Aviation Latest: NASA & Honywell breakthrough could see supersonic flights for the masses | Science | News

NASA and Honeywell, an American multinational conglomerate involved in aerospace, today claimed they have worked out how to reduce sonic booms happening during a flight over land.

Supersonic air travel was only available to the wealthy through Concorde, which was grounded after the Air France disaster at Charles de Gaulle Airport in 2003, in which 113 people died.

Concorde was able to fly from London to New York in around 3.5 hours, whereas the average scheduled airline takes six to seven hours.

There has been a ban on supersonic travel over US soil since the Richard Nixon administration in the early 1970s due to concerns about the loud noises disrupting sleep and breaking windows. 

Sonic booms are loud sounds like an explosion which can be generated by supersonic flights and can even blow out glass.

However, Honeywell said the new developments could potentially eliminate these risks after a two-year study.

Bob Smith, president of Honeywell’s Mechanical Systems, said: “A sonic boom is effectively just a big pressure change. 

“So if you can effectively smooth that pressure change out it becomes a weaker wave so it becomes a rumble instead of a bang.”

NASA has worked on aerodynamic techniques to achieve smoother pressure changes to minimise sonic booms. 

Mr Smith said Honeywell’s input is to take the NASA data and allow a pilot to visualise on screen what impact a sonic boom is having on the ground below the plane.

He added: “So a pilot gets an understanding if they are getting into a region where the impingement of a sonic boom on a populated area was getting more critical or less critical.

“It gives them a visualisation of what of that sonic boom footprint effectively is.”

NASA is planning to launch a Low Boom Flight Demonstration airplane to test the theory.

The design team for that plane is being led by Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

It will record data about the noise effect on communities, in the hope it could help remove current restrictions to overland commercial…

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