US Government Backs NASA's Quiet Supersonic Jet 'Son of Concorde'

The potential revival of supersonic commercial airline flights could cut the travel time between major cities in half -- with New York to London just being a matter of hours.
Shelby Rogers

A potential "Son of Concorde" supersonic jet could be in the skies by 2021 if the Donald Trump administration has anything to say about it. A sleek, experimental plane that could quietly break the speed of sound was included among specifics in the most recent budget document from the federal government. 

"This 'X-plane' would open a new market for U.S. companies to build faster commercial airliners, creating jobs and cutting cross country times in half." 

"The Budget fully funds the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, an experimental supersonic (faster than the speed of sound) airplane that would make its first flight in 2021," the document read. "This 'X-plane' would open a new market for U.S. companies to build faster commercial airliners, creating jobs and cutting cross country times in half." 

In fact, those speeds would clock in at Mach 1.4 (or 1,100 mph or 1,700 km/h). Putting an emphasis on quiet flights would bring back supersonic commercial flights by dampening one of their worst features -- the excessive sonic boom that comes with each flight.

The Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator could potentially combat that annoyance with the goal to make supersonic flight possible just without the boom. 

NASA is currently working on those tests off the coast of Florida (something residents are familiar with thanks to warnings prior to test flights). If the technology works, the public could see a return of those once-idealized supersonic commercial flights.

Most people have put their hopes in that a return to these types of flights could lead to a resurrection of the Concorde fleet which was dismantled in 2003. 

The Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) low-boom flight demonstrator

The plane currently proposed by NASA is called the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QueSST) low-boom flight demonstrator. No word yet as to how much of the $19.9 billion budget would trickle down toward working on it. And in order to combat the noise and sonic boom, NASA wanted to see a sonic boom 60 dBA lower than other commercial supersonic jets. 

"The Budget also increases funding for research on flight at speeds more than five times the speed of sound, commonly referred to as hypersonics," the budget also noted. "Hypersonics research is critical to understanding how crewed and robotic spacecraft can safely enter and exit the atmospheres of planets. Hypersonics also has applications for national defense."


The NASA team plans to have the demonstration tests in the Armstrong Flight Research Center in California with the flight envelope expansion scheduled for 2021

By 2022, Daily Mail reported, the NASA researchers will determine the effects the supersonic plane would have on atmospheric and flight conditions from the sonic boom (or lack thereof). 

Currently, supersonic travel is highly restricted under United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines, particularly those that take place over land. This is due to the loud sonic booms that result from the craft flying at supersonic speeds.