Return of supersonic jets could create sonic booms 'every five minutes,' study says

By | January 30, 2019

Parts of North America and Western Europe could experience sonic booms every five minutes if supersonic jets become commercialized, a new study said on Wednesday.

Dubai International and London Heathrow airports could see in excess of 300 supersonic flight operations per day, according to the study. The report’s authors said these flights could double the area around airports exposed to substantial noise pollution.

“Current supersonic sales targets, paired with ongoing efforts to lift overland flight bans, imply severe environmental consequences,” said ICCT’s Dan Rutherford, lead author of the study.

“Manufacturers should commit to meeting existing standards for new subsonic jets and promise to adopt low boom technologies before further developing their aircraft.”

A 2016 study by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority linked exposure to aircraft noise to cardiovascular problems, learning delay in children, obesity and sleep disturbance.

In July, Reuters reported that a U.S. push for relaxed global standards on aircraft noise was being met with resistance from European nations.

A U.S.-led revival of supersonic jets was reportedly facing delays as European states, including the U.K., France and Germany, held firm on refusing to pass new rules on noise needed for the aircraft to fly.

Despite uncertainty over regulation, the industry is moving closer to making commercial supersonic air travel a reality again.

Denver start-up Boom Technology is planning a test flight for its supersonic jet later this year. The company promises that the technology could halve flight times — for example, it says the plane could transport passengers from Washington, D.C. to London in just 3.5 hours. Flight times for that route are currently more than seven hours.

A spokesperson for Boom told CNBC via email that the firm’s aircraft was “designed not to be any louder than today’s commercial aircraft during takeoffs and landings,” adding that flights would only reach supersonic speed over water.

The company already has partnerships with Chinese travel agency Ctrip and Japan Airlines.

In November, Lockheed Martin began production of its supersonic plane, which will be test piloted by NASA. The defense giant is working to produce an aircraft capable of reaching the speed of sound without breaking the sound barrier — thereby preventing sonic booms.

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