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Indian whiz developing 'silent plane'

Last updated on: September 12, 2005 17:01 IST

An Indian aerospace engineer is part of a team currently working on a £2.3 million project to create a new generation of silent passenger aircraft described as a "flying wing" with "virtual windows".

"It will be quitter than the normal background urban noise even at take-off and landing," Anurag Agarwal, who is part of the The Cambridge-MIT Institute Silent Aircraft Initiative, told the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Dublin after unveiling the aircraft design.

The three-year project involves a team of 40 researchers and several industrial partners, including Rolls-Royce, Boeing, British Airways and the UK's civil aviation authority.

The ear-splitting engine noise, generally associated with jets, would be shielded by the fuselage, Agarwal said. "If you think of light waves coming out of the forward section of the engines, then these rays would bounce off the upper surface of the wing and it will leave a shadow region underneath. The same thing happens with sound."

In addition, the jet engines are wider, so that the air travels through them more slowly and less noisily.

The current design would seat 250 people and travel 6,400 km, and is comparable in size to a Boeing 767. Agarwal said it could be easily scaled up to fit 800 people.

"It's like a flying wing and the passengers are accommodated in this wing," he said of a layout providing more space.

The project will finish next September, when the plans will be handed over to aircraft manufacturers to work on proto types. However, it will be 20 years or more before the aircraft, which look more like the US military's B-2 Stealth Bomber than a jumbo jet, could enter service.

Paul Collins, the manager of the project, a collaboration between Cambridge University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, said, "The noise level we're looking for would be to take it below the background noise that people experience outside airports, below traffic noise levels. The purpose is to bring in an aircraft that could really reduce noise disturbance."

The men, who are working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, believe their concept could cost as much to develop and buy as today's passenger jets but should be much cheaper to run thanks to its unusual shape.

"We're not just looking to reduce the noise an aircraft makes but also to change the way it's flown to produce significant noise savings," aerospace engineer Tom Reynolds said.
H S Rao in London
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