Ultra Electronics has produced a prototype "quiet" aircraft seat which reduces the noise heard by its occupant by 10dB without the need to wear active noise headphones.

The seat, which works by surrounding the passenger's head with noise in antiphase with cabin noise, is being targeted at major airlines with new widebody aircraft on order. Ultra hopes the development will add less than $250 to the cost of each seat, while adding under 0.7kg (1.5lb) to its weight.

Rob McDonald, the Cambridge, UK-based company's director of marketing, says that, where the company's cabin noise reduction system for turboprop aircraft only attenuates propeller "tones", the seat will attenuate all noise up to around 1kHz. This will mean the passenger will experience the "strange" effect of being able to hear a stewardess several rows away, as the human voice is pitched at frequencies well above this limit and is therefore not attenuated. He compares this to earphones which reduce all noise, and which can become uncomfortable.

McDonald says that the lead time on a first order would be around 14 months, which would tie in with current new aircraft delivery dates "in and after 2000". The prototype was produced in co-operation with sapDesign of Norway. He adds that, although retrofits would be possible to existing seats, new 16g loading requirements would make such a modification too expensive.

Source: Flight International