supersonic jet

Supersonic jets remain grounded over noise pollution concerns

Image credit: reuters

US attempts to get supersonic passenger jets back into the sky after a 15-year absence are receiving pushback from Europe over concerns they will cause too much noise pollution.

According to a Reuters report, five sources who attended confidential talks among countries in the United Nations aviation agency said that the US was struggling to convince European countries including France, Germany and Britain to allow new supersonic jets to fly again.

Supersonic flights between America and Europe were once relatively common on Concorde planes, but this service stopped flying in 2003 after a crash in 2000 resulted in falling consumer interest in taking the flights due to safety concerns.

However, new breeds of supersonic jet are being developed by several start-ups such as Boom Supersonic, Spike Aerospace and Aerion Supersonic which is backed by Lockheed Martin.

The Aerion project is considered to be the most advanced of the three projects, although its commercial plane will only be able to fit 12 people, in comparison to Boom which is developing a 55-seater plane.

These planes are all significantly smaller than Concorde’s maximum passenger capacity of 128.

Pan-Atlantic clashes over aviation noise pollution have occurred before, such as the 1990s dispute in which the European Union wanted to ban noisy older US-made jets like the Boeing 727 from its airports. Washington reacted by threatening to ban incoming flights on the Anglo-French Concorde.

“The politics are that Europe is way more worried about noise [around airports],” an industry source told Reuters. “Europe has a problem, but they have no reason to solve it because they have no industry pushing for this.”

“The sooner the agencies finalise guidelines and standards, the sooner we can ensure our design meets those requirements,” said Vik Kachoria, CEO of Boston-based Spike Aerospace.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has acknowledged the noise concerns and has only permitted the jets to run along over-water routes for now. It will eventually decide whether to allow overland flights as well after analysing data from Nasa in a study by 2025.

The FAA is also considering domestic noise requirements, as getting these flights up and running locally would avoid the European objections.

“In the event of a delay in the adoption of international standards, the FAA will need to establish noise regulations for domestic certification,” it said.

Last year, a team working for the US Department of Energy started creating computer simulations of jet engine noise in a bid to ease the development of engineering solutions to make them quieter.

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