You might not remember, but there used to be a jet called the Concorde that had a cruising speed of 1,354 mph, which is twice the speed of sound. New York City to London, typically a seven-hour flight, only lasted three-and-a-half hours on the Concorde. But the Concorde went bust in 2003, and supersonic jets fell out of favor. A new crop of aviation startups is hoping to resurrect it, and thanks to a new set of laws in the US, that comeback seems all but assured.

Buoyed by rich investors who want faster private jets, these startups are testing new technologies that could muffle the sonic boom that occurs when an airplane breaks the sound barrier. These cannon blast booms led Congress to ban supersonic jets from flying over US soil in 1973. But in October, President Trump signed a bill directing the Federal Aviation Administration to consider lifting the ban, breathing new life into the industry.

X-59 QueSST prototype over major US cities in 2023. Three startups — Aerion, Spike Aerospace, and Boom Supersonic — are designing planes that would cut long flights in half. Last month, General Electric announced it would create a new supersonic passenger jet engine for Aerion.

In several years, the X-59 QueSST will test its quiet supersonic technologies by flying over communities in the United States.
Image: NASA

But environmentalists are worried that these faster planes will spew more polluting carbon into the environment. All of the startups aiming to fly supersonic in the next decade have touted low emissions as a goal, but it simply takes more fuel to go faster, raising critical questions.

“The idea that you’re actually going to be able to overcome local opposition to supersonic aviation routes?” said Carl Pope, former executive director of the Sierra Club, who has written in opposition to supersonic planes. “We can’t build a new freeway in this country, because of local opposition. Why does everybody think we’re going to be able to assault hundreds of millions of people with sonic booms? This is not real.”

Take a look at the video, and let us know what you think about the possibility of supersonic jets flying over your house.



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