back to article Top aero boffin: Green planes will be noisy planes

One of Blighty's top aero engineers has tried to open up a debate on the conflict between quietness and greenness in the next generation of airliners. However, most of what he actually said has been obscured by a report stating that he is calling for the introduction of nuclear-powered airliners. Professor Ian Poll FRAeS is a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Classic Lewis Page!

    Pollution - whether it be noise, noxious gases, or CO2 is pollution and degrades the environment - to draw a distinction between anti-noise & anti-CO2 is artificial to say the least. Many, sane, people are concerned about both.

    Everyone has the right to decent quality of life - 'But do they have the right to destroy the planet and/or the UK's energy security, economy etc purely for their own selfish comfort?' - you are acomplete arse!

    And then there's the usual Lewis Page subtext - anyone standing in the way of technological advancement is somehow retarded, loopy, selfish or all three! What a cock! At least he hasn't had a chance to air his obsession with flying cars in the last couple of weeks!!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But what about nuclear-powered flying submarines?

    After all, we've already got nuclear-powered subs, so surely strapping a pair of wings on shouldn't be too much of a stretch, particularly seeing as they've already got the mounting points organised for hydroplanes which themselves look rather like vestigial wings in much the same way that a whale's vestigial rear flipper looks rather a lot like a leg. Come on boffins!

  3. Boris

    Noise nymbyism

    "Much of the hatred directed against aviation in the UK is actually noise nimbyism, then, not any form of environmental concern."


    Noise pollution is pollution just like any other. People exposed to high noise levels for extended periods suffer health problems just like you get from other sources of pollution.

    You clearly don't live anywhere near the major Heathrow flight paths or are deaf.

    A possible solution to the noise problem is to move domestic traffic onto a high speed train network. The only short to medium term solutions to the long haul/international problem are to move the airport away from dense urban areas or wait for the cost of fuel to fix the problem for you...

  4. Alastair Smith
    Thumb Up


    Apparently NIMBY is out and BANANA is in: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything.

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Nice Change

    Glad to see you spoke to the Prof. himself to find out what he *really* thinks.


  6. Gareth Jones Silver badge

    Anti-Noise Campaigners Are Not Alone

    The technical detail of this story is interesting, but the human politics are not. Almost everybody on the planet is in favour of cutting carbon emissions* and saving the planet, as long as it doesn't effect them.

    Sticking with aircraft how many people have you met who decry the air transport industry for the damage it does to the environment and while taking cheap charter flights for their holidays?

    Although the whole argument is somewhat undermined by the fact that a fully loaded airliner will be using less fuel per mile per passenger than a large car carrying a full load of passengers.

    *And damn all the other harmful emissions. How long will it be before somebody suggests the abolition of the catalytic converter to save fuel and reduce carbon emissions?

  7. Richard Kay

    blame game

    So it's the people living near Heathrow who want to be able to sleep or think or concentrate at work who are to blame for global warming caused by air pollution. Silly me, I'd thought for years it was folk using air travel to go places.

    There again, making the locals _really_ antagonistic by deliberately increasing noise to ear-splitting levels might just be the way to close an major airport down. Perhaps there is a method in this madness after all.

  8. Spoonguard

    What the article doesn't tell you about Nuclear RAM jets

    I for one welcome retooling nuclear cruise missiles so absurdly and outrageously lethal that they make salted bombs look like a kindness:

    "Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, Pluto's sponsors were having second thoughts about the project. Since the missile would be launched from U.S. territory and had to fly low over America's allies in order to avoid detection on its way to the Soviet Union, some military planners began to wonder if it might not be almost as much a threat to the allies. Even before it began dropping bombs on our enemies Pluto would have deafened, flattened, and irradiated our friends. The noise level on the ground as Pluto went by overhead was expected to be about 150 decibel."

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Nuclear planes?

    Of course nuclear planes are possible, didn't they already have them on Thunderbirds ages ago (by the name of Fireflash, it would seem)?

    Well, it's actually more likely than the report in Flight International this week and presumably elsewhere too (sorry no URLs yet but subscribers to Flight's "Breaking News" service will see it), that BAe Systems are looking at aircraft-mounted radar systems that can be used to knock out enemy craft by using the radar to transmit a virus and thus knock out the enemy aircraft's systems. Too many liquid lunches and Independence Day repeats maybe?

  10. dave

    Have they lost thier minds?

    Nuke powered planes? With the amount of planes that go down in a year the planet will be covered by nuclear waste if these idiots get their way. I just hope any sort of plans are allowed to go through public scrutiny before any of it gets made.

  11. Adam Williamson
    Thumb Down

    Planes aren't essential.

    "In other words, being against airport noise is not the same as being green - quite the reverse - unless you also believe/accept that air travel should largely stop. (That means a return to the days when travel, other than to go to war or to migrate, was strictly for the rich.)"

    It most certainly does not. "We can't get anywhere without aeroplanes!" is a huge fallacy.

    There are certain types of trip for which air travel makes sense at present: the really long haul - anything that takes, say, four hours or more in a plane. Transatlantic or trans-Pacific, east coast to west coast in the States, stuff like that.

    These, however, do not make up the majority of air travel.

    I decided to apply myself and actually do some research for this post, instead of just pulling the numbers out of thin air in true journalistic fashion. According to the Department of Transport's helpfully detailed and freely available statistics (nice job, DoT), in 2006, total air passengers between the U.K. and the EU-15 - the long-standing group of E.U. states - were 108,534. More specifically, the most popular destinations were, in order of popularity: Spain, the Republic of Ireland, France, Germany, and Italy.

    Total flights to the entire rest of the world - destinations which could reasonably be considered long haul, including the United States - were 49,938: less than half the number of flights to short haul destinations within Europe.

    And that's just international flights. If we added domestic flights, the numbers would look even worse. Unfortunately I can't find the equivalent figures for domestic flights.

    Still, even disregarding domestic flights, at least two thirds of air travel to or from the U.K. is unnecessary. It is simply not true to say that air travel is the only affordable method of transportation within Europe. It is entirely within the capabilities of the E.U. to build a comprehensive, continent-wide high speed rail transport network. Even with current technology, you could do it so that most journeys would be possible within eight hours or so; with perfectly feasible upgrades to existing trains, this could be cut to five. This would bring a huge amount of benefits over air travel.

    It is vastly more energy efficient (and hence environmentally friendly). According to Climate Action Network (not an entirely unbiased source, I admit, but they're not inherently biased in favour of any particular mode of transportation, just in favour of *energy efficient* transportation...), trains are around two to three times as energy efficient as planes. That's not some piddling little 20% improvement, as is always touted by 'environmentally friendly' planes: it's massively higher. We could save far, far more energy by simply using trains for travel within Europe than we could possibly save by trying to make planes more efficient.

    It's a much less intrusive method of transportation. As the article discusses, plane noise is a huge problem for people unfortunate enough to live near airports. Airports themselves are awkward beasts which need to be sited close to major destinations but are too big to fit within them, forcing the development of ancillary transport networks (usually clogged-up roads) between the actual destination and the airport. By contrast, trains make very little noise, and stations can comfortably be sited at the actual destination, as with the existing Eurostar and TGV networks, saving time and effort on the part of the traveller.

