Flying Low – Feel the Power

Originally Published in 2014
 -Updated 5th December 2016

Is it my old ears, or does a jet engine sound tame these days? Somehow disappointing and a bit of an anti-climax? For those people lucky enough to be able to be out in the open air near a jet airliner which is taking off, somehow that audible sound power is just not as impressive as it used to be a few decades ago. Or maybe, when you see an airliner flying overhead, obviously in a steep climb, it just doesn’t make that decent healthy throaty roar that you would expect from so many horses? They always used to, didn’t they?
Well of course the reason is because of politics and engineering – residential noise abatement procedures as well as better sound dampers built right into aircraft engines and their housings.
The trouble is, a big 747 flying low over your home just doesn’t sound very impressive any more. I really miss the sound of jet engines at nearly full thrust trying desperately to shake my house apart as they claw their way upward. That sheer feeling of awesome power that I used to feel right in my bones is somehow missing (unless of course the wind is blowing just in the right direction). For me, the fascination of airliners has always been the utter power that I could feel in my bowels through the very low frequency sounds generated by those incredibly powerful engines. You could actually feel the ground itself vibrate. In the early days of my youth I can still recall the most awesome sound of four Rolls-Royce Dart engines at full thrust pushing a Vickers Viscount into the sky. Then came the Jets – the Comet and the 707. But best of all was the sound of the three engines of a Boeing 727 hurtling down the runway. That is the sound I will never forget – it’s ingrained into my senses. It’s an absolutely visceral feeling.

Pic of the JT8D Jet engine
The The Pratt and Whitney JT8D Jet engine – fitted into a Boeing 727 (and others)

Well, progress marches on and I dare say I’ll never again hear the real throaty roar of those Pratt-and-Whitney JT8D’s, those sounds now belong to the past…

Or do they?…

Sound in the Flight Simulatior Cockpit

Now imagine this: what if you built a powerful hi-fi sound system directly into your enclosed simulator cockpit? Of course, in addition to high quality speakers, it would also have a really powerful sub-woofer installed. Now imagine for a moment that you are sitting in the pilot seat and you switch one of the monitors to an external walk around view with your location fairly close to a runway. You are plane spotting AI aircraft while waiting for clearance from ATC; or even better, imagine watching a replay from the outside view of the Boeing 727 which you have just taken off in, and you turn up the volume. High. Imagine it – the engines spool up as the pilot shoves the throttles forward and it feels like all hell has broken loose as the whole cockpit shakes and bucks as those mighty engines hurl the aircraft down the runway.
Taste it, feel the racket! You can even smell the burnt jet fuel.

Who says we have to put up noise abatement procedures and sound muffling when we have a sound-proofed cockpit to play in?