'Airplane Noise' of the Future: Whoosh, There it is

9:00 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

The year is 2036. A young boy hangs on the airport fence, waiting for an inbound jet to soar by, yearning for his dreams of one day flying to be brought to life. But unlike the airliners of previous generations, there will be no tell-tale whine of the jet’s engine as it flies over the fence, barely an audible sound emanating from the craft whatsoever.

The strange craft looks normal by 2036 standards, but was out there in left field pretty far back in 2006 when a Cambridge-MIT Institute collaboration called The Silent Aircraft Initiative released their first drawings of what is now commonly known as Sax-40, a conceptual design for an aircraft whose noise would be almost imperceptible outside the perimeter of an airport:

As the Sax-40 slides by overhead, the young boy remembers a conversation he had recently with his Grandpa, who told exotic tales from “back in the day” when airplanes actually still made sounds. The gray-haired gentleman spoke about masses of people making an annual exodus to the middle of a place called Wisconsin, to a little town known for making awesome fire trucks called Oshkosh. They went there seeking a strange phenomenon called “airplane noise.”
The boy sat mesmerized, hanging on Grandpa’s every word as he spoke of something called “radial engines”. The story sounded almost like a fairy tale, a far-out saga of big, round powerplants, with cylinders sticking out all over hell, rumbling – no snorting – to life as they puked out blue smoke and oil.
“Grandpa,” asks the young boy, “I wish I could have heard what airplanes sound like.”

“Your generation is missing out on one of the finest things in life,” answered Grandpa. “There was nothing like the sound of those old airplane engines. I remember the first day I heard an DC-3 start up.  The sound of a pair of Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasps cranking up was like a symphony.”
Will airplane noise be a thing of the past some day? Theoretically, yes, a time could come when nothing powered by today’s powerplants could still fly. A DC-3's life expectancy is anyone’s guess, but in 2036, it somehow seems possible to visualize a 100-year-old DC-3 still grabbing enough lift to launch skyward.

The Sax-40 project was a look at the future, quite literally. One part of that picture that I was most enthused about is this:
The Sax-40 will travel an estimated 149 passenger-miles per UK gallon of fuel, equivalent to a Toyota Prius Hybrid car carrying two passengers.
Any time technology can create more efficient airplanes, it's a great thing. And those old radial engines? You can bet there will be a few old timers left somewhere around the country that can still convince the last few remaining Twin Wasps or Wright Whirlwinds to spark to life yet again and somehow twist all those moving parts into enough torque to lift an old biplane aloft for one more flight around the patch.

You Might Also Like