    Finally, it's a much more pleasant method of transportation. I hardly know anyone who enjoys flying. The ratio of plane size/weight to passengers carried being absolutely critical to the bottom line, you get crammed in like sardines. It's noisy. For most of the time on most flights, there's nothing to look at. There's no form of amusement or amenity on board. It's just an unpleasant experience all round.

    Compare train travel. Size and weight aren't so important for trains, so operators can afford to give everyone a lot more leg room. The environment inside a modern high-speed train is quiet and relaxing. You get fresh air. You can look out the window and actually *see* stuff. You can go buy something to eat from the buffet car. Train travel can be a rewarding experience in itself; it's certainly not unpleasant, in the majority of cases.

    It's time for the "we need planes to get anywhere!" fallacy to end. It is perfectly feasible with modern technology for the vast majority of medium-distance - up to 1000km - travel over land to be done by rail. This would be better for the economy, the environment, the general population, and the travellers. There's absolutely no excuse not to do it. Fortunately, anyone who's seen the terminal at St. Pancras - it's about ten times bigger than it needs to be to cope with the current volume of traffic - can see that at least some people are planning along these lines.

  12. Bob Worcester

    You pose a strange arguement

    The article says: "we should tell people living near Heathrow to shut up and accept more noise. That's not something they're going to want to hear, of course. But do they have the right to destroy the planet and/or the UK's energy security, economy etc purely for their own selfish comfort?"

    This is a bit of a flawed argument surely? Do people flying in less polluting planes have the right to pollute when it's at a slightly lower level? Most flights are leisure based and therefore unnecessary, I'm pretty sure expose to noise is pretty unhealthy and therefore it needs to be limited. It's a basic human right to have minimum environmental standards that ensure one's wellbeing and I'm pretty sure that noise is covered under this. Therefore you advocate committing one environmental crime in order to offset the other, both of which are based on an activety that is for the most part unnecessary. Therefore, surely it's the responsibility of the individual to either limit their own carbon footprint and not fly unnecessarily or for the government to regulate to encourage this behaviour. I don't think it's for the individual on the ground to 'shut up' and have their health damaged because increasing numbers of people want a long weekend in Valencia 12 times a year.

    What we should probably aim for is to bring in these noiser but less polluting planes and at the same time reduce the number of flights in and out of somewhere like Heathrow by ensuring that most of the travel is essential or business related. Another option of course is to build a new airport, with these aircraft in mind, in an area where noise pollution does not damage people's health. The third option would be to have about 6 or 7 runways so you can disperse the noise over a wider area.

  13. G.R.L. Cowan, H2-to-B convert

    He's no fun any more

    It may be possible for a nuclear aircraft to crash without harming the environment any more than the impact of any 2,000-tonne or heavier aircraft, without fuel, would do.

    2,000-tonne? Maybe it could be as light as 1,500 tonnes if it's three or four reactors, with three or four no-fooling radiation shields, and hardly anything else. These shields would be like solid 12-foot balls of iron, except about twice heavier, because they'd be made of tungsten, with a cramped reactor compartment in the middle. They would bury themselves deeply in anything they were dropped on. That's not necessarily helpful, nor a hindrance, to their preventing radiation leakage; it's just the way it is.

    Some high-temperature coolant, maybe lead or maybe heavy B2O3, would penetrate the thick heavy metal walls and come out again and have its heat transferred to air. The post-shutdown heat could be taken up in boiling the coolant that was inside at the time of a crash. It could work.

    --- G.R.L. Cowan, H2 energy fan 'til ~1996

  14. Jim
    Thumb Down

    Ok, I'll bite...

    "In other words, being against airport noise is not the same as being green - quite the reverse - unless you also believe/accept that air travel should largely stop. (That means a return to the days when travel, other than to go to war or to migrate, was strictly for the rich.)"

    The campaigns against airport noise have always been about noise, nothing to do with being 'green'. It is the media (and a few misguided individuals) that paint local noise and global environmental damage as the same cause.

    Also, most campaigns against aviation in general are against EXPANSION and not calling for a halt. This would be nothing like a return to air travel for the military and rich only. And maybe, if no new slots were available, air fares would find a level where airlines can operate without subsidy and dipping in and out of chapter 11.

    As for nuke planes, ignoring the (currently) insurmountable safety issues for mass transit, the way things are going we may run out of uranium before oil...

  15. brainwrong

    noise/efficiency trade off

    The trade off between noise and engine efficiency only applies to the open rotor engine. A really efficient engine would, by definition, make little noise, because noise is an unwanted form of energy output.

    And yes, air travel should largely stop. If only so there's less chavs shagging in public in muslim countries and being assholes across european holiday destinations.

    A number of other points about the article have already been put much better than I could by others above.

  16. Tom

    And they say the ground base ones are

    a terrorists dream target - imagine how much damage a pigeon could cause to a nuclear powered jet slightly redirectedfrom heathrow to crash in central london.

    It could cause the collapse of the market and...

    now that would benefit us all.

    I'll take two and few flying lessons and a satnav that I can plug into my Ipod

  17. SkippyBing
    Black Helicopters

    People living near Heathrow

    Probably shouldn't be surprised by the noise, I mean the airports been there for 60 odd years. There's a reason the houses are cheaper than elsewhere in London and I'm guessing it does something for the local economy too.

    And I live by an air base so I am aware of how noisy it can be, I'm just not surprised by it as it's been here much longer than I have.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Engines over wings

    I seem to remember, a while back, people looking into sticking the engines above the wings rather than below them, so that the wings deflected most of the noise away from the ground. It obviously doesn't help much for take-off, and the passengers would need their headphones up-rated (seriously, why can't any airlines get headphones that work properly and use connectors that don't end up needing pressure on the jack to make them connect?) because the wings wouldn't be shielding the noise from *them*, but I've not seen any recent attempts at the concept.

    Anyone know whether it just doesn't work aerodynamically, whether it's outweighed by the cabins being noisy, whether it's too much of a pain for engine maintenance, or whether there's some reason it's disappered?

    Black helicopter, because they can go anywhere on a single tank of fuel and have stealth mode.

  19. Dave

    Not Surprised...

    ...that the Times totally ignored the main point and focused on the nuclear bit. As with the Daily Wail, they sell papers by getting the readers all worked up about things that are often totally irrelevant.

    And a comment for Gareth Jones - several companies were making good progress on lean-burn engines until vested interests got the EU to specify that only catalytic converters with their inherent inefficiencies and use of rare metals were allowed on petrol vehicles. Perhaps they should rethink that and encourage engines that burn less fuel. It's the same in California - they've got very stringent emissions regulations but what you have to do to the engine to achieve it means you burn twice as much fuel per mile.

  20. Jean-Luc

    numbers, numbers, numbers....

    What we are missing is the noise penalty on those new-fangled engines. Is is a 3dB increase? 10db? What about the fuel gains? Who knows, it's not quantified in the article. Silly me, I thought we were a tech audience.

    The author is right to point out that there are trade offs between pollution types/environmental concerns. In this case, noise vs. CO2. Another case would be nuclear reactor wastes + risks vs. CO2 savings from nuclear power. Yet another are some GMO crops vs. their reduced need for pesticides and higher yields.

    "Everything is pollution" is true, but some forms of pollution are more of an issue than others, making that a rather specious argument. I'd say right now it's CO2, CO2 and ... CO2.

    As the planet heats up slowly, I expect we'll see more and more of these tradeoffs being exposed. With some lots and lots of NIMBY and greentard posturing as well.

