1. What is noise, exactly?

Noise is a phenomenon that is omnipresent in the modern world. It is defined as sounds that are undesirable or disturbing. Generally speaking, the louder a sound, the more disturbing it is. Sensitivity to noise, however, can vary greatly from one person to another and even from one moment to another: two sounds of the same intensity may be perceived in very different ways. Some people enjoy listening to a very loud rock concert even though the sound level can sometimes exceed the hearing-damage threshold. But somebody who doesn’t like rock music or is engaged in an activity demanding concentration will be disturbed if they are near the same concert.

2. How is noise perceived and measured?


Information note - Noise measurement at Montréal-Trudeau Airport

Sound is vibration or waves transmitted through the air that can be perceived by ears. Sound is actually minuscule variations in air pressure, which are picked up by the tympanic membrane (eardrum).

Sound has frequency and intensity.

  • The frequency or pitch of a sound is measured in Hertz (vibrations per second). The higher the frequency, the higher-pitched the sound; the lower the frequency, the lower-pitched the sound.
  • The intensity or level of sound corresponds to acoustic pressure, which is most commonly measured in decibels (dB). Because the human ear’s interpretation of sound intensity varies with the frequency of a sound, sound-level meters use a so-called A-weighting filter, which gives more emphasis to higher-frequency sounds than lower-frequency ones. So ambient noise is measured in A-weighted decibels, or dB(A).

It is important to remember that the decibel scale is a logarithmic scale: 0 dB corresponds to the limit of audibility and 140 dB, to the pain threshold.

Decibels are not additive. Two lawnmowers each generating 60 decibels don’t make a noise of 120 dB, but of 63 dB; similarly, 10 mowers at 60 dB each will generate a total sound level of 70 dB.

An increase of 3 dB (a multiplication of the noise source by 2) is perceptible by our ears. A 10-dB increase in sound level (multiplication of the noise source by 10) is perceived by our ears as double the noise.

3. How do airplanes generate noise?

There are two main sources of airplane noise: engine noise and aerodynamic noise (caused by the flow of air around an aircraft in flight). When a plane takes off, and is using maximum thrust, engine noise is predominant. When a plane lands, the aerodynamic noise that is produced can be as loud as the engine noise.

4. Are there differences from one type of aircraft to another?

Generally speaking, bigger planes make more noise than smaller ones. But size isn’t everything! Engine technology has improved greatly in recent years, so some older, smaller aircraft can be as noisy as the latest-generation wide-body jets.

The acoustic performances of each type of air transport aircraft are characterized by three noise-level measurements determined according to procedures defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). These three noise levels are measured on approach, takeoff under full power, and overflight. The standards also consider the mass of the aircraft and the number of engines.

The aerospace industry currently distinguishes between three generations of aircraft, referred to as "chapters." There can be a difference in sound level of up to 8 dB from one generation to another, which is considerable.

  • Chapter 2 aircraft are older planes dating from before 1977, equipped with earlier-generation engines. With a few exceptions, these aircraft have not been allowed to fly in Canada since 2002.
  • Chapter 3 aircraft correspond to the majority of commercial planes currently in operation. Note that some Chapter 2 aircraft have been fitted with noise-attenuation devices, called “hush kits,” to improve their acoustic certification. These aircraft are marginally compliant with Chapter 3 standards, so they are louder than aircraft that are certified Chapter 3 when manufactured.
  • Chapter 4 is a new noise-certification standard introduced by ICAO in 2002, which all new aircraft built after 2006 must comply with.
5. What types of aircraft operate at Montréal-Trudeau?

Virtually all passenger transport aircraft operating out of Montréal–Trudeau are certified Chapter 3 or Chapter 4. Where general aviation is concerned, there are still a few small Chapter 2 aircraft, but they are exceptions. Chapter 2 aircraft equipped with noise mufflers known as "hush kits" represent a very small percentage of the fleet operating in Montréal-Trudeau.


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6. How many runways are found in Montréal-Trudeau and how are they designated?

