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Image courtesy CNET

Image courtesy CNET
Cambridge University showcases Blending Wing Body aircraft design

Researchers from Cambridge University are working on a new aircraft design that would dramatically reduce the noise produced in and around airports. With noise pollution being a key reason why supersonic airliners aren't flown over the United States and why airport expansion is often frowned upon by local residents, a change in design philosophy is welcome by many.

While many aircraft manufacturers have made great strides in producing quieter jet engines over the years, the new designs proposed by Cambridge University would reduce the noise levels outside an airport to those of a regular household washing machine. "People are still willing to pay more for the convenience of a closer-in airport. There is an economic value to being able to keep your air transport close in town, which means you've got to be quiet," said Richard Aboulafia, vice president at aerospace consulting firm Teal Group.

To achieve the radical reductions in noise pollution, researchers went with a blended wing body (BWB) design with vertical stabilizers placed at the end of both wingtips. The plane also does away with wing flaps which contribute greatly to landing noise. Reuters reports:

The MIT-Cambridge team also designed what they said could be a quieter and more fuel efficient engine system. Rather than placing the jets in pods suspended under the wings, the silent jet uses three engines built into the middle of the plane, at the rear. They take in air from above the wing, which helps to insulate people on the ground from jet noise at takeoff.

While the BWB is seen as just a proof of concept design for now, it is likely that at least some of the features will be carried over in future aircraft designs. "In a project like this, the idea is to really focus on one goal and see what you could do in the extreme. But as you go to a real design process, you have a lot of other trade-offs," said Billy Glover, director of environmental performance for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

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When this plain is build,
By Clauzii on 11/7/2006 12:30:58 PM , Rating: 2
...there will be no more oil to fuel it :O

RE: When this plain is build,
By Kuroyama on 11/7/2006 1:05:56 PM , Rating: 2
If there's an oil shortage then that would be even more reason to use this plane, as it is claimed it would use less of the high cost oil than current designs.

RE: When this plain is build,
By Clauzii on 11/7/2006 1:32:58 PM , Rating: 2
I know, but since oil is near it's peak, and considering the time it takes for the plane to go from theory to practice, All I meant was that the sooner the better :)

RE: When this plain is build,
By hubajube on 11/7/2006 2:40:01 PM , Rating: 2
I know, but since oil is near it's peak
LOL! Here we go again with the out-of-ass experience!! How do YOU know that oil is near its peak when there are STILL untaped sources of oil?

RE: When this plain is build,
By hubajube on 11/7/2006 2:45:24 PM , Rating: 2
OMG! What's this?

RE: When this plain is build,
By Jedi2155 on 11/7/2006 10:19:51 PM , Rating: 2
Thats if we can figure out a economical way to remove the oil from the shale...otherwise it's mostly just dirt and tar.

RE: When this plain is build,
By Kuroyama on 11/7/2006 2:56:50 PM , Rating: 2
How can we predict who will win an election when it has STILL not happened? How can we predict there will be future downturns in the economy, even when the economy is STILL growing? Nobody claims statistics or modeling is perfect, and I am not going to argue over Hubbert's Peak, but am only saying that your "question" and the general "if I don't see it then it must be false" attitude is stupid.

Sure, your attitude is quite prevalent in the US, as a 1997 Gallup poll showed that only 10% of Americans actually believe in the "absurd" proposition that man was created by evolution without the intervention of a god (another 39% believe in evolution where "God guided this process, including man's creation"). But this shows that at least a few Americans are smart enough to realize that we can predict that something will/can happen without actually having seen it occur.

RE: When this plain is build,
By JonB on 11/7/2006 1:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
No more oil to fuel it??

There will oil for many, many generations, it will just be very expensive. Canadian tar sands, Westerm oil shale, Gulf of Mexico deep drilling. Just get used to saying, "No more cheap oil..."

RE: When this plain is build,
By Kuroyama on 11/7/2006 3:08:03 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think he seriously meant there would be no more oil, just not an abundant supply. Or as you say, not an abundant supply of cheap oil. Even those who accept the idea of Hubbert's Peak largely realize that energy supplies will change to other sources such as coal or nuclear power or if you're excessively optimistic (and unrealistic) then perhaps wind/water/solar/geothermal, leaving high priced oil for those things where it is most needed, like air travel.

RE: When this plain is build,
By Clauzii on 11/7/2006 3:25:54 PM , Rating: 1
Exactly. We might be able to fuel our cars and stuff. But if the price skyrockets, I don't see it usable for normal commercial use.

RE: When this plain is build,
By Clauzii on 11/7/2006 3:22:18 PM , Rating: 1
Oh, btw. I meant to write PLANE :)

RE: When this plain is build,
By Kuroyama on 11/7/2006 3:37:21 PM , Rating: 2
Someone should mod the parent back up. It was a joke about the story. It is the irrelevant comments like mine and the others spawned by this joke that should be modded down.

RE: When this plain is build,
By Ringold on 11/7/2006 4:04:39 PM , Rating: 2
Virgin is funding research on butanol, and as the weeks tick by I notice more people at my local airports that fully understand that 100LL and, in the longer term, Jet-A isn't here for the long haul. Testing of ethanol in light aircraft haven't found any major problems.. I'm not sure if the increased fuel consumption is balanced by the higher horsepower or not, which could lead to reduced range, but if thats the only trade off then it's not a bad one.