    In this case though, I'd say the author fails to make a point against the folks living near Heathrow. Surely a little less flying by everyone is a more relevant approach? In fact, I thought his post was actually a bit tongue in cheek ("make them all deaf, it'll save the planet").

    Now, if he had posted his numbers, I might feel differently.

    @ Gareth, "Almost everybody on the planet is in favour of cutting carbon emissions* and saving the planet, as long as it doesn't effect them." : You nailed it!

  21. Anton Ivanov
    Thumb Down

    Article is wrong on some points

    Open rotor (which most people call turboprop) HAS made it into passenger airliners - Tu-114 is a good example. It dates from late 1950-es and was hellishly noisy even by the late 50-es standards. However, even with _THAT_ tech it delivered fuel efficiency that we are still barely able to match in the most modern jet engines. This is one of the reasons why the Russians still fly its military cousin - the Tu-95 Bear. It is cheaper to run than any jet, can stay aloft for longer and military never gave a damn about noise.

  22. yeah, right.


    As I see it, noise is just as much a pollutant as smog. Smog hangs around and destroys lungs and wildlife. Noise goes away faster, yes, but still provably causes mental damage, as well as destroying wildlife. Any solution needs to consider all pollutants, including noise. If this means using fast, underground bullet trains then so be it. The startup costs would be huge, but the overall benefits might be worth it. Pity that our society does not reward forward thinking, only short term compromise.

  23. Brett Leach

    Some NIMBYs create themselves.

    I can't say I have much sympathy for a lot of NIMBYs. Since a good many of them deliberately chose to locate themselves in close proximity to the source of their ire. Price, convenience, a great view, the reasons why the do so are numerous. One thing though is almost universal, the "problem" they want fixed was there before they were.

    Of course the developers should not have been permitted to develop that land in the first place, but since it was, and the people living there, chose to purchase/rent knowing exactly what was going on over their heads, their outcry should not be permitted to influence policy.

  24. Chris Miller
    Thumb Up

    Noise or CO2

    No, Boris, noise pollution is NOT pollution just like any other. Noise pollution is purely local, whereas CO2 emission affects the entire planet (if you believe in that sort of thing). Let me put this as simply as I can: if you find aircraft noise disturbing, DON'T BUY A HOUSE NEAR AN AIRPORT. Especially don't buy a house near an airport and then campaign to have the airport closed. And don't tell me that the number of flights has increased since the 80s - true, but the noise emitted by aircraft has reduced.

    Lewis, please keep up the good fight, though you'll never convince those that do not want to listen (or to understand).

  25. The Mighty Spang

    what a flipping winker

    "But do they have the right to destroy the planet and/or the UK's energy security, economy etc purely for their own selfish comfort?"

    i dunno - do people who want to burn carbon for two weeks arseing about in a foreign country have the right to destroy the planey purely for their own selfish comfort?

    lets get this clear - the vast majority of flights are for "holidays in the sun" or short breaks. we are not talking about some kind of mass cultural exchange here. british people sod off to warmer climbs, mix only with english people, drink newcastle brown, eat burgers and chips and perhaps wander around some tourist trap or two, gawping at stuff and taking bad photos. tax that at 1000000%.

    i rarely go abroad, but i've probably spent more time out the country than most people because i've gone there to work. instead of hanging about at the irish bar i've made friends with the locals and hung out with them - and acutally come to understand their way of life.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Trains, huh?

    Loud (you ever live near can hear them miles away).

    Vibration (yes, in addition to loud).

    Fuel (use a fair amount all by themselves and are really only efficient if fairly fully loaded).

    Land (use vast swathes of land which has to be specially conditioned and treated)

    Danger (to every other vehicle or animal which crosses their path).

    New construction (many billions would be required to upgrade or build new track for high speed and facilities to support their access and traffic were they to replace planes).

    Just give me a good old-fashioned locomotive that burns coal. At least it's easy on the eyes.

  27. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Think inside the box

    How much does it cost to develop a magical silent light clean reliable aircraft engine that runs on sustainable fuel?

  28. skeptical i

    Back to the Future?

    So the Mr. Fusion Energy Reactor is back on the drawing board? Shiver me flux capacitors, matey!

  29. blackworx

    Pull your socks up

    "Local campaigners and their insistence on noise curbs are actually damaging the planet already."

    And there was me thinking it was the burning of vast volumes of hydrocarbons in the first place. You can't go on about the distinction between household electrical vs household total energy consumption on one hand and then say something like that on the other.

    Not up to your usual standard Lewis, but still: I read the Times article and I can safely say I now know a lot more now than I did after reading that.

  30. Mike Powers

    @The Mighty Spang

    "lets get this clear - the vast majority of flights are for "holidays in the sun" or short breaks."

    I'd be interested to hear your position on leisure time. I'll just bet that you favor more of it over less, and think that it should be a government-mandated requirement.

    Except that you also think that people shouldn't travel anywhere. So apparently you'd favor lots of time off during which we'd all just stay home and watch TV...

  31. Mister Cheese

    @AC (overwing engines) - I guess it's been done before...

    Course, the noise for the human cargo might be a little excessive - but what's to stop designers moving the passengers below the wings with the luggage hold on top? Or even sticking the wings on the top... maybe just too unconventional for the people with the money to risk.

  32. Jonathan McColl

    The oil won't run out ...

    ... before things change. People will ration other people more and more, by price or by little stamps, so that High-Priority government driving and flying will happen long after you and I will be cycling. Nuclear won't be there either to replace all that used-up oil, because we'll have used up enough of the uranium to get it rationed too.

    I like Alan Williamson's letter best: decent trains running on (umm) something will be better use of any fuel than aeroplanes. Even though I'm not sure that he rides the same trains I do with narrow seats and widdly little tables that don't fit more than one laptop above or more than one set of 14" femurs below, his trains would turn into my kind once they became the medium-distance transport of choice/necessity because the operators would see to that.

    Stop the world, I want to get off.

  33. heystoopid
    Paris Hilton


    So how soon we forget that the Concord SST powered by four Bristol Siddley Olympus jet engines on full power with reheat take off , generated noise levels of well in excess of 137db at the airport boundary fence and a slower moving fully laden Boeing 747-100 peaked at around 128db at the same spot.

    The biggest problem with the so called turbo props is the amount of waste energy generated noise by the blade tips vortex breaking the sound barrier , some have forgotten much about a Canadian Dehaviland design called the Dash-8 which was a very good cruising fuel miser by using very big slow turning props , great STOL and the boundary fence noise for the aircraft was far lower then most smaller gas turbine and petrol engined multi's or equivalent sized commercial jets , alas the plane was sold before it's time and due to low production eventually cancelled.

    Now just think , if one fool were to invent a Star Trek matter transporter , think of all the problems that it would solve in one go , like fuel savings and direct transport to your destination hotel bathroom etc

  34. Gary F

    Nuclear? How exactly can that replace jet engines?

    Nuclear power works by generating vast amounts of heat. Submarines and power stations capture that heat to turn water into steam which which moves pistons which turn a shaft...

    We would only be able to use nuclear power to either generate electricity onboard a plane or directly drive a rotor. Rotors (propellors) provide far less thrust than a jet engine and planes would fly a lot slower, about half their current speed. I won't even mention the weight of the equipment such a plane would be required to carry.