There is a universal system for naming airport runways. The number of the runway corresponds to its angle vis-à-vis magnetic north. For example, Runway 28 is at a 280-degree angle, and Runway 10 at 100 degrees, with the difference between the two directions on the same runway always being 180 degrees. Additionally, when two runways are parallel, they are differentiated by the letters R and L, depending on whether they are to the right or left of one another. Montréal–Trudeau has six runways for navigation purposes: 10 and 28, 06R and 24L and 06L and 24R. Note that this configuration has remained unchanged since 1958.


7. What determines the use of runways in Montréal-Trudeau?

The use of runways is dictated first and foremost by flight safety considerations, and particularly by weather conditions. Planes notably have to land and take off against the wind. Operating conditions (runway length, aircraft type, air traffic, etc.) are also very important. The temporary closing of a runway, for example for repair work, can also have the effect of concentrating traffic on the airport’s other runways.

Finally, there exists a priority runway system for night operations.

The tables and graphics below show the frequency of use of the various runways at Montréal–Trudeau from 2006 to 2017:

Runway use statistics year 2006 / Day and night combined
Runway NO. OF ARRIVALS % no. of departures %
06L 14,665 14% 4,982 5%
06R 10,947 10% 23,102 22%
10 3,304 3% 1,037 1%
24L 28,970 28% 43,669 42%
24R 44,815 43% 6,585 6%
28 1,580 2% 24,943 24%
Total 104,281 100% 104,318 100%
Runway use statistics year 2007 / Day and night combined
06L 18,932 17% 8,217 8%
06R 11,467 11% 23,668 2%
10 860 1% 258 0%
24L 26,965 25% 45,322 5%
24R 49 225 45 % 11 515 10 %
28 1,760 2% 26,320 24%
Total 109,092 100 % 109,362 100%
Runway use statistics year 2008 / Day and night combined
06L 19,238 17% 6,910 6%
06R 10,409 9% 24,499 22%
10 1,074 1% 135 0%
24L 29,272 27% 30,900 28%
24R 49,225 45% 11,515 10%
28 993 1% 36,448 33%
Total 109,211 100% 110,407 100%
Runway use statistics year 2009 / Day and night combined
06L 15,579 15% 8,497 8%
06R 10,235 10% 23,892 23%
10 6,933 7% 399 0%
24L 29,118 28% 37,534 37%
24R 41,057 39% 5,498 5%
28 1,405 1% 28,517 27%
Total 104,327 100% 104,337 100%
Runway use statistics year 2010 / Day and night combined
06L 17,909 17% 5,778 5 %
06R 11,826 11% 26,293 25 %
10 2,492 3% 287 0 %
24L 24,805 23% 44,505 42 %
24R 48,228 45% 1,732 2 %
28 1,265 1% 27,971 26 %
Total 106,525 100% 106,566 100 %
Runway use statistics year 2011 / Day and night combined
06L 25 517 22 % 10,535 9%
06R 9 913 9 % 26,329 23%
10 1 784 2 % 336 0%
24L 20 642 18 % 41,013 36%
24R 55 342 49 % 5,691 5%
28 765 1 % 29,981 26%
Total 113 893 100 % 113,885 100%
Runway use statistics year 2012 / Day and night combined
06L 19,493 17% 5,175 5%
06R 11,895 10% 29,976 26%
10 3,278 3% 72 0%
24L 34,563 31% 55,777 47%
24R 44,084 38% 1,974 2%
28 580 1% 20,906 20%
Total 113,893 100% 113,880 100%
Runway use statistics year 2013 / Day and night combined
RUNWAY No. of arrivals % NO. OF DEPARTURES %
06L 19,030 17% 8,385 8%
06R 9,972 9% 21,764 20%
10 80 0% 55 0%
24L 19,834 19% 68,779 62%
24R 60,859 55% 4,454 4%
28 353 0% 6,659 6%
Total 110,128 100% 110,096 100%
Runway use statistics year 2014 / Day and night combined
RUNWAY No. of arrivals % NO. OF DEPARTURES %
06L 22,736 21% 3,807 4%
06R 6,403 6% 26,233 24%
10 161 0% 86 0%
24L 31,016 29% 39,662 37%
24R 47,511 44% 30,856 29%
28 114 0% 7,170 7%
Total 107,941 100% 107,814 100%
Runway use statistics year 2015 / Day and night combined
RUNWAY No. of arrivals % NO. OF DEPARTURES %
06L 20,932 19% 4,681 4%
06R 6,661 6% 23,850 22%
10 435 1% 93 0%
24L 23,242 21% 62,353 58%
24R 57,032 53% 8,339 8%
28 262 0% 9,199 8%
Total 108,564 100% 108,515 100%
Runway use statistics year 2016 / Day and night combined
RUNWAY No. of arrivals % NO. OF DEPARTURES %
06L 24,843 22% 5,932 5%
06R 7,256 6% 27,887 25%
10 968 1% 126 0%
24L 18,761 17% 52,380 47%
24R 59,026 53% 12,238 11%
28 682 1% 12,986 12%
Total 111,536 100% 111,549 100%
Runway use statistics year 2017 / Day and night combined
RUNWAY No. of arrivals % NO. OF DEPARTURES %
06L 24,447 21% 4,558 4%
06R 7,234 6% 28,448 25%
10 71 0% 40 0%
24L 19,643 17% 71,405 61%
24R 63,797 55% 8,488 7%
28 394 0% 3,149 3%
Total 115,586 100% 116,088 100%
8. Why are there planes over my neighbourhood?

