Technology 3 min read

Trump to Consider Future of Quiet Supersonic Flight

Maria C. Werries | NASA

Maria C. Werries | NASA

Commercial supersonic flight has been around since the Concorde’s historic flight in 1969, but legal limitations applied in response to the noise and pollution generated by supersonic travel lead to the jet’s demise. New technologies designed to reduce the noise of a sonic boom may clear the way for supersonic travel to return. As it has with former President Jimmy Carter, whether the U.S. invites supersonic travel may depend on President-elect Donald Trump.

Branson may Have to Take a Number

Supersonic flight has yet to strike a balance between positive and negative effects.

For example, Richard Branson of Virgin America has revealed a prototype called the Boom XB-1. The company claims the jet is far more efficient than the Concorde.

Branson backing this project means the potential for profit exists. Yet, for all the added efficiency of the Boom XB-1, those profits will be stymied if Branson cannot offer more routes than his airlines currently offer.

NASA Solution for Quiet Supersonic Flight

NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Technology (QueSST) program may solve the problem of the noise associated with a sonic boom. The team builds upon decades of NASA research into making quieter aircraft. Working together with Lockheed Martin, NASA is designing quiet, new types of supersonic passenger aircraft.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden announced the new series of Lockheed Martin X-planes in February of 2016, and they plan on demonstrating a low-boom supersonic craft in 2020. We could see supersonic flights linking distant cities within the next decade.

supersonic flight
Lockheed Martin artist’s rendering of a possible QueSST X-plane design

Of course, this new timetable puts the project at a crossroads, as the U.S. President-elect has promised to cut taxpayer spending. NASA depends on taxpayer money to fund the X-plane project. As a result, many wonder if Donald Trump will find the project worthy of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Stopping a Potential Breakthrough

Despite being a fan of defense spending, it remains to be seen whether NASA will receive funding expansion from the Trump presidency.

For those that despair, remember that Trump loves big gestures. Trump claims to have the best toys, after all, so what could be better than a quiet, supersonic Air Force One?

Additionally, supersonic travel could bring a host of new jobs to the airline industry. Investors such as Branson represent a very real interest. Trump’s background in business and investment could lead him to believe NASA’s research could pan out for all involved.

While NASA researchers fear for their project, they can rest assured Donald Trump will consider all government funded programs. Eventually, he will get around to NASA. Let’s hope he makes the right decision.

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