    So unless anyone has any ideas about how a nuclear reactor can provide a type of energy that can power a type of engine anywhere near as powerful as a jet then please let us know.

  35. Mr Mark V Thomas

    Re: Engines Over Wings

    The Antonov AN-72/74 had it's engines located on top of it's wings, in order to increase STOL performance, by means of the Coanda effect...

    When they delevoped a civil version, the AN-148 for airline use, the found that putting the engines under the wings, made them easier to maintain, & also they found that the overall fuel consumption decreased by some 20% compared to the AN-72...

    The Honda Business Jet, due to enter production next year, in the U.S does have it's engines over the wings, but given the "credit crunch", will it sell...?

  36. Neoc

    Interesting comments

    I read these comments, and it occurs to me that most - if not all - of those who accuse others of being NIMBYs are themselves unlikely to be affected by this change. Big surprise there.

    For the records, I bought a house under the flight-path of the local airport. It was a calculated decision where we stayed in the area for a while, listened to the noise the planes made (and the number of planes) and then went: "yes, it's a level we can live with". So I'm not in the brigade that calls the airport every time a plane goes over my house.

    I do, however, find my ire go up when someone suggest that this means I have effectively agreed to allow the industry to *increase* the noise levels because it suits *them*.

    Turnabout's fair play - before you tell people they should suck-it-up and take the noise increase, why not think about *your* reaction if the situation was turned about and you were told there would now be less but more expensive flights to deal with oil shortage / pollution?

    Of course, the caveat is that unless you use aeroplanes (and want to increase noise to keep the flights) or live near a flight-path (and want to keep the noise levels the same at the cost of flights), then I'm afraid that your opinion on *this* pollution matter counts for little. Sorry, but true.

  37. Adam Williamson
    Thumb Down

    @AC 03:04

    So, let me get this straight - you wish to argue that trains cause more noise problems than planes?

    How many action groups have formed demanding King's Cross be shut down on noise grounds, then?

    Yes, trains are fairly noisy on a scale of "absolute silence" to...well..."planes" (you know, the archetypal thing you put on the loudest end of any arbitrary noisiness scale). But they're a lot less noisy than planes.

    Fuel? Er, I mentioned that directly. They're massively more energy-efficient - that means, fuel efficient - than planes. "Only really efficient if fully loaded" applies to any form of transportation, I don't quite see how it's relevant here. Are unloaded aeroplanes terribly fuel efficient, then?

    Land, well, yes, they use a bit of land. More than planes for a comprehensive network, admittedly. But most of it is in less important locations - you need a lot more land in prime areas for airports than you do for train stations. And use of land doesn't seem to be stopping us building roads all over the damn place; the land use by a continental rail network would be far, far less than that used by roads.

    Danger? Since the TGV started running in 1981, exactly two people have been killed in TGV-related incidents (both truck drivers who managed to get hit at level crossings). Since the Shinkansen services started in 1964, there has been a single fatality (apart from suicides), caused by a closing door on the train.

    I'll take those odds over any other form of transportation except the elevator, thanks.

    New construction? Yup. That's not always a bad thing, though. Capital investment in a beneficial cause is a great way to stimulate economies, after all. And the benefits are hard to argue. And, as I said, we seem to be happy to keep coming up with billions to build roads all over the bloody place.

  38. Sentient
    Thumb Down



    So naive. We bought a house near work, so we don't have to commute too far.

    When we bought it there was no air traffic over our house but one year later there was due to an increased number of planes and a spreading the noise action plan of the government.

    I think this reaction is more demonstrative of the problem.

    " I don't think it's for the individual on the ground to 'shut up' and have their health damaged because increasing numbers of people want a long weekend in Valencia 12 times a year."

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    There is a nice Fuel-Less Gravity Powered Airplane shown on you-tube

    This probably won't make it to the comments section due to the link, but you guys have to check this out if you haven't yet seen it.

    Considering everyone seems to be talking about a complete redesign, why not go all the way?

  40. Goubert

    Hahahaha oh wow.

    ""Look at France," he said. "They have nuclear powered trains, don't they? It's an electric train, but almost all their electricity is nuclear. So in a sense, that's a nuclear train."

    This is priceless. With the amount of failures we get on the rail network these days... When a train stops working on its tracks, it pisses off people because they'll be late. If a plane stops working in the air well... Passenger and metal jam.

    Leccy plane anyone ?

  41. Chris G

    Noise pollution can damage your health

    So make ear plugs available on the national health for those living under flight paths or close to airports.

    Much as I like railways, they are not in their current form the answer to replacing noisy or expensive aircraft. As some one pointed out it would take only eight hours (in a perfect railway system) to get to most of Europe but that is not the only consideration, time is money, all of the infrastructure around the railway system has to be maintained for the extra time the train is traveling, one example of added infrastructure requirements is that people have to eat more and evacuate more ( a two or three hour flight in Europe is not too bad but try not going to the loo on an eight hour journey) that alone creates a whole other problem , processing the railway equivalent of 108,000 flights worth of doo doo.

    The answer to noise is not easy as making aeroplanes go requires moving lots of air or hot gas very fast towards the back of the plane (reaction mass), that makes noise and doing it quietly is very very difficult so until we can c ome up with an inertialess drive we are probably going to be stuck with aircraft noise to some degree.

    Nuclear is really the answer,but preferably fusion as opposed to fission, that is an area that needs much more money going into research, it is the ultimate renewable resource. It would provide cheap power to use for the production of aircraft and other fuels and in spite of the knee jerk reactions from so many people who don't like the sound of the word nuclear it will eventually be the only solution.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    Noisy = Greater Effiency

    Seems to me to fly in the face of established first principles. Somewhere there will be a more elegant solution.

  43. Adrian Midgley

    Which " whale's vestigial rear flipper"

    Which sort of whale is that?

  44. Anonymous Coward

    Noise pollution = local?

    Well, it depends.

    My office desk is about as adjacent to the Birmingham-Stratford railway line as you can get. There's no double glazing, in fact windows are often open. I wouldn't want to live there, but lots of people live within a few hundred yards of a railway and aren't seriously affected by noise, unless e.g. they're near to a station being threatened by trains full of drunken football supporters. The only time there's any noticeable vibration in the office are the lovely occasions when an old steam engine goes past; modern trains are all so light they aren't even heavy enough to squash the leaves off the line, so twice a day at this time of year we get the unusual sound of a mobile pressure washer going by...

    From time to time I'm based a few dozen miles from Heathrow, and the aircraft noise there *is* definitely a problem, even though it's not what most people would consider "local" to Heathrow (West Berks is near Heathrow??). The aircraft noise comes from both commercial traffic, and from a***oles who think their recreational weekend flights in light aircraft, microlights, etc (not from Heathrow) override other folks entitlements to peace and quiet in rural areas. Indeed the light aircraft and microlights circling the area appear to be a serious threat to AWE Aldermaston and Burghfield's security from airborne terrorist attack. (There *is* a legal right not to be disturbed by aircraft, as the MoD/RAF found out in a court case a few years back, sorry can't remember details).

  45. Tom

    but surely

    a cowling can be put around the 'open rotor' thus making it both quieter and more efficient?

    or perhaps they can just make the jet engines a lot wider - this reduces noise and increases efficiency - at the expense of available acceleration admitedly.

  46. dave


    I remember seeing an open rotor jet flying at Farnborough in the late 80's

    this one I think ...

