NASA Makes Progress In Quiet Supersonic Flight

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New wind-tunnel tests by NASA of designs by Boeing and Lockheed show it's possible to build jets that can fly at supersonic speeds quietly enough to fly over land, according to the National Business Aviation Association. "The game-changing technology out there is having tools available to design the external shape of the vehicle to give you a low sonic boom on the ground," Tom Jones, project manager for the NASA research team, told NBAA. The latest experiments, which have been heralded as a "breakthrough," show that the aircraft might not create a "boom" at all, or if it does, it would be very quiet.

The designs are likely to be first tried out on business jets, NBAA said, since they are lighter than passenger jets. "The bigger the vehicle, the harder it is to make it quiet, "Jones said. The new experiments also show that it's possible to combine lower noise signatures with low cruise drag, which once was thought to be mutually exclusive, according to NASA. The next step is to test out the theories in flight. "It is my hope and my goal to make sure that we develop an X-plane demonstrator in years, not decades," said Jones.