Planes are likely to fly over most of Montréal’s neighbourhoods at any time during the day.

The majority of aircraft flying over Montréal take off from or land at Montréal–Trudeau. There are other airports nearby, however, including the one in St. Hubert. Often, planes flying over Lachine, for example, are departing from or arriving at St. Hubert.

After takeoff, jets may bank left or right, depending on their destination, as soon as they reach an altitude of 915 metres (3,000 feet); propeller planes, meanwhile, must turn as soon as possible after takeoff to clear the way for jets, which fly faster. Aircraft landing at Montréal–Trudeau must follow a very precise trajectory, directly in line with the runway and on a 3° angle of descent. Since there are six runways (three physical runways that can each be used in two directions), there are six approach corridors, which take aircraft over many neighbourhoods.


9. Why are there more planes at certain times of day?

An airport has morning and evening “rush hours." Air transport is not very different from other modes of transportation. On highways, bridges, as well as subway and commuter trains, there is always more traffic when people are travelling to or from work.

The same goes for air transport: many domestic and transborder flights leave early in the morning, carrying businesspeople who return in the evening of the same day.

On transatlantic routes, meanwhile, planes usually arrive in the afternoon and leave in the evening. To enable two daily turnarounds, some planes serving southern destinations leave very early in the morning, return in the afternoon, take off again, and return late at night.

10. Why do I hear planes on certain days but not on others?

It all depends on the wind direction and runway use.

For safety reasons, airplanes always take off and land into the wind. In Montréal, the prevailing winds are southwesterly, so planes most often take off from Runways 24L and 28, and land on 24L and 24R.


If the winds are from the northeast, planes take off and land in the opposite direction, on Runways 06R and 06L.


Runway 10 is used when there are strong crosswinds, or as an auxiliary runway.

Various factors, such as work on a runway or taxiway, can lead to changes in the normal operating mode.

11. Are takeoffs noisier than landings?

Generally speaking, an aircraft is noisier on takeoff because its engines are operating at full power. However, some manoeuvres used on landing, such as reverse thrust, can result in increased noise.

12. Why do airplanes make more noise in summer?

First of all, people are outside more often in summer and leave their windows open, so they are much more exposed to aircraft noise.

Second, because the air is hotter and less dense in summer, it provides less lift, so planes climb more slowly on takeoff and fly at lower altitudes over areas near the airport.

Atmospheric conditions like humidity, wind and cloud ceiling height can also affect noise propagation and our perception of noise.

13. How is noise disturbance near airports measured?

Like other Canadian airports, ADM mainly uses Noise Exposure Forecast (NEF) contours  to measure changes in the soundscape around Montréal–Trudeau airport.

NEF contours are approved by Transport Canada and made available to municipal governments for urban planning purposes. The NEF system measures the total amount of noise created by all types of aircraft operated at an airport, based on real aircraft movements by runway and on time of day or night. The development of NEF contours requires a vast number of computer-assisted mathematical calculations. The higher the NEF level, the greater the noise disturbance.

