IN FOCUS PICTURES CONCORDE NASA, industry plot next steps for a
All of their efforts, however, face what is still very much an open question: is it possible to build a transport aircraft that can fly faster than the speed of sound, yet also be profitable to operate, and comply with all current and even some future regulations governing emissions of fuel and Â above all Â noise?
To develop and introduce into service such an aircraft before 2020 now seems most improbable.
However, several projects under way or still pending could Â within the 2020 timeframe Â answer the basic question of whether a profitable and compliant supersonic jet is possible.
Arguably, the most critical barrier that must be overcome is the taming of the sonic boom. Like all civilian aircraft, the
New technology suggests the sonic boom can be muffled or even eliminated, but international regulators still need persuading. So-called Âquiet boomÂ design techniques have been demonstrated on a heavily modified,
The ICAOÂs working group for aircraft noise has developed a roadmap for revising the regulation that effectively bans supersonic flight by civilian aircraft overland. According to emailed responses to questions put to NASAÂs aeronautics research branch, the roadmap Âassumes that community overflight response testing will be required to provide the scientific dataÂ to support the new regulation.
What is needed to enable such a test is a new research aircraft. Last April, a
NASAÂs proposal involves commissioning a private company to build a specially designed research aircraft roughly the size of a business jet. It would perform the survey of community noise levels required under the ICAO roadmap.
As this article went to press, the US budget for fiscal year 2014 was still mired in a deadlock over implementing health care insurance reforms and raising the debt ceiling. The outlook for the following yearÂs budget looks almost as difficult, but
ÂA low boom research aircraft, which would replicate the supersonic acoustics of a larger aircraft, would be key to developing this data at a reasonable cost,Â the agency says.
If private companies are unwilling or unable to invest the tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars needed to build the aircraft and conduct the noise survey, NASAÂs proposal may be the only option for persuading the ICAO and other regulatory agencies to change the regulations banning supersonic flights overland.
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