Families living near to the George Best Belfast City Airport are offered greater protection from noise than people living under other UK flight paths, it was claimed today.
Airport bosses were responding to a survey from campaigners opposed to the planned runway extension at the east Belfast transport hub.
Chief Executive Brian Ambrose questioned the validity of the research - which claimed three out of four local people said planes flying overhead affected their sleep - and pointed to other data that indicated more people had problems with traffic.
He said 'noise maps' drawn up by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency showed that roads, railways and industry created more noise than passing aircraft.
The CEO said the lack of night flights at the airport and the fact large cargo planes didn't land there meant less noise was generated than at most other airports in the UK.
"Belfast City Airport meets all government requirements regarding noise," he added.
"People living near Belfast City are afforded greater protection than those living near other airports as we do not operate large wide-bodied aircraft, cargo flights and most significantly we do not operate night flights.
"Once again I would question how representative the survey is and also its validity, carried out by those opposed to our runway application and not by an independent body.
"Belfast City Airport operates to the highest standards regarding all facets of our operations and has received strong support for our plans from the local community."
The survey conducted by campaign group Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW) claimed 78% of residents questioned said aircraft noise affected their sleep and 75% said they often had to stop talking when a plane flew overhead.
Of the respondents with children almost half - 46% - said their children were not getting enough sleep because of aircraft noise. More than a third said their children found aircraft noise frightening.
In light of the findings, campaigners challenged Sammy Wilson to swap homes for a day - saying they were confident he would then think twice about allowing the extension.
Fiona McKinley, spokeswoman for BCAW said the results should provide a wake-up call for the minister.
"The message from the streets of east and south Belfast and from Holywood is clear - people have had enough. The Environment Minister must either reject the airport's misguided extension plan out of hand - or at the very least hold a full public inquiry into it."
She said BCAW - an umbrella group for eight residents' groups in affected areas - hoped the minister would heed their research.
"Many people feel politicians have got out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people - the Environment Minister now has the chance to show that doesn't apply to him."
The survey also found:
- 71% said aircraft noise made their gardens less pleasant to be in.
- 68% said they often could not hear the TV or radio when a plane flew over.
- 49% said aircraft noise made their lives more stressful.
In all 91% said they were concerned about the proposed runway extension, with 75% saying they were very concerned and opposed to the plan.
Lynda Downes was among those who challenged the minister to swap homes for a day. "I think he should spend the day here and then maybe he'd think twice about extending the runway. The noise is so bad that, whenever a plane goes over, my windows actually shudder."
She said her 11-year-old son Jamie was often woken by the noise.
"He often wakes up, both late at night and early in the morning because of the planes. It means he is tired during the day and can't be bothered to do stuff."
Keith Burns said weekend lie-ins were now a thing of the past.
"We're woken by the first Ryanair flight at 6.30am almost every day, even Saturdays and Sundays. It's not a great way to start your weekend," he said.
BCAW said 412 respondents were questioned during a door to door survey carried out between March and June. All were either under or close to the flight path, 281 in east Belfast, 99 in