NASA is testing a new quiet wing designed to mitigate noise pollution from aircraft

Many people who live close to airports consistently complain about the noise created by aircraft flying around. Researchers at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, completed a round of testing in late January 2021 on a new experimental wing design intended to make aircraft quieter. The improvements involved a new leading-edge wing designed specifically to mitigate noise.

Making aircraft quieter is the primary goal of the NASA Advanced Air Transport Technology (AATT) project. The project supports a combined experimental and computational effort to understand and mitigate noise associated with a slated aircraft wing. Program managers say mitigating that specific noise emission directly benefits residents living near airports and has financial benefits for aircraft operators because landing fees at many airports are tied to the noise created by aircraft using the runway.

NASA notes that non-propulsive aircraft noise sources include high-lift devices such as leading-edge slats and trailing edge flaps that are part of the aircraft wing. One of the prominent sources of airframe noise during aircraft approach has been identified by model-scale tests using fly-over noise measurements and numerical simulations.

NASA constructed a 10 percent scale version of a High-Lift Common Research Model to evaluate various aircraft enhancements, including low-noise slats. Tests were conducted in January using the NASA 14x22 subsonic tunnel to demonstrate the effectiveness of slat noise-reduction concepts made using shape-alloys.

Researchers chose shape-memory alloys because they can undergo large deformations needed for the devices to stow when the slat is retracted. The new low-noise slats were developed using small-scale testing and computational techniques designed to assess aerodynamic, structural, and acoustic performance. The program's goal is to develop the technology to allow the aircraft industry to adopt it readily. The next round of testing for the new wing design will happen this spring.