Electric planes may be here sooner than we think, but might do little for noise

Photo credit: Evia Aero licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

by John Stewart, vice chair, European Union Against Aircraft Nuisance

There is a lot of talk about electric planes. A report from the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK suggests some short-haul flights could be using electric aircraft by the early 2030s. However, the larger long-haul planes are not expected to be electrified until at least 2050.

Electric aircraft would reduce the air pollution and climate emissions coming out of each plane. But there is much more doubt about their noise benefits. The report says “There is still a clear need to undertake noise measurements of the full scale commercial electric planes once they are available to fully understand their noise characteristics” adding “it is still unknown whether the noise exposure from electric aircraft will be an improvement from conventional aircraft.”

All of this would be problematic for communities under flight paths. The technology which could clean up the industry could make things worse for them. They will be concerned that, driven by the need to cut emissions, the aviation industry may rush into a technology which may do little or nothing for noise.

A longer version of this article is available here.

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