The higher the NEF level, the greater the noise disturbance. Transport Canada recommends against undertaking new residential construction in sectors where the NEF level surpasses 30. Annoyance caused by aircraft noise may begin as low as NEF 25. It is recommended that developers be made aware of this fact and that they undertake to inform all prospective tenants or purchasers of residential buildings. In addition, it is suggested that no residential construction project proceed until the responsible authorities are satisfied that acoustic insulation features, if required, have been considered in the building design.

For the past few years, Aéroports de Montréal has been using an easier-to-interpret indicator called “total equivalent noise level” (Leq). This cumulative indicator that measures the intensity and frequency of aircraft noise reflects the average noise level during a given time period, expressed in the measurement unit dB(A). More flexible than NEF contours, Leq can also be used to study specific flights during a period of an hour, a week, etc. Real Leq can also be measured using noise sensors installed beneath flight paths around the airport periphery. Unlike NEF contours, Leq is not restricted solely to measuring aircraft noise, and can therefore be used to gauge noise from other sources, including trains and highways.


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14. It seems to me that there is more noise today than in the past. Am I right?

In fact, the soundscape is much better today than it was 10, 20 or 30 years ago, for a very simple reason: planes are much quieter than they used to be. The phasing out of Chapter 2 aircraft in 2002 was a major factor in soundscape improvement.

The NEF (Noise Exposure Forecast) contour is calculated using modelling software that takes into account arrival and departure flight paths, flight destinations, as well as takeoff and landing procedures. The calculation also considers aircraft type, hours of operation, and which runway is used.

Since the restrictions issued by Transport Canada for land-use planning apply in consideration of the NEF 30 contour only, ADM is now using NEF 30 to track the evolution of the soundscape at Montréal–Trudeau.

The map below illustrates the gradual shrinking of the NEF 30 contour around Montréal–Trudeau over the years, and this despite the increased traffic and the construction of new homes near the airport. The NEF 30 contour defines the zone within which aircraft noise can cause a certain degree of disturbance.

year area (KM2) POPULATION
1995 42.2 39,421
2011 18.6 3,626
2016 19.2 4,272
Variations 55% 89%


It is important to note that, in collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada, Transport Canada recently updated the methodology it uses to calculate NEF noise contours in Canada, both from an IT standpoint and with respect to aircraft noise data. Specifically, Transport Canada now uses the same Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) database, which contains up-to-date information on about 350 types of aircraft. The new software factors in the characteristics of more modern airplanes, their improved performance, new noise certification standards, and the greater diversity of airplane models and engine systems. Application of the new methodology has created variances from the former method.

The 2016 NEF 30 contour shows that Montréal-Trudeau’s noise footprint covered an area of 19.2 km² in 2016, down 55% from 42.2 km² recorded in the 1995 reference year. The population living within the noise footprint has shrunk by 89% since 1995, from 39,421 to 4,272 residents. The improved soundscape stems mainly from the modernization of the air fleet, particularly the phasing out of noisier (Chapter 2) aircraft in 2002, and from ADM’s implementation of noise abatement measures.


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15. Air traffic is increasing all the time. Doesn’t this mean more aircraft movements (takeoffs and landings)?

Increasing passenger traffic does not necessarily equate to more aircraft movements: airlines can use larger aircraft, or increase their passenger occupancy rates.

The graph below shows the trend in aircraft movements at Montréal-Trudeau since 2008.

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16. Why was Montréal–Trudeau airport built in the middle of the city?

Montréal–Trudeau airport was built in 1940 on the site of a former horse racetrack. At the time, it was surrounded by farmland. The three photos below, taken in 1940, 1960 and 1990, show how the city gradually grew around the airport. Urban development continues today. There are high-end residential projects under construction or development near the airport, some of them under runway centre lines.




17. Why not move flights back to Mirabel?

Montréal–Mirabel airport has not been used for passenger flights since 2004, and transferring passenger flights back to Mirabel is neither economically feasible nor desirable.

The cost of transferring passenger flights to Mirabel would be quite simply prohibitive (of the order of several billion dollars), not to mention the fact that the massive investments made at Trudeau since 2000 would be lost. No investor would be willing to finance such a project. There is also every reason to believe that several carriers and a great many passengers would not follow.

