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The Physics of Airplane Noise

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact David Gordon.

Abstract: Despite much investment, aircraft still look kind of the same as they did 50 years ago. Have they got any quieter, and if so, why? Did you know that the engineering department here in Cambridge have recently designed a radically new “Silent Aircraft”, designed to be no louder than the background city noise outside the airport perimeter?

In this talk, I hope to explain, with the help of many sound effects and movies, how aircraft produce sound and what we are doing to reduce it. We’ll start by explaining roughly how different aircraft engines work, all the way from a little light propeller plane to a huge 777 jet engine to NASA ’s hypersonic research engines. Then we’ll look at how we hear noise, and some examples of aircraft making noise. Finally, we’ll consider some current ideas on how to reduce noise, from radically different aircraft designs, to different air traffic control procedures, to clever tweaks to existing designs.

If there’s time at the end, I’ll show you some near misses from a plane-spotters paradise beach!

This talk is part of the Pembroke Papers, Pembroke College series.

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