German research on ultrafine particles near major airports lame

On December 15, 2016 in Berlin was held the initial meeting for the study of the emission of ultrafine particles in the vicinity of major airports. Two members of BBI Arbeitsgruppe Feinstaub Joachim Alt and Wolfgang Schwämmlein, questioned the assumptions of this study.

The initial meeting on the above-mentioned project took place in Berlin on 15.12.2016. We would like in the following, to give our point of view on the project concept. The positive emphasis is that after years of inactivity this topic is now being treated, as important sources of ultrafine dust, aircraft engines (“flying Power plants “) have long been noticeable to every environmental expert. Especially of note is the combination of high performance (Jumbo approx. 800-1000 kN) and correspondingly high fuel emissions, combustion at high Temperatures and no possibility for a particulate filter!

Other countries (USA, Switzerland, Denmark, the Netherlands) reacted earlier on the subject. Much has therefore been known for a long time and has now been painstakingly reproduced in Germany. However, the basic principles are not yet treating the ultrafine dust measurements.

It is noteworthy that the responsible federal states have done too little for aircraft operations and have not complied with the state’s obligation to apply the precautionary principle. This is perhaps not surprising, however, since the countries, being shareholders at the respective airports, primarily pursue their own economic interests.
The title, “Influence of a large airport on temporal and spatial distributions of the external air concentrations of ultrafine dust Is the present work program meeting this demand? The majority of the work is based upon the use of computer programs that support the pollutant input, so the spread and distribution of pollutants in the vicinity of the airport should be presented. Before looking at these calculations, first take a look at their base data. The quality of the study results depends, of course, very much on the quality of the data available on which the programs are based.

The emissions of ultrafine dust resulting from road traffic are probably relatively well covered. The area, which should be the focus of the project title, is disproportionately badly developed. In the past in many areas, measurement of the ultrafine dust output has been neglected. Correct measurements of the concentration of ultrafine dust which could be obtained are therefore hardly included in the calculations. It is necessary to rely on assumptions and estimates which, of course, are subject to very great uncertainties.
In any case, measurements take place within a very modest framework. Only the two existing measuring stations are to be used, where the one of the two measuring stations is in the wind shadow of Frankfurt Airport. Not even in 5% of the time in the year can one use the measuring station Langen “Flughafenwind”. Since the models are only a “sub-source” of a major source, something which does not correspond to reality, the viability of the results of the measuring station Langen very limited.
The second measuring station in Raunheim is also located on the little used side of the airport (due to the wind direction distribution and thus the approach direction). When looking closely at the measurements in Raunheim, one can see that this is a simple one extending the existing Messroutine of the Landesamtes (HLNUG) to cover ultrafine dust. So one gets to the “pollutant routine”, without the origin and the mechanism of the entry of the ultra-fine dust into the residential areas by the flight operation.
As long as one does not have this basic knowledge, it is necessary to use common scientific methodology to give clarity. Accordingly, the applied measuring interval must be significantly shorter, than the time interval of the events to be examined.

Because, depending on the location, in the Rhine-Main region within one minute up to two flight movements must be measured with the highest possible resolution. Only then is the direct assignment of a measured pollutant input to the respective pollutant input flight event possible. The hourly average values used so far are completely unsuitable for this purpose.

With our investigations, measured at an interval of a few seconds, we could remove doubts:
• In the immediate vicinity of the landing practically every flying aircraft causes one significant peak (first a rapid increase, then a steep decrease of the ultrafine dust concentration), which follows the overflight at a time interval according to the vortex lag propagation.
• At a greater distance from the airport (for example, Raunheim, approx. 7 km away) one can no longer distinguish each aircraft in the plot of the curve. Four-engine aircraft appear mostly as outstanding peaks during the course.
• In continuous flight operation, there has been a steady increase in the ultrafine dust base load, in case of interruption of the flight operation a corresponding decrease of the basic load. There is therefore a clear link between the airline and the airline ultrafine dusting. Vertebrae are also found in Raunheim (approx meters) can still be detected with certainty.
• In Mainz-Hechtsheim several measurements were carried out. It is clear that during the flight operation on the landing approach to Frankfurt (Überflughöhe approx. 1000 m above sea level), the ultrafine dust load can be increased to about three times the value. However, the pre-flight of starting airplanes on the “Süd-Umfliegung” leads to east wind can cause an increase in the ultrafine dust load by a factor of four. If the wind comes from other directions, of course, no influence is measurable. Lack of flight operation and / or flight pauses drives the high measured value back to the level of the current background load.

These investigations , which show that the operating range of the flight procedures is much further in the area, are the basis of the project. There are, besides the normal transport of the pollutants from the airfield to the immediate surrounding region, also included the entry along the flight routes through vortex whirling effects, i.e. the ground-level entry from above. The variety and the power of the vortex-loop events in Flörsheim is a clear proof of this.

