x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

As airport noise rattles Mirdif homes, residents admit: 'You get used to it'

Residents either put up with the decibel levels coming from Dubai International or move on.

"You can tell by the sound, 'Oh gosh, that's a Russian plane'," says Trish Bland, of the Mirdif area, on the ageing planes screaming in.

DUBAI // The descent of approaching aircraft into Dubai International Airport brings them so close to villas in the Mirdif area that residents can count the number of tyres attached to their landing gear, read the lettering on their tail fins and smell the exhaust fuel. And then, of course, there's the roar of the jet engines, which rose to a peak on a recent visit just as Jo Oakley, a mother of two, explained why she loves living in the Uptown Mirdif area. "It's a lovely place!" she shouted over the barrage of noise.

The proximity to the airport would seem likely to put residents off the area. The issue of aircraft noise came to the fore last Wednesday when members of the Federal National Council complained that airports in the country are located too close to residential neighbourhoods. But Mrs Oakely, like many others here, says she has adapted.

"You get used to it," said Mrs Oakley, a Briton aged 40, as she towelled off after an afternoon swim. "Occasionally you hear a big one and you're like, 'Oh dear'. It's bad for visitors. They aren't used to it." Sultan Saqr al Suweidi, an FNC member from Dubai, said: "Abu Dhabi International Airport is 35km away from the city, while Dubai airport is only 4km away from the city." This resulted in high levels of sound and air pollution and put residents in danger, he said, especially as many incoming planes were from old and noisy fleets.

Sultan al Mansouri, the chairman of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), said: "Even Sheikh Hamdan [bin Rashid] complained that he can hear the noise of the planes at his palace in Za'abeel." The decibel levels of several types of Russian and Ukrainian aircraft has led to their being banned in airports across Europe and the US. Saif al Suweidi, the GCAA general manager, said the authority is preparing a blacklist of foreign airline operators that do not meet federal standards, and will be banned from entering UAE airspace. Mirdif is unique because it is directly on the Dubai airport flightpath.

But the local community has grown significantly in recent years due to cheaper rents and new amenities. Measurements taken by The National found Mirdif residents may be exposed to decibel levels more on par with an airport tarmac than a typical residential neighbourhood. During the first night after she moved to a villa in Mirdif two years ago, Lana Anderson recalled, the walls were practically shaking.

"The first night we just couldn't believe the sound," said the Australian, a mother of two. "We had just paid Dh210,000 in rent and we said to ourselves, 'What have we done?'" Mrs Anderson, 40, and her husband gradually grew accustomed to the noise, but not without having to make concessions. They moved their bed to the centre of their room, away from the juddering walls, and diverted themselves trying to identify the make of aircraft from the vantage point of their backyard pool. Eventually, though, Mrs Anderson gave up on Mirdif. She has since moved to the Arabian Ranches area, largely for financial reasons, but enjoys the relative quiet, nonetheless.

Most residents have simply grown used to the noise. Trish Bland, who lives in a three-bedroom villa in Uptown Mirdif, said she had learnt to distinguish Russian models from the rest. "You start to tell by the the sound - 'Oh, gosh, that's a Russian plane'," she said. "We noticed it the first week, but then we tuned out," she recalled. As Mrs Oakley ticked off the reasons why she liked Uptown's amenities - plenty of green spaces for the kids, a large swimming pool, a community feel - the echo of an approaching plane thundered off the surrounding villas.

After it died down, pausing briefly, she laughed and remarked: "See - you get used to it!" @Email:hnaylor@thenational.ae * With additional reporting by Haneen Dajani