    It sounded slightly different, but not noticeably louder.

    Is it just me or did all civil engines sound different back then ?

    Nuclear reactors are not suited to an aircraft that needs to carry people or take off and land more than a few times a year.

    The reasons are based in science, not engineering, so I don't expect to see them flying around for a while.

    Coat ... because I mentioned the S word.

  47. Harry
    Thumb Up

    How about ...

    Build floating airports a few miles out to sea -- far enough away so the noise doesn't reach back inland -- and fly these new, noisier but more efficient planes from it.

    Ban current planes flying over land altogether. Run a high speed rail link to the floating airport, or develop some super-quiet shuttle planes to provide the link to land.

    Result: less noise pollution over land, and less chemical pollution over sea.

    Vacating the inland airports could also make space to relocate houses away from major railways and roads, or to increase capacity ensure people can reach their departure point without needless pollution in traffic jams.

    It will take a few years to achieve, but must surely be better than the present mindless building on every square inch of already-gridlocked towns.

  48. John Savard

    Fallout is Neither

    Local nor temporary, that is, said Arthur C. Clarke of the notion of putting nuclear reactors on airplanes.

    As for the increased noise from open-rotor airplanes, clearly the airports will just have to be relocated further from population centers. However, how much carbon do airplanes contribute, compared to all the automobiles?

    Still, noise may degrade the local environment, but it's a far less pressing concern than global warming which bids fair to flood many coastal cities, and in the meantime lead to the extinction of many endangered species and widespread famine in tropical areas. So it's not silly to say that there are environmental priorities. But airports - or residential neighborhoods - can be relocated.

    Are we going to have to wait for Vatnajokull to melt before people believe global warmng is real?

  49. Grant

    @Planes aren't essential.

    Nice article Mr. Adam Williamson, but a bt too much research for the reg if your writing on an enviromental topic. Also you didn't spend enough space bashing people who give shit about the enviroment, espcially scientists who do research in the area (as opposed who work in complete different fields but whose political view point you agree with). So I'm sorry your chances of getting ublished on this site outside the comments are pretty slim, but it was a good read anyways.

  50. Scott Silver badge

    Noise is not the same as pollution

    I think that pollution is stuff left over. Noise does not last. It radiates away and fades out.

    CO2, CO, and all the other stuff that staysaround affects the environment. As soon as your ears have stopped ringing, the noise is over.

    We need a better way to describe noise pollution.

  51. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    @AC 2008-11-02 03:04

    I live 50 yards from a railway line. Two slow trains and a two fast trains have passed while I wrote is. I could hear the slow ones for about 10 seconds and the fast ones for about 5. I do not normally notice the trains. They are not loud enough to interrupt a conversation - when the neighbours have a row they are louder than a train.

    A hefty goods train passes every morning before dawn. It does shake the house, but it is almost silent and does not wake me up.

    In the same amount of time, five planes flew over (Stanstead is about 10 miles away.) I could hear them for about minute. They were about as loud as the trains.

    I used to live 20 yards from the Central line where it is a surface railway. The tube trains did not bother me.

    I used to live 200 yards from the M11. The double glazing screened most of the noise during while it was closed. During summer I had to flee because it was too hot to have the windows closed and too loud to have them open.

    When they threatened to enlarge Stanstead, some people were given double glazing. That is not a solution.

    Anyone got real figures on the number of rabbits flattened by trains and the number of pigeons shredded by aircraft. Does anyone care?

  52. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
    Paris Hilton

    Test beddie-byes.

    "BAe Systems are looking at aircraft-mounted radar systems that can be used to knock out enemy craft by using the radar to transmit a virus and thus knock out the enemy aircraft's systems. Too many liquid lunches and Independence Day repeats maybe?"

    More likely that the engineers were getting problems from stray EMF and couldn't get funding to fix it. I doubt that the enemy (should we ever get one) will be as easily misled as Luftwaffe in the early days of radio guidance:

    "Oh look at these results. Someone must have been using a mobile phone a mile away."

    "Blast, we'll never sell that to the damned Saudis."

    "What if we tell them it's a feature?"

    "Good idea. Who do you know that works at The Register?"

    "Why don't we just make up a CD and leave it on a train somewhere?"

  53. EvilGav

    @Adam Williamson

    You should probably remember that not everyone lives in London. 1000km gets me about half-way across France and a trip to the south coast of Spain (should I ever choose to visit) is just shy of a 4 hour flight, almost as long as it takes me to fly to Newark (if I should ever choose to revisit the USA).

    How many of the 108,000 flights were beyond or near the arbitrary limits you set ?

    As for all the other complainers, how come all anti-this-that-or-the-next-thing campaigners feel that no-one should have the ability to leave this green and pleasant land and see the world ? I've seen large amounts of it and would advocate that everyone should visit foreign lands, especially the more far flung places. I found it makes a profound difference in the way you think of this blue and white marble and it's inhabitants.

  54. Dave
    IT Angle

    I've got a solution for them all...

    Get this: Why don't they move to a city *without* an airport.

    That's what I did, at the expense of driving for an hour to my nearest. No noise, nothing.

    Just don't get me started on the noise of the trams going past my window...

  55. Warhelmet

    Napier Nomad

    Yes but how close are the current generation of turbofans to the theoretical maximum efficiency of a turbofan engine?

    Has a point been reached with turbofans that improvements in efficiency are coming with exponentially more cost? Have we reached a point where the only option is to shift to a different engine technology?

    How much mileage is to be had in more advanced materials. Composite materials have reduced airframe weight. In theory, advanced metallurgy and ceramics can reduce engine weight.

    And why do manufacturers persist in producing convential designs when flying wings are more efficient? And less noisy - if the engines are above the thing. Similarly, why do seats face forward when backward is safer?

    Bio-diesel isn't a bad fuel for aero engines. A flying wing. built of advanced composite materials with a turbo-compound engine might be interesting.

    Wing In Ground effect aircraft might have a role to play. The Caspian Sea Monster would have operated just as well in the Black Sea or the Med.

    Noise pollution is pollution. I grew up within a couple of miles on Heathrow. Cough. I can remember the early 70's and the planes were loud. But there were a lot fewer of them. You did get used to it. Admittedly, didn't live right under the flight path then. Do now - but further away and the planes are higher and quieter. I live right on top of the mainline from Paddington. It's all diesels. It's only the freight trains that you notice - and it's the vibration more than the noise.

    But noise pollution is a problem in most urban areas and it's not just transport.

  56. frymaster

    @Classic Lewis Page!

    On the contrary... it seems to be in a lot of group's interests (espcially big business) to conflate any and all issues of pollution, carbon emissions, fossil fuel use etc. together, for the purposes of pulling the wool over people's eyes. How many people in this country, for instance, probably equate "biofuel" with "green", just because it doesn't burn fossil fuels? (It still produces carbon emissions, plus you have the land needed to grow the stuff).

    A proper response to the growing effect our civilisation has on our environment globally is needed, and to do that requires joined-up-thinking and an understanding of _all_ the issues, not just those it is trendy to tubthump about.

  57. Charles Manning

    Green? green?

    Jock beats you up and breaks both of your arms and and your nose, then a year later Nick breaks just one arm and your nose. Therefore Nick is gentle.

    Nothing green about these engines. At best they are slightly less dirty.

    Still, one wonders whether these engines could be built to run in two "modes":

    1) Less efficient, higher power, lower noise mode for take off/landing.

