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Newly-minted unicorn startup Boom Supersonic’s bid to relax testing rules has been spiked by the FAA, making it harder to bring faster-than-sound flight to the masses


Boom Supersonic

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Supersonic commercial air travel has been a nostalgic memory since the Concorde was laid to rest in 2003, the victim of economics that no longer worked and a post-9/11 market that would transform the aviation landscape for decades to come.

If aerospace startup Boom Supersonic has its way, faster-than-sound travel will be a reality again in just a few years — and more widespread and accessible than it ever was during the Concorde years.

Now, supersonic passenger flight has moved a step closer to its return. The FAA issued a new final rule outlining how plane-makers can apply to test planes at supersonic speeds — and the news is not so great for Boom and its competitors. 

Boom says that supersonic passenger flight can be achieved with existing technology, building on recent developments such as composite fuselage materials and newly efficient turbofan engines to work in a way that’s more efficient and cost-effective than the Concorde was.

While Boom does not expect to roll out its passenger jet prototype until 2026, the company recently unveiled its single-seat demonstrator jet, known as the XB-1. This first prototype will be used to test and prove the efficacy of the design and tech the company will use on the eventual passenger plane, just on a smaller scale.

But there’s a major hurdle ahead of Boom, and other companies seeking to develop faster-than-sound travel, such as competitor Hermeus: testing new planes.

The logistics of testing a supersonic jet are especially difficult due to the fact that any plane traveling faster than sound will create a sonic boom — an earth-shattering sound — which means that aside from military emergencies, supersonic flight over land is typically prohibited.

Recently, as startups like Boom and mainstream aerospace companies like GE have explored reviving supersonic flight, the FAA decided to simplify the process of applying for permission to run faster-than-sound flight tests.

As part of that bureaucratic process, the FAA’s new proposal was subjected to a public comment period.

Late last week, the FAA issued its final rule, including a discussion of the comments it had received. And while Boom submitted a number of comments looking to scale back regulations on supersonic flight testing, the FAA wasn’t having it.

Requests denied

Several companies and organizations submitted comments and suggestions as part of the final rule’s open public comment period, including New Frontier Aerospace, GE Aviation, Aerion, AeroTec, the Aerospace Industries Association, and the General Aviation Manufacturer’s Association.

Boom, which appears to be the leader of the supersonic pack and stands to be among the most impacted by the rule, submitted more comments than any other manufacturer. 

The FAA disagreed with most of the company’s arguments, rejecting proposals and suggestions made by Boom.

One of the startup’s comments related to the process by which the FAA evaluates supersonic test flight proposals under requirements set by the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).

NEPA says that before the FAA has issue a special flight authorization to allow a supersonic test flight, it must determine whether the flight would …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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