The strength of the turbulence wake depends on the meteorological conditions, the aircraft weight, overflying height and aircraft type. In contrast to the “chimney theory”, engine exhaust emissions also occur at heights above ground of over 300 meters while the aircraft is still on the ground and can be proved. They press with around 150 m per minute downwards and can continue for up to 15 minutes. Depending on the overflow height it takes thus a few minutes until one can see a vortex on the ground. The main damage inflow in Raunheim is probably more on the vertebrate entry and not on transport of pollutants from the airport about 7 km away.

This is even clearer in the measurements in Mainz-Hechtsheim. The measuring point is about 20 km from Frankfurt Airport. The take-off route “Süd-Umfliegung” (TABUM-M) leads at approximately 3 km distance with an altitude of 2000 – 3500 m above sea level along the Rhine. This route causes an increase of the ultrafine dust load by a factor of three to four in the case of corresponding meteorological conditions! The temporal offset between pre – flight and pollutant registration corresponded exactly to the time of the pollutant cloud, with a speed of 1-3 m / sec over this route.

And now to the planned calculations themselves: if you have nothing to hide, you do not need to fear transparency! The calculations and propagation models which have been deposited have been declared as secret should not be examined. At the same time one blocks the recording of newer ones findings. Finally, the flow conditions at the aircraft and the associated airflow related turmoil in flight operations can be assessed differently from the spread of emissions near the ground.

Particular statements made that apply to the programs in general are recognized, validated and certified by the ICAO, cannot be proof that all conditions are correctly recorded and the reality in flight operation by means of suitable measurements have been confirmed. Who is already questioning results which, in the sense of their own expectations or objective, seem plausible?

In the model, only the estimated kerosene share is used, which is up to a height of 300 m after the start or before the landing. Thus, the area considered to the immediate airport environment. The framework conditions of the project thus prevent the flight operation to be adequately integrated into the calculations. Also a comparison of the results (validation) with real ones given the existing project concept, is practically impossible to do so. A validation would require significantly more measurement stations. The present work program is therefore not suitable for the achievement of the project objective.

Health aspects

Again and again claims are made that the health effect of UFP has still too little research. In many cases, the topic is also trying to trivialize the issue.
For this reason, here are some facts:
• We focus exclusively on ultrafine particles from combustion processes. Combustion is kerosene with an aromatic content of almost 20%.
• Ultrafine particles contained in the exhaust gas are never unproblematic.
• The smaller the particles, the deeper they penetrate into the organism and the more dangerous they are.
• There is demonstrably no lower limit below which a load would be harmless.
• Most of the inhaled alveolar particles remain permanently in the organism.
• Although such small particles are almost without mass, they accumulate in the course of one 47 mg UFP in the human organism.
• Pathological studies in Mexico have shown that in contaminated pollutants areas of high concentrations UFP in the brain could be detected.
• In many studies stroke patients were found to have been exposed to higher UFP stress.
• Scientists at the Helmholtz Institute have shown that an increased risk of infection particle concentration affects heart variability after only a few minutes.
• A Dutch study came to the conclusion that an increase of 10,000 particles per cubic centimeter decreases by 3-6% the life expectation.
• The reason for too few epidemiological studies lies solely in the fact that, due to missing measurements, no stress values are present and thus the correlation between UFP exposure and health effects cannot be demonstrated.
• It is thus urgent to cover the UFP load with the appropriate area measuring instruments and making them accessible to science.


The study is a first tactile experiment, the influence of a large airport on the ultrafine dust situation of the environment. One thing which can already be said is that current study will not provide robust results because of the weaknesses of the data base, but also work programs are simply too big! Thus is a scientific penetration of the core theme of “flight operation” is at best in the form of a literature study, but not in experimental studies scale with a larger number of measuring stations.
The work program gives the impression that there is already sufficient for all sectors knowledge and proven, usable programs. This also applies to certain aspects of the project, e.g. on weather, road traffic, traffic on the apron, etc ..

It is unclear whether the computer programs used for the spread of pollutants by air traffic may be used as a validation which deserves its name. There are legitimate doubts here. A claim, “from an airport of 300 meters Is no longer on the ground, “is in stark contradiction to our measurements and tto which he numerous cyclone events that took place in Flörsheim and Raunheim in recent years has given rise.

The proof of the correct simulation must not only be based on annual mean values, but also on the individual case. The propagation model must also include the measured quadrupling of the ultrafine dust load in Mainz-Hechtsheim by the influence of the southern departure route.

In the study, the obvious knowledge gaps are covered by “black-box suppliers”. The averaging process from the beginning does its utmost to hide an increase in knowledge. Lastly, we would like to remind you that often the state does not concern itself with an airport operator facing the legitimate concerns for the protection of residents. However, the task of state authorities is to reduce health hazards, which emanate from a HUB in a densely populated metropolitan area.

The authors expect to avoid mis-investments and to ensure the success of the project and a revision of the work program!

Mainz, January 13, 2017
Contact: [email protected]; [email protected]