NASA researchers believe they have a design for a quiet supersonic plane that would slash the current seven-hour flight time from New York to London in half and do it while reducing the sonic boom from the ear-piercing 90 dBa of the Concorde to 60-65 dBa, which would make it as quiet as the average current commercial jetliner.
NASA has announced that it is planning to spend $390 million over the next five years to construct a demo version of their quiet supersonic plane and test it over populated areas. NASA will begin taking bids on the project next month.
Lockheed researchers worked with NASA on the design and used fluid dynamics modeling on supercomputers that has only become possible in the last few years due to the exponential increase in computing power.
The design NASA and Lockheed came up with prevents sound waves from merging into the sharp N pattern of a sonic boom and disperses the sound waves behind behind the aircraft, turning the supersonic boom into a supersonic hum.
Lockheed’s research shows that the design can keep its supersonic hum even when scaled up to commercial size. The demo plane is planned to be 94 feet long and fly at up to 55,000 feet.
The Federal Aviation Administration banned the use of commercial supersonic jets over land in 1973 due to concerns about the impact of caused by sonic booms. Hundreds of noise complaints about the Concorde helped limit its commercial use and contributed to its eventual cancellation by Air France and British Airways in 2003.
NASA believes they can convince lawmakers and regulators to lift the ban on commercial supersonic use over land. “We’ve got a lot of support in NASA and the administration and in Congress for making this happen. I’m pretty excited about our prospects.” said Peter Coen, the project manager for NASA’s commercial supersonic research team, quoted by Bloomberg