Teaching Pilots a New Trick: Landing Quietly

Wired | 9/26/2019 | Staff
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Life in the cockpit doesn’t leave much room for individuality. Airline pilots wear the same uniforms, they follow the same procedures, they even talk the same. And now, a group of German and Swiss researchers wants them to land the same, by following specific instructions for deploying their flaps and lowering their landing gear as late as possible. Not because it’s safer or faster, but because it’s quieter.

Over five days in early September, the German Aerospace Center, or DLR, asked 25 pilots to land the center’s Airbus A320 a total of about 90 times at Zurich Airport’s runway 14. The A320 was modified to carry a bevy of testing equipment—including, for this study, an additional electronic display. That screen told the pilots exactly how and when to configure aircraft components to descend from cruising altitude to 1,000 feet with the least possible noise. The approach also limits how much pilots need to use their engines, so fuel consumption drops too.

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The researchers don’t expect to silence all landings, but they do hope to eliminate particularly noisy outliers. “Many pilots already do it very well,” says Jean-Marc Wunderli, who runs the acoustics lab at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, which is collaborating with the DLR on this project. In similar tests at Frankfurt in 2016, Wunderli’s team recorded volume drops of up to 40 decibels. That’s roughly the difference between the noise from a jackhammer and a hair dryer.

Wunderli - Results - Month - Spring - Airports

Wunderli won’t have results from this month’s testing until the spring, but airports are likely to welcome any way to shush planes. Hearing aircraft land and take off is, of course, annoying—especially when it wakes you or the baby you just got to sleep. One study linked the stress...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Wired
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