currently affected suburbs were never consulted at all and then used the SODPROPS as the preferred operation mode to sell the runway to the community and just recently pushed it to midnight only. Welcome to Brisbane, the river airport city of Australia…

  • Lowflying


    It’s 2021. Aircraft have never been quieter and that trend will continue.

  • Can't hate the JT8


    Perhaps I should sue Sydney airport for my lost potential? I’m sure I would have been a genius if I hadn’t been subjected to all those screaming low-bypass turbofans departing 25 or on finals for 07 throughout my childhood! Music to my ears though. These people dont know what they’re missing!

  • Lesley


    What a shame the new runway couldn’t have been planned better. Instead of lower noise with flights predominantly flying over the bay we have industrial levels of noise pollution over our most heavily populated and beautiful parts of the city, and BAC in denial. They obviously aren’t working with residents to alleviate the mess they have created at this juncture. This outcome looks nothing like they said it would so it seems we have a monumental planning failure on our hands, with BAC rightly being seen as very poor corporate citizens. It needs sorting now.

  • Clio Robertson


    It’s relentless the air craft noise. We go to sleep with the sound of planes, they wake us up, and my kid’s endure it all day long at school and home. This is in Annerley, Brisbane. We had absolutely no aircraft noise prior to July 2020. Since the opening of the NPR, it is horrendous.

  • ND


    I was told the new runway wouldn’t change a thing… not true… never heard a plane prior to the runway.
    I was told most flights would fly in and out over the bay…not true.
    I read they (BAC) only had very minimal complaints…rubbish, they only count one complaint per person..so if I complain once a day for a year, they only report one complaint.
    I get woken at 6am daily, sometimes 4am, with loud low planes.
    I dont get to sleep before midnight due to the planes flying so low.
    I cant concentrate when I work from home. I hate the new runway

  • Cy Yem


    Brisbane airport together with air services Australia by their own admission misled the residents of Brisbane on the true impacts of flight noise imposed by the new runway.

    The flight path noise estimator tool was massively flawed in predicting the level of noise impact by the new runway. This fact is not disputed by BAC.

    It really is sad to see such a large part of the city at the mercy of a private corporation and no real help offered by constituents.

    • Jonathan


      Spot on. To make it clear they should have just said the noise will wake up you kids and you will not be able to have an uninterrupted conversation in you home, is that ok?

  • Brett


    I am sure you complainers all want to travel by air when it suits you but how dare anyone else be able to travel when it suits them.

    Just because a flight goes over a school doesn’t mean it is going to be adversely affected by the noise so your number of 50 schools is meaningless. Especially since 68 decibels is the normal level for conversations and a truck is 80 decibels ( https://www.commodious.co.uk/knowledge-bank/noise/measuring-levels ).

    These levels are also measured outdoors and so it is even less noise being heard inside the buildings. Your quoting of noise studies is a generic statement from those organisations and it isn’t a study of actual children under these flight paths. It also assumes exposure to noise levels far in excess of those the majority of children here are being exposed to and it is also not continuous exposure either.

  • Warwick


    What a load of codswallop!
    I lived under a main N-S flight path from babyhood, for 24 years’.
    Not a problem at all with my ‘cognition’, or any other developmental criteria.

    I eventually became a ‘plane watcher’, & loved going to the airport to see, & HEAR the big props, then jets.

    BTW, the second runway had been mooted for BNE airport for decades’.

  • Hayden


    These Karens who are complaining about the noise need to pull their heads in. I live just five minutes north-west of Gold Coast Airport by road and the Runway 32 departures are LOUD. In Brisbane, aircraft fly over much higher than on the Gold Coast, so you are complaining about nothing. PULL YOUR HEADS IN!!!!!

  • RB


    Aircraft engines are becoming as quiet, if not quieter than a group of protesters/people yelling (shouting up to 110 decibels), and a lot of other things on the ground, sirens up to 120, road traffic 70-80. 787 reportedly 85-90, A320 109.8. I always enjoyed heavies like the 747-400, 777, A340 approaching and climbing out over my school. That said, I was wondering if they were going to do more of a Canarsie operation with the parallel runways.

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