NextGen Aeronautics: Fly Me to the Moon

Mechanical engineer, Emily Synk, was raised in Detroit, Michigan, with a love of math and science. Her computer scientist, mathematician father was a master fort and playhouse builder; and her parents always encouraged her and her sister to learn. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Synk began working at GE Aviation, in Lynn, spending the last 25 years working on the future of aviation.

Emily Synk, Preliminary Design Engineer, GE Aviation, presenting, “NextGen Aeronautics: Fly Me to the Moon,” during the February 11 Beacon Hill Women’s Forum at the Hampshire House

“We had a life filled with a lot of learning opportunities,” remembered Synk, Beacon Hill resident. “Whenever we took vacations, they were to national parks and museums.”

On Feb. 11, Synk presented, “NextGen Aeronautics: Fly Me to the Moon,” during the Beacon Hill Women’s Forum meeting at the Hampshire House, where she discussed her career and the future of aeronautics.

As a Preliminary Design Engineer, Synk and her team design the next generation of engines for commercial air planes, military fighter jets, rotary-wing aircrafts, and private jets that will take flight in 2025-2035.

“Now is a pivotal time in aviation,” Synk explained. “Climate change and the impact aviation has on the environment is a big topic. The military field is different from anything we’ve seen previously. There is a lot of disruption with air traffic and drones.”

With aviation producing three percent of carbon gases, there has been an increased interest in greener flight. Passengers seated in the wings, or eliminating first class could produce less drag. Engines could be relocated outside to be more like propeller planes, and ceramic or composite materials could create lighter weight aircrafts. Solar power could also create more efficient flight.

“Our number one challenge is the batteries,” explained Synk about electric flight, which would produce zero emissions. “What is used in electric cars is too heavy for a plane. The power density isn’t there yet. All you can get are short flights or smaller planes to do that right now. What will happen first is electric augmentation.”

Adversely, traveling supersonic is noisy and expensive to fuel. Construction of supersonic business jets is in progress, and NASA is currently experimenting on low boom technology to allow supersonic flight over populated areas.

“The military wants to fly further, faster, and not be seen as much,” said Synk about the military field. “Materials need to handle higher temperatures, advanced cooling – so that the back of the engine cannot be seen on heat signatures – and also there are different shaped planes in order to be stealthier.”

Many military helicopters today, which fly over the ocean, are corroded by salt, and fly through sand storms, are developed with two top rotors. Unmanned aircrafts, which are used for surveillance, refueling, and attacks, are becoming more popular.

When Synk is not testing engines for hundreds of hours and designing energy efficient aircrafts, the wife and mother of two loves football and skiing with her family. Synk creatively balances work and family; whether bringing her sons to visit a helicopter, or letting them play with her hair while multitasking on her computer. She has achieved “happy chaos.” “Designing something and seeing it fly is the most rewarding thing,” said

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