The silent aircraft initiative

Silent aircraft The SAX40 design. The airframe is an all lifting surface or ‘Blended-Wing-Body’ (BWB).

Professor Ann Dowling FRS, Dr Will Graham, Dr Chez Hall and Dr Tom Hynes, University of Cambridge
Professor Ed Greitzer, Dr Jim Hileman and Dr Zoltan Spakovszky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and the Silent Aircraft Initiative Team

Conceptual design of an ultra low-noise and fuel efficient aircraft

The University of Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) launched the Silent Aircraft Initiative in 2003 to design a commercial aircraft that would significantly reduce noise pollution.

The researchers worked together to create a radical new design to tackle aircraft noise. The collaboration created a design for an aircraft whose noise would be almost imperceptible outside the airfield in a daytime urban environment. A surprise consequence of the design is that it will also reduce fuel consumption, using approximately 25 per cent less than the most energy efficient aircraft currently available.

“With air travel predicted to double in the next 20 years, the Silent Aircraft Initiative was launched to address the problem of reducing noise pollution. The result of our work would be a greener, quieter aircraft,” explains Professor Ann Dowling from the University of Cambridge. “We have worked with many companies in the civil aviation industry to create the design we have today.”

The new shape of this aircraft is a single flying wing, which allows the body to provide lift as well as the wings. This makes the plane more aerodynamic and reduces fuel consumption. The engines are redesigned and mounted on top of the aircraft to shield much of the engine noise from listeners on the ground, and a variable area exit nozzle keeps the engines tuned to operate at peak efficiency.