Photo courtesy of Wright Electric
by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition
Los Angeles-based startup company, Wright Electric, backed with significant funding from YCombinator, EasyJet and others, has joined the race to build electrically propulsed commercial passenger aircraft. In fact, Wright Electric has been showing it’s concept of a 185-seatshort-range aircraft to investors and conference attendees around the world for several years now.
This demonstrates that there’s significant momentum behind the idea of next generation all-electric aircraft, even in the U.S. where industry leaders Boeing and GE have spurned electrics while their competitors, Airbus and Siemens, are investing in it. This race to develop all-electric aircraft won’t just benefit the environment, it should also result in much quieter aircraft.
So the way forward to quieter airports may depend on accelerated development of alternatives to big, noisy jet aircraft. I’ve already reported on available electric planes, ranging from one- and two-seat training aircraft up to the spectacularly beautiful 11-seat “Alice” from eViation, an Israeli company that has already taken an order from U.S.-based carrier Cape Air and will have aircraft in the skies very soon.
Why not just continue to push FAA–and Boeing and GE–to fix their “NextGen” mess that has made peoples’ lives miserable around major airports? Of course we should, but we should try to encourage technological change, too.
The FAA Re-Authorization Act, which requires more consideration of neighborhoods around airports, took six years to work its way through Congress before it was signed in October 2018. Unfortunately, nothing much has happened even though Donald Trump’s signature is clearly affixed to the bottom of it.
So I say we should also encourage the development of the next generation of quiet, energy-efficient electric aircraft. The sooner they’re in the skies, the happier we’ll all be not only because our skies will be quieter but because those planes won’t be spewing toxic fumes and pollution into the atmosphere.
David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.