After years of slow but steady progress, a proposed rulemaking by the FAA stands to accelerate the return of civilian supersonic flight.
The Federal Register notice was published less than two weeks after FAA Acting Administrator Dan Elwell announced at the Paris Air Show that the agency was looking to overhaul decades-old rules against supersonic flights over land. Those rules were implemented during the 1970s, when the Concorde was being prepared to enter service, and the prohibition proved fatal to the Concorde’s profitability as an airliner.
Boeing is back at it, announcing in February a partnership with aerospace startup Aerion to bring a new design, the AS2, to market. Lockheed Martin and NASA are meanwhile collaborating on the X–59 Quiet Supersonic Technology Aircraft with a prototype under construction. NASA has also tested public tolerance for mitigated sonic booms in Texas, part of an effort to propel aviation into a new, quieter, supersonic era.
“The U.S. Department of Transportation and the FAA are committed toward the safe and environmentally-sound research and development of supersonic aircraft,” Elwell said June 17 in Le Bourget, France. “We are confident in the next generation of aviation pioneers who want to open new opportunities for business, economic, and aviation growth.”
AOPA will study the proposed rules, which are crafted to create opportunities to test the AS2, X–59, and other prototypes like them, and submit comments before the Aug. 27 deadline. Additional rulemaking is expected to follow in 2020 that will establish new noise limits on supersonic operations.