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.