River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Aircraft Noise

December 2001

You can almost hear the tolerance

What does surprise me since moving here is the manner in which the locals appear to accept some of the most horrendous aircraft noise without a murmur of complaint. As far as I am concerned this is more by way of an observation. I recognise the need for advanced warplanes and I know that they will be very noisy. Furthermore, I accept that they have to fly somewhere and somewhere happens to be near Marham, Lakenheath and Mildenhall. Perhaps we all feel the same. Also, on a personal level, I was associated with aero-engines for a major part of my career and the roar of a jet engine with a high velocity exhaust is nostalgic. So, generally speaking I am happy to put up with the noise.

People living near Heathrow, however, complain constantly about the noise from Concorde, which only arises twice a day and which is no different to the noise that we get, especially when there are more than one aircraft involved. At one time, back in the late 50's/early 60's, I was working for one of our well known aero-engine manufacturers and was responsible for the development of a range of variable thrust liquid propellant rocket engines. Our test-beds were situated on a remote corner of an airfield at least a mile from the nearest house. We went to great lengths to reduce the noise by directing the engine exhaust through a detuner. This was a long tube of very large diameter into which was sprayed vast quantities of water with the aim of cooling the gases and thereby greatly reducing the exit velocity, and hence the noise, from the detuner, the end of which was also turned skywards. Most of our test firings were kept short, rarely exceeding a few minutes. Despite all this effort to minimise the noise nuisance we were constantly attacked by local organisations seeking court injunctions to stop us from running. At the time it was considered that the work we were doing was of national importance, living, as we did, under the assumed threat of attack by the Soviet Union, yet local people showed little understanding.

It surprises me and pleases me, therefore, to find the people around here so tolerant; or do I have a false impression?

Ron Watts

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