    2) More efficient, lower power, higher noise mode for cruising and flying out of earshot of voters.

  58. Ken Baker

    Interview technique FAIL

    Hmm let's see; this Prof. is interviewed, mentions nucular-powered planes and expects the journos to pay attention to *anything* else he says, up to and including "Ooo look, there's a UFO landing on my lawn".

    Methinks a media relations course is called for.

    Where's the 'lamb to the slaughter' icon?

  59. Gilbert Wham

    What wee need...

    ...are Zeppelins! I love Zeppelins, me. I don't give a fig for 'Wah wah wah, not practical'. Enormous, floating gin-palaces please.

  60. Anonymous Coward

    Lateral thinking

    What about a bit of lateral thinking or combinations of power sources?

    Long, gentle steam or electric runway 'catapults' to reduce fuel and noise during takeoff. [The only reason they are so fierce on carriers is the restricted space].

    Existing runway fitted with (e.g.) a linear motor catapult could allow the engines to stay at cruise throttle for most of the takeoff run while giving the same acceleration as the present full-throttle takeoff. (Plus a linear motor would not need 'resetting', it could have multiple armature 'bogies' independently controlled on a loop of track).

    On the planes, two or three small, high power jet engines for low noise over cities, possibly tail mounted Fokker F100 style, PLUS a couple of fuel-efficient open rotor / turboprop engines on the wings for long distance cruise.

    The props can be feathered to minimise drag while on the jets, and I'm sure engineers could come up with closable fairings for the various jet inlets & exhausts to give smooth airflow around them when not in use. (Think of the articulated nozzle on a fighter jet engine, with the individual sections shaped so it could close to a smooth cone).

  61. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture


    Why lug a nuke reactor and all that messy shielding? Just do what the Soviets did with their experimental TU-119 back in the 50's and don't bother with the all the shielding. A much lighter plane than the american NB-36 that could probably fly for as much as 48 hours. I say probably, because there was the little matter of the crew absorbing so much radiation they'd be dead in half the time, not to mention glow like the kids in the Ready Brek adverts!

  62. dervheid

    Live close to an airport...

    expect it to be noisy!

    Either invest in a decent set of ear protection or move elsewhere.

    If you were there before the airport, then I DO sympathise with you, if you 'chose' to live there after it was built, then you just have to DEAL WITH IT!

  63. Boris

    @chris miller

    "No, Boris, noise pollution is NOT pollution just like any other. Noise pollution is purely local, whereas CO2 emission affects the entire planet (if you believe in that sort of thing). "

    If we're talking transport noise then all noise pollution is by definition directly linked to CO2 emission.

    There's nothing local about the noise from a wide bodied jet leaving Heathrow with 250 passengers on board. Even if you ignore the 127sq km 57 db footprint around the airport, It's still a loud sound source in the sky. You can't get away from it. You'll hear it over much of South East England for something like 10-15 minutes. Try standing in the side streets of e.g. Windsor and telling me it's local and not intrusive.

    By contrast a high speed train carrying 250 passengers is unlikely to be heard more than a few hundred feet away (I used to live near one) because the lesser noise is emitted at ground level and rapidly attentuated by trees, buildings and topography.

    "Let me put this as simply as I can: if you find aircraft noise disturbing, DON'T BUY A HOUSE NEAR AN AIRPORT. Especially don't buy a house near an airport and then campaign to have the airport closed."

    Or live in a house that isn't near an airport only to find they want to build another runway that brings the noise near your house?

    "And don't tell me that the number of flights has increased since the 80s - true, but the noise emitted by aircraft has reduced."

    I didn't. Why not read my comment properly?

  64. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Open rotor's not the only way

    Currently, there are two main lines of research towards greater turbine aeroengine fuel efficiency - open rotor and geared fan.

    The former seems to be favoured by the Europeans - R&R and CFM, while Pratt & Whitney, for example, is betting on the latter.

    Both sides made announcements recently that they will soon be ready to demonstrate prototypes. Unlike BD v HDDVD, I believe this kind of technology competition will bring actual technical breakthroughs, rather than waste of hot air.

    As far as the environmentalists idea that anything we (humans) do creates pollution and as such should be abandoned in favour of returning to the caves - let them continue to think that. Every society always has a bunch of freeloaders who are always nostalgic about how good things were in the past with birds singing, knights jostling, dragons flying, while they sit and enjoy the comforts of modern civilisation (electric lights, heat, refrigeration, transport, communications and toilets that flush). They are irrelevant, thankfully.

    P.S. An-72/74 had overwing engines not for Coanda effect but to minimise the ingestion of FOD and snow as it was designed to operate from unpaved airfileds and snow/ice runways (for Arctic/Antarctic ops). The overwing engines proved nightmare to maintain, so they moved them under wing after a while.

  65. dervheid

    @ Lateral Thinking

    Methinks you watched way too much "Fireball XL5" as a child.

  66. John Sanders

    Europe should build a wide long railway track

    Europe should build a wide long railway track, to allow fast speed railway travel across the whole of Europe and the UK.

    And of course it will be named the Trans-Europe-Express.

    And if not, what the hell... nuke planes on the go and make Fallout 4 for real.

  67. Anonymous Coward

    UK Planning

    I note that most commenters have either focused on the shiny technology aspects of the article or have brought out the usual "NIMBY" remarks about people being stupid or selfish in resisting endless Heathrow expansion, but no-one seems to question the idiocy of UK infrastructure planning policy.

    For the power-wielding residents of London Town, it's all about London Town - they're like Apple fanboys: when some news emerges with only the most tenuous connection with the Big Fruit's products, it's all "what's the Apple angle?" from those people; similarly, with the Whitehall set, it's all "what's the London angle?" when anyone's discussing improving the decaying UK infrastructure. The consequence is just more migration to London and its surroundings ("they aren't creating jobs where I live"), fuelling the usual "all the people live around London" excuse trotted out when Heathrow gets expanded for the nth time in an apparent attempt to capture the "shittiest airport ever" award once and for all.

    Perhaps the idiots responsible for all this get the full VIP treatment - limo to the airport, executive lounge, electric buggy to the plane, Club World, and so on - remaining oblivious to the layer upon layer of shit they heap onto the problem. It's sad, then, to see everyone arguing as if the assumptions of these idiots are beyond question.

  68. Dr Chris Thomson

    If you don't live in London

    If you don't live in London then you might not have noticed that the chunnel is not a terribly green or viable way to get to the continent, if you were to live in Aberdeen for instance, and say wanted to go to Amsterdam, it would take around 20 hours on a train, and you would have plenty to look at I'm sure. Now about 13 hours of that is actually on the train, the rest is at stations, so lets just look at that bit.

    A plane from Aberdeen takes 2 hours in a direct flight to Amsterdam. Now even if the trains were faster (the UK leg could certainly be reduced by a couple of hours) and better connected (less waiting in stations) then I'm sure that train journey would still take at least 8 hours say. I'm pretty sure the plane journey is both greener and less boring than the train, and lets face it currently all fast major city trains tend to be over crowded both here and in the rest of the EU, so the plane would probably be more pleasant.

  69. Matthew Terrell

    @ Adam Williamson

    Nice Argument.

    I'm a Big plan fan... and but flying is awful. I don't EVER do domestic flights and if it's in Europe I go on Holiday by car. (A far more pleasant way to travel.)

