Window-rattling, dog-spooking sonic booms are all that have stood between you and dramatically faster supersonic commercial airline travel for decades.
The business case for the Concorde jet evaporated when the Federal Aviation Administration refused to permit the British/French joint venture plane to overfly the U.S. at Mach 1+ because of the resulting boom blasting the unfortunates living below.
But NASA has decided it is time to solve this problem and has green-lighted a design for a flying prototype designed to reduce that "boom" to little more than a "thump."
The Quiet Supersonic Transport, or QueSST aircraft design, is the initial design stage of NASA’s planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration (LBFD) experimental airplane, otherwise known as an X-plane.
The agency will work with senior experts and engineers from Lockheed Martin Corporation to fly the LBFD X-plane over communities to collect data necessary for regulators to permit supersonic flight over land in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.
Last month, a scale model of the QueSST design completed testing in the 8-by 6-foot supersonic wind tunnel at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
"Managing a project like this is all about moving from one milestone to the next,” said David Richwine, manager for the preliminary design effort under NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project. “Our strong partnership with Lockheed Martin helped get us to this point. We’re now one step closer to building an actual X-plane.”
With that testing done, NASA's ready to build and fly a plane. The prototype will be a small, single-engine jet meant to prove the concept, and not a full-scale passenger-carrying airliner-sized plane.
Now they have to go through the bidding and government contract award process, which can be time consuming. NASA hopes to start flight testing of a the winning LBFD X-plane design as early as 2021. Two-hour LA-to-NYC flights can't start soon enough.