Of course, the aviation magazines seized on the point that water contamination would be invisible in fuel samples. Oh boy, world would come crashing to a firey end. That was the shot across the bow for me that told me there's some heavy protectionist feelings toward oil in aviation; they didn't mention at all that water contamination is invisible because it dissolves, and testing shows it'd require massive contamination (fuel lid open in an all-day rain storm kind of massive) to cause engine failure. (Currently, it doesn't dissolve, and very small amounts can cause engine failure)

I get that you were kidding, but a lot took it seriously, so just thought I'd put it out there that the forward looking people in the industry already know it. Sort of like people in bio-tech don't really debate evolution, people here don't debate that cheap oil is in its death throes, so they dont actually *really* expect a plane that far off in the future to run on fossil fuels. They'll design as if it will use them, test as if it will, but chiefly because a definite alternative just isn't right in front of them yet.

Jet engines and pollution
By Marlowe on 11/7/2006 12:53:01 PM , Rating: 2
They should find an alternative to jet engines all together.

Today aerospace traffic stands for about 5% of global air pollution, and it's projected to be over 50% by 2050.

Instead of concentrate on noise (allthough it's a good thing in it self) and economics, they should be thinking about doing something about the pollution.

That's what I thnink anyways :P

RE: Jet engines and pollution
By Kuroyama on 11/7/2006 1:03:18 PM , Rating: 2
Focusing on economics is useful because more efficient planes use less fuel and hence reduce pollution. On the other hand, more efficient planes leads to cheaper flights which increases plane travel and pollution, so perhaps its a wash in the end. But it's hard to encourage pollution reduction unless it's done in the name of efficiency, because pollution control alone tends to reduce fuel economy and also increase the weight of the plane, both of which make operating costs higher. For instance, if you buy a car in Missouri and the same car in California the CA car will often have slightly lower fuel economy due to modifications intended to reduce pollutants.

Although I am worried about pollution, it's a long swim to Europe so I think I'll stick with planes for now.

RE: Jet engines and pollution
By Zirconium on 11/7/2006 1:35:16 PM , Rating: 2
They should find an alternative to jet engines all together.

Such as?
Today aerospace traffic stands for about 5% of global air pollution, and it's projected to be over 50% by 2050.

Where did you get that figure from?

What people don't realize is that scientists/engineers are regular people, not some magical "they." If you feel that there is a market for some alternative technology, then why not get a degree and pursue it yourself? It sure beats bitching and moaning about air pollution but not really doing anything about it yourself.

RE: Jet engines and pollution
By hubajube on 11/7/2006 1:53:39 PM , Rating: 2
I don't have a problem with the bitching. I DO have a problem with the out-of-the-ass statistics. Where did you get 50% from? Shit, where did you get 5% from? Are you personally standing in the middle of the Atlantic at 30,000 feet taking emissions samples?

RE: Jet engines and pollution
By Marlowe on 11/7/2006 2:11:12 PM , Rating: 2
No mean to be rude :-)

I tracked down my estimated numbers to this place:

Have fun!

RE: Jet engines and pollution
By hubajube on 11/7/2006 2:42:02 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the link. This is much better than the other poster with his out-of-ass experiences.

RE: Jet engines and pollution
By Ringold on 11/7/2006 3:51:13 PM , Rating: 2
You need to get a grip instead of hopping on anybody that makes a suggestion that an oil-based anything is maybe not the greatest, and demand cited sources for absolutely everything. These are comments, by people, in a forum, on a blog (not even a real news article), not research papers!

RE: Jet engines and pollution
By GoatMonkey on 11/7/2006 3:14:58 PM , Rating: 2
I don't buy that 50% of air pollution will come from planes. Think about the developing countries with tons of people and little to no air pollution laws. If you base it on the idea that future cars will be more efficient, you have to think about the population percentage that will be using cars, not to mention the population growth and industrial air pollution from developing countries.

RE: Jet engines and pollution
By LtFarva on 11/7/2006 1:47:04 PM , Rating: 3
They are. They are decreasing noise pollution. :)

Cloud to the silver lining...
By Connoisseur on 11/7/2006 10:34:12 AM , Rating: 2
Great idea, but I read that this design may increase cabin noise significantly. I'm not sure it's a trade off that paying customers will be willing to make.

RE: Cloud to the silver lining...
By jskirwin on 11/7/2006 11:37:01 AM , Rating: 2
Interesting point.
So those who enjoy the benefit of a flight would be the ones to incur the costs - in the form of higher noise levels.

Meanwhile the situation is reversed today - where those on the ground incur the costs in terms of noise but not the benefit of being in the air.


RE: Cloud to the silver lining...
By Furen on 11/7/2006 1:01:46 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but those who enjoy the benefit of a flight are the ones who pay :P

More important than noise:
By Aquila76 on 11/7/2006 3:15:04 PM , Rating: 2
Will the new design take off from a conveyor belt?

RE: More important than noise:
By lemonadesoda on 11/7/2006 8:55:36 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, it takes off from a conveyor belt.

By lemonadesoda on 11/7/2006 8:52:24 PM , Rating: 3
The original design was used by International Rescue ...F.A.B.

Relaxing after a mission:

Projected cost?
By Dfere on 11/7/2006 10:33:14 AM , Rating: 2
Proof of concept is interesting. Commercially- what is the cost and what does it do to the noise level on the plane?

Wasn't this here yesterday?
By Spivonious on 11/7/2006 12:41:07 PM , Rating: 2
Wasn't an article about this plane posted yesterday?

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