    The train Idea is good, but it has 1 flaw.


    I could get a flight from Bristol Airport to Edinburgh for £50 return. Using Easyjet over Cristmas

    On the train it's £223 Using First Late Western travelling peak times, and takes 7 hours. So if I have a meeting to get to, guess which one I'm going to use.

    Trains are good but they are expensive, underfunded, badly maintained, and overcrowded. At least on Aircraft you are going to get a seat.

    I'd go by train if we have a TGV sorta arrangement... but we don't, and we will never have because no-one is willing to fund it, or put there name it it. Sad but True, Rail had it's day with the Mallard, and Coronation class I'm affraid...

    Aircraft are the way forward.

    No matter how you look at it. Flying is quicker, cheaper.

    Still no doubt, that flying will be banned too, as the NIMBY classes get their way once more. :(

  70. N1AK

    What train network are you travelling on

    "Compare train travel. Size and weight aren't so important for trains, so operators can afford to give everyone a lot more leg room. The environment inside a modern high-speed train is quiet and relaxing. You get fresh air. You can look out the window and actually *see* stuff. You can go buy something to eat from the buffet car. Train travel can be a rewarding experience in itself; it's certainly not unpleasant, in the majority of cases."

    Came as a bit of a shock to me, when I think of trains my thoughts go roughly:

    1/ Cancellations.

    2/ Delays

    3/ Crap tracks

    4/ Over-priced food and drinks

    5/ Incredibly over-priced unless you buy advanced tickets.

  71. Ian Ferguson

    Purely for the rich?

    Interesting article but I have to disagree with your aside: "That means a return to the days when travel, other than to go to war or to migrate, was strictly for the rich"

    Why, exactly? In theory, ground-based travel should be cheaper than air travel. Air travel is only cheap because of bulk usage.

    I think you mean, long-distance travel would only be accessible to those who have lots of time to spare; that is not the same as rich. Personally, I think it would improve our world, trade, culture and individual life experiences enormously if air travel (for customers and goods) was stopped.

  72. Simon B

    crash BOOMMMMMMMM?!

    And what happens when said nuclear plane drops 20,000 feet out the sky and crashes?

  73. A J Stiles

    @ Dr Chris Thomson

    I agree. Travelling South to Dover and then North though Belgium ane the Netherlands does seem a tad on the wasteful side.

    If only there was a way to travel straight across the North Sea ..... like a ferry from a port on the East Coast .....

  74. MarkMac

    noise pollution doesnt 'fade away'...

    @all the people saying noise pollution fades away... you obviously don't live under the Heathrow flightpath or have any understanding of how busy it is.

    My Mother in Law lives in Putney and planes come over her house every sixty seconds from before dawn till after midnight. You can barely hear yourself speak in the garden if the wind is from the west.

    As for siting airports in rural areas: please poison all the wildlife first though (fish included), it'll be less of an ecological disaster than destroying their habitat and disrupting their breeding cycles with constant light and noise.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If the airport had a catapult launch, then the planes wouldn't need so much power, or fuel, and thus weight.

  76. Dr Chris Thomson

    @A J Stiles

    And I suppose you prefer the 10-15hrs on the ferry looking at the north sea? I admit that it may be a little more eco-friendly but it probably tops out the boredom and inconvenience meter, and sadly I don't think there is an eco-friendly way to speed up the crossing time.

  77. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    @Ian Ferguson

    "I think you mean, long-distance travel would only be accessible to those who have lots of time to spare; that is not the same as rich."

    Well, you're right - not every rich person can really afford to waste time. So, this is only for those who are both ultra rich and idle.

  78. Matthew Terrell

    @ JonB

    That's a joke right! Please tell me you where joking..!!

    Have you ever been up in a Glider that's been winch launched..??

    Calculate the kind of Winch/Steam Catapult you'd need for a 747!!

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Oops - these are supposed to be green?

    Let us ignore for a moment the dupleted uranium shells and randomly assorted antisocial weaponry that is likely to be the primary payload of these babies and look instead at the worlds most simple logical argument:

    Noise = release of sound waves

    Release of sound waves = release of energy

    Release of Energy = loss of efficient

    [ergo] Green Fighter =! Green enough

    (bloody amateurs... I don't know, apathetic bloody planet)

  80. Adam Williamson


    Lots of people seem to be objecting to my argument based on the *existing* rail system. Which is a bit silly, since that's not what I was talking about.

    This applies to:

    Matthew Terrell. Your argument is extremely confused: you don't give any justification for why flying is quicker and cheaper, you just say it is and that this must therefore always be the case forever and ever amen. In fact, flying is only quicker because we haven't built a decent train network yet, and only cheaper because we don't tax it properly, and the airlines don't charge for it properly (seen how many of the cheap ones have gone bust lately?), and we don't fund trains properly. It also doesn't consider likely future issues like the price of fuel (it's not going down...)

    The distance from Edinburgh to Bristol is 600km. That'd only be 3 hours or so, on a decent high-speed train network. Which would likely work out faster than a plane once all the getting to the airport, getting from the airport, and dealing with security, checkin and boarding palaver had been factored in. The fact that it *currently* takes 7 hours just tells you how crap our current train network is, which isn't news to anyone who pays attention.

    Same objection applies to N1AK. When did I say anything about the current rail network?

    Actually I'd *personally* still rather use the current U.K. rail network than internal flights, but I recognize that a lot of people have genuine time pressures which make that impractical. Heck, I prefer taking a train down the U.S. west coast to flying, and that's 28 hours at a maximum speed of 60mph (the U.S. being the only place in the world with an even more woeful record of screwing up a world class railway system than the U.K.) So I recognize I'm a corner case there (though, the train in question almost always runs full...) Point is, I was not talking about the existing rail network, but a proper high-speed network, using dedicated expresses for long haul trips. Like the TGV, Eurostar, or Shinkansen. Which are what I was referring to when I mentioned "modern high speed trains".

    Also applies to Dr. Chris Thomson. For the record, I don't live anywhere near any of the areas in question; I live in Vancouver. But I'm *from* Manchester, and am still around there often enough. Fortunately we have a couple of well-run express services to London, which makes Manchester to France via train entirely feasible (and, indeed, enjoyable). I've done it. Anyway, yes: point is, don't judge the proposal on journey times using the current network.

  81. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Matthew Terrell

    It was a joke, yes...but...

    If you can get a train up to 125mph then why not a Jumbo to 180?

    Don't forget, this isn't subject to the usual constraints for gliders and carrier aircraft.

    So, railway, electrically driven, probably longer than a typical current runway, planes slots onto a bogey and clips on.

    Train starts, plane ramps power to cruise, rail goes up ramp, plane unclips at vlof, plane is airborne.

    Big energy saving, the equipment to accelerate 365,000KGs of Jumbo to 180Mph is all

    left on the ground.

  82. SnowHawk

    Oil is now a renewable resource

    Oil and hydrocarbon based fuels are not going away. This point, almost assumed to be fact in this article, is false.

    Even if we somehow manage to completely deplete the stored reserves of oil that are currently locked in the ground on this planet, there are processes currently known and in development that can make more. Algal oil, oil extracted from algae biomass, is just one such process, and it is well past the proof of concept stage. Petrol, Jet Fuel, and IIRC Diesel fuel have been created with this process, as well as other oil products used to make plastics. Work is being done to scale up and economize the process now. Costs are expected to be in line with deep sea oil drilling. Hydrocarbons created in this manner are compatible with our current energy infrastructure, and offer other benefits besides. The carbon is extracted directly out of the air, so the process of creating the oil is a CO2 sink. This CO2 is returned to the air when the fuel is burned, making the full process carbon neutral.

