Silence, the ultimate quest
No more than fifty or so. According to the American acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, this is the number of places in the world that are totally free of all human noise. This man travels tirelessly around the globe to locate and preserve these natural sanctuaries, where the only audible sounds are those of the elements and wildlife.
Gordon Hempton first made a name for himself in the 1980s-90s as one of the world’s finest “field recording artists”. His raw, unedited sound recordings have provided the content for several albums. In 1992, he made a documentary on sound portraits, or soundscapes, called Vanishing Dawn Chorus, for which he received an Emmy Award. He embarked on his quest after a personal experience recounted by the magazine The Sun. At the end of a day of driving, the young man pulled to the side of a road in Iowa and laid down in a field to sleep. “I continued to lie there and listen as the thunder got louder, and I let the storm roll right over me. I let myself get soaked. I simply took in the experience […] When it was all over, I was left with one question: How could I be twenty-seven years old and never have fully listened to a thunderstorm before?”
Silence isn’t the absence of something, but the presence of everything.
What about ATR?
Some airlines have agreed to deviate their flight paths in order to preserve these “pristine acoustic zones” so dear to Hempton. Here at ATR, producing quieter aircraft (both in the cabin and on the outside) has been a concern for many years already. Because we are aware of the environmental impact of noise on wildlife and populations on the ground, we are determined to produce the quietest aircraft possible. Proof that we are on the right track: the external noise level of an ATR 72-600 is 14.1 dB lower than a regional jet and remains 15.8 decibels below chapter 4, the maximum level set by the ICAO to address aircraft noise. Significant progress has been made by switching from four- to six-bladed propellers, by synchronising the rotation speeds of the two propellers to limit the number of flaps, and by placing elements on the fuselage structure to improve absorption of turbine vibrations.
Photo credit image header: ©Shawn Parkin