Neither does the proposal to transfer only night flights hold water. We would need a new terminal adapted to this use and complying with new security requirements, which would involve significant investments that would be hard to recover considering the few night flights. In addition, several services at Trudeau that are no longer available at Mirabel would have to be duplicated, such as Canada Customs and land transportation services. The proposal also raises the spectre of operating problems for carriers, particularly in terms of staff and fleet management. Finally, the possibility of flying out of Trudeau and arriving at Mirabel would create totally unacceptable situations for passengers: for example, try to picture the passenger who would arrive at Mirabel in the middle of a major snowstorm after spending a week at a sun destination and whose winter clothing would be in his car parked at Trudeau!

The bottom line: Mirabel is definitely not an option. As a responsible and accountable administrator, Aéroports de Montréal will not revisit its decision to group all passenger flights at Montréal–Trudeau, whose advantages are irrefutable.

18. Isn’t there a trend toward building airports far from built-up areas?

The vast majority of international airports are in urban areas. Canada’s three largest airports — Toronto Pearson, Calgary and Vancouver — are in the middle of their respective cities. The same is true of London-Heathrow, one of the world’s busiest airports.

Where new airports are concerned, it is true that the trend is toward building them far from built-up areas, mainly because the only sites large enough for such development are at a fair distance from urban centres.

19. Isn’t there a night-flight curfew at Montréal–Trudeau?

There has never been a curfew at Montréal-Trudeau. Like all major airports and other types of airport infrastructures, Montréal-Trudeau airport is open 24 hours a day. However, there are certain restrictions on night flights, specifically on flights by wide-body jets weighing more than 45,000 kg (e.g., Airbus A320, Boeing 737).

Takeoffs: Midnight to 7 a.m.

Landings: 1 a.m. to 7 a.m.

Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) does, however, have the right and the authority to make exceptions for medical emergencies, delays beyond the carrier’s control and adverse weather conditions. A strict internal policy applies in such cases. In particular, there are only a small number of exemptions for regular flights (four departures per day on average), and they must be supported by sound operational reasons. The exemptions are also contingent upon adherence to the noise abatement measures in force.

Note also that especially noisy aircraft cannot be granted exemptions for night flights; these include the Antonov, B727, B737 100 and 200 series, B747, DC9, DC10, Ilyushin, L101, MD 80 and MD-11.

20. Why not cease night flights at Trudeau altogether?

The airport remains open at all times to accommodate emergencies, air ambulances as well as general aviation (small private aircraft, which generally are not very noisy). In commercial aviation, night flights, including departures before 7 a.m., are vital because they provide the following advantages:

  • Return trips can be made in a single day, avoiding overnight hotel stays;
  • Final destinations with connections to other airports in Canada and the U.S. can be reached in a timely manner – for example, the 6:30 a.m. Air Canada flight to Toronto provides access to 32 destinations that are not served by direct flights out of Montréal–Trudeau;
  • Travellers get the most out of their holidays at sun destinations because flights leave early in the morning and return late at night.
  • Aircraft usage time is maximized, with multiple turnarounds within a 24-hour period;
  • Carriers optimize the use of their networks by co-ordinating connection schedules at their other hubs and those of their partners;
  • Companies can provide competitive rates and flexible schedules to meet passengers’ needs.
  • We have a competitive airport that provides international-calibre service;
  • Montrealers can enjoy a wide range of destinations and flight frequencies;
  • Round-the-clock use enhances the reputation and economic growth of the Greater Montréal Region.

Today's traffic

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The vast majority of aircraft movements takes place during the day.

21. What is the situation at other Canadian airports?

Generally speaking, all major Canadian airports are subject to the same market imperatives and are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Like Montréal-Trudeau, some of them have night-flight restrictions, applicable to some or all runways.

22. Can we expect further improvements to the soundscape around the airport?

Yes. Just as the soundscape has improved greatly since 1981, aircraft noise is expected to decrease in the future as fleets are modernized and increasingly sophisticated planes are introduced. In addition, Aéroports de Montréal and its partners intend to continue their efforts to reduce noise annoyance through effective, socially acceptable measures.