    Finding this info is fairly easy with Google.

  83. Miles Bader

    no, trains are not really all that noisy

    ... at least if well designed.

    I live (and work) quite near the tracks of the toukaido shinkansen (one of the busiest HSR corridors in japan), and it's quite innocuous really. It's louder than the nearby big road, but only just. For purposes of travel, the shinkansen is hugely more convenient, cheaper, more comfortable, and actually faster than air unless you're travelling to the far end of the country. [Granted, Japan has a very good rail system, but then their air transport infrastructure is world class as well.]

    Planes are far louder, much less fuel-efficient, more costly to run, and generally not particularly well suited to general travel in smallish densely populated areas like Europe and the UK.

    Certainly there's a place for air-travel in the transportation system -- sometimes you really do need to get to someplace very far away, very quickly -- but really, for many purposes, trains are a better solution, and are where the emphasis should be.

  84. Calyth

    Noise pollution? or Carbon pollution?

    The Soviet Bear Foxtrot ( use contra-rotating props and alleges and efficient design; however the noise is so great that it could be detected underwater, or at the very least, unbearable for fighters at a reasonable distance away.

    Suppose that the Tupolev would be a fuel-conscious design, I would think the noise generated by the aircraft could routinely scare wildlife in various areas.

    It's damned if we do, damn if we don't.

    We'll just have to travel less.

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC : Oops - these are supposed to be green?

    You apparently forget that most energy in a jet engine is lost as heat.

    @Miles Bader

    >Planes are far louder

    But normally further away, I'm in an office that is both under a flightpath and next to a railway line, the trains make more noise.

    >much less fuel-efficient

    Granted, but not everything is fuel on the vehicle, what about the hundreds of miles of rolled steel that requires regular replacement?

    Or the millions of tons of aggregate that lies underneath it?

    >more costly to run

    Then why do they cost less, and don't claim the subsidy argument, trains are also massively subsidised in Britain.

    In fact, assuming that cost is an indicator of efficiency (as it should be in a capitalist society)

    then buses are the most efficient by a long way.

    >and generally not particularly well suited to general travel in smallish densely populated

    >areas like Europe and the UK.

    Really? In a country with some of the highest land prices in the world it makes

    economic sense to allocate it to trains?

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    energy loss as heat ...

    Nope - didn't forget - just trying to keep it simple so the Daily Mail readers can join in too (not a personal slant, your argument is more of a Times or Groaniad kind of level). You are absolutely correct in your comment that energy loss via heat far outweighs energy loss through noise... the article however, was about noise - I was being "topical". Point taken above thought - maybe we just need to travel less, and perhaps stop carrying bombs and bullets as baggage.

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    energy loss as heat ...

    Yes, if we could stop lugging so much lead around at such high speeds the world would certainly be a nicer place.

  88. Mick Sheppard

    Two things

    @Adam Williamson:

    Around the dotcom boom I was working in London and living in the north. I did a weekly commute. Initially I adopted the train as my method of travel. The train arrived in London within a 15 minute walk of work. Great. Then there was travelling home on a Friday...

    It didn't matter if I'd paid for a full price ticket, the only option due to the outbound journey on Monday morning, it was hit and miss if I'd be able to get a seat. Even with a reserved seat if people are crammed on board like sardines you can't get to it and persuading the occupant that they should get up so you can sit down isn't as easy as it sounds.

    So I looked at alternatives. I could fly cheaper. Yes it was further to travel from the airport to work, but even with that cost it was still cheaper and quicker. I got a seat, guaranteed. I collected the frequent flyer miles and got special offers, access to executive lounges etc. All in all much more civilised. What I'm saying is, unless the train is much cheaper I'd rather fly. i might spend more time sitting waiting but I can sit and wait in comfort.

    Oh and who made you the judge of whether a particular flight was, or wasn't, necessary. The assumption that no one else thinks about the choices that they make is a common one made by environmental types. Its arrogant in the extreme and gets right up my nose.


    Heathrow has been there for a long time. Its been a major international airport for a long time. Unless you are dumber than a bag of gravel you will have noticed the increased demand for air travel and therefore the demand for more flights. When buying a place on the flight path you'll have got a reduced price because of that. The problem was only ever going to get worse. Live with it.

  89. John Sinclair
    Jobs Horns

    Why not use Roman technology? Get real people!!

    Why are you giving over space to drivel like the above? There are dozens of great ideas out there and none of them involve harking back to propellers. There are two ways to look at the future, one is we have missed some pretty obvious solutions and we can easily get off of this little rock and away to anywhere else and the other is we will be using variations on the theme of 18th century physics or is it 200BC technology (remember the Romans had toy steam "turbines" or at least toys that used steam as the propulsor, all they lacked was coal). When a bee can flap its wings less in less dense air and use 60% less energy don't you suppose we have gotten it all a teensy weensy bit wrong?

  90. Adam Williamson


    "Oh and who made you the judge of whether a particular flight was, or wasn't, necessary."

    No-one did, I took it upon myself. ;) But, seriously, I don't need to be, as you already did it for me. After all, your post makes it perfectly clear that you could certainly do the journey by train. You just *prefer* to do it by plane. In other words - the flight isn't necessary. Simple.

    As I said above, nowhere am I suggesting that everyone learn to love the current rail system. I said we should get a better one.

    Personally I'd nationalize the bloody thing again, only make sure to have a law mandating decent food. You didn't get such crowded trains under BR, generally, because there wasn't a profit motive: train companies make bigger profits by cramming people into the existing trains than they would by running more trains where everyone gets a seat. But you could do it in a private system, if you really wanted to.

    (I've always loved the Douglas Adams line about British Rail sandwiches - they keep 'em fresh by taking them out of the plastic wrapping and washing them once a week...)

  91. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Adam Williamson

    >Personally I'd nationalize the bloody thing again...

    This is fast becoming the mark of the enviro nazis, they want to bring everything under their centralized control.

    For the environment of course.

  92. John Savard

    Quiet and Fuel-Efficient Aircraft

    There is a way to avoid global warming and have quiet airports.

    At Heathrow, have people flying across the Atlantic board dirigibles. They're fuel-efficient and they're quiet.

    They would fly to, say, (an ocean platform built in the vicinity of) Rockall with them, where they could then board open-rotor jet aircraft Taking off from there to cross the Atlantic, they wouldn't be located where the noise would bother anyone.

  93. Law
    Thumb Up

    Noise, what noise??

    You get used to the noise - I just moved next to Manchester airport, and for the first week me and the wife used to stay awake chuckling at how noisy the planes were when taking off in a certain condition (when the jet engine points directly towards you, it's quite bad)..... but these days we barely notice the noise... you just sort of forget it's there. Infact, the worse noise we had this week were all the idiots setting off fireworks in their gardens until 1am... now that's annoying!!

    PS - I'm a person who sleeps with the window open - you can't really hear the planes when the windows are closed! :)

  94. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    >I just moved next to Manchester airport

    We must be neighbours!

    I don't notice them either, but then I'm not directly under the flightpath.

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