Air Transport World

Hush kit manufacturers race to save aging transports; noise rules have been law since 1976; yet only in the past two years has the seriousness of the situation been appreciated.

Hush kit manufacturers race to save aging transports

The current rush to hush kit McDonnell Douglas DC-8s and Boeing 707s has a great similarity to a horse race, with many players jockeying for position to get the best results. But this is a race with a very odd start. It's as if the starter had the horses in position, made sure everything was ready and then, with a flourish, opened the gates, only to find the horses standing still, biting at the odd fly and wondering if anyone was serious about the race. Then, one by one, the horses began to believe the race was on in earnest and began to amble out onto the track.

Now the race should be over. After all, this is mid-February. The noise rule deadline grounding unmodified DC-8s and 707s in the U.S. is six weeks past. But what is that noise? Ah, it's the race, reaching for a finish line somewhere in the future, pounding around the bend in full gallop, sweat and litigation flying everywhere.

Briefly stated, the race's starting gun was fired eight years ago when the law containing the Jan. 1, 1985 grounding date went into effect. Another more urgent starting gun was fired in 1979 when the original rule was expanded to apply to foreignowned airlines flying into the U.S. Still, little happened, the only noticeable effect being a sharpening decline in the value of DC-8s and 707s as larger U.S. carriers began to dispose of their four-engine narrow body fleets. This action by larger U.S. airlines was inevitable even if noise had not been an issue, the first generation jet airliners doomed in mainline service by their aging airframes and high fuel costs.

However, the dumping of a large number of these aircraft at depressed prices just as deregulation began to sink into the consciousness of U.S. entrepreneurs created a ready market for this fleet at home and abroad. Small non-U.S. airlines jumped on some of these bargains, while other small airlines already operating 707s and DC-8s found they could not afford to re-equip due to lack of funds, lack of traffic to support widebody replacements or both. Small freight haulers were in a similar situation.

But there was a way out. In the early 1970s a U.S. government-funded program built and tested nacelles for 707s and DC-8s that quieted them to Stage II levels. …

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