Eco-Groups Lobby Against Supersonic Flight

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Image: NASA

Image: NASA

With a measure to lift the ban on supersonic flight above the U.S. in play in the Senate, a coalition of 38 environmental and health advocacy groups issued a news release this week urging lawmakers to uphold the current restrictions. The new jet designs would burn up to “seven times more fuel per passenger” compared to today’s airliners, according to the coalition’s news release. “Resurrecting these flying gas-guzzlers would cause the aviation industry’s already massive climate damage to skyrocket,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Supersonic planes are a gratuitous luxury for the super-rich and a dirty burden for everyone else.” Spike Aerospace, Aerion and Boom all are working to bring supersonic aircraft to market in the next decade. NASA is testing new technology that would “soften” the boom so it would be less disruptive to people on the ground.

A recent analysis (PDF) by the nonprofit International Council on Clean Transportation concluded that new supersonic airliners would likely exceed international subsonic limits for nitrogen oxides by 40 percent, according to the coalition letter. Exposure to nitrogen oxides is linked to respiratory disease, heart attacks and strokes. “At a time when we need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from aviation, not increase them, incentivizing commercial use of supersonic aircraft is a huge step in the wrong direction,” said Sarah Burt, a lawyer at Earthjustice.

Comments (10)

Here we go again!

Posted by: matthew wagner | August 28, 2018 4:26 PM    Report this comment

I attended the new X-plane Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program forum at Airventure. I have an interest in the subject because the Company I previously worked for built and tested an airplane called the SSBD (Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstrator) in the early 2000's. It was a worn out F-5E aggressor airplane massively modified with a very long aardvark looking nose to 'soften' the boom. In fact, in tests conducted over the Mojave desert near Edwards AFB, the boom was somewhat reduced when compared with the same F-5E but unmodified flying in trail. That was 15 years ago.

Now, still more Government money is being poured into an even more aggressive design -- the one shown in the accompanying picture with this article. The pilot giving the forum talked about having to use a camera pointed forward to provide vision because the nose is SO pointed and the cross-section SO small. Sitting in the audience, I kept thinking, "Why are these people chasing this goal?" If the airplane has to be SO long and SO compact, how the heck is it going to be economically viable to carry passengers. The Concorde proved that the fares had to be SO steep and the cost of upkeep was SO great that it wasn't viable carrying 100 people. What ... we have to build more airplanes to figure that out again in the 2020's ... are we slow learners?

I even asked the pilot that question. He knew about the SSBD and said that this project will seek to refine the pressure wave reductions by a few more percent. HUH! All that money for a little more pressure wave reduction.

During the forum, the pilot talked about flying the airplane over communities in Texas to see what the residents think. They already know that the sonic boom isn't going to be eradicated ... merely reduced. And for what ... so somebody can get from Seattle to Miami an hour faster? This expenditure of money is downright ludicrous. Someone in NASA and DARPA needs to take a long close look at this program and cut it out. I can think of a lot of ways spare research dollars could be spent to advance aeronautical knowledge ... and it wouldn't be to reduce sonic booms.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 28, 2018 4:53 PM    Report this comment

HA! Just as I clicked to send my comment, Matthew's comment shows up. Great minds think alike.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 28, 2018 4:54 PM    Report this comment

My comment was directed more toward the "eco-groups" trying to stop the senate amendment dropping the civilian supersonic ban. If it were up to them we would still be relying on real horsepower. I wonder how many business jet flights Al Gore and his "eco" associates has ridden on while preaching his "eco" line. As far as any government spending on supersonic research, I do agree with Mr. Stencel's position. If any company wants to build a supersonic airplane whether as a small business jet or a large transport let them pay for it, not the taxpayer.

Posted by: matthew wagner | August 28, 2018 6:08 PM    Report this comment

Think of the military applications, you have an aircraft invisible to radar, now if it could be made to be silent at 30,000 to 50,000 feet at supersonic speeds, well there goes the money.

Posted by: Roger Mullins | August 29, 2018 6:00 AM    Report this comment

I totally agree with Mr. Stencil. We now need to think about climate change (among a host of other life killing behaviors) before we fire off another exciting project that is akin to shooting oneself in the foot, or worse!

Posted by: Richard Katz | August 29, 2018 6:46 AM    Report this comment

SST's will be about 1% of the aircraft fleet.
Aircraft produce about 3% of the man-released CO2.
Man released CO2 is 2% of the total CO2 released annually.

So we need to be concerned about 1% of 3% of 2%?
I don't think these people think.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 29, 2018 9:17 AM    Report this comment

Well Mark you are right on with that comment and Matthew as well. It never fails to amaze me how folks will run with an unproven phenomenon and try to pass it off as the truth. The Wright Bros. solution to flight needed a bit of R&D but guess what we can now take our families to Disney World in pressurized comfort. Speaking of Disney World we need to get a few hundred years of data under our belt to "prove" there is global warming! I would suggest that you check out the CO2 levels of the last part of the Carboniferous, the Permian and first part of the Triassic period and notice CO2s relation to temperature. Those folks that are not in the field should stick to their knitting and not comment on what is obviously way over their head. Just a suggestion as it would go a long way in calming down what has become a modern day Salem Witch Hunt. Those folks were just as convinced they were right as our "Climate Change" believers.
Not to go on and on but if the time line from the formation of the earth to now were the length of a foot ball field our (humans) occupation would be the thickness of a human hair stuck to the goal post after traversing the entire length of the field. We give ourselves way too much credit for influencing anything. If you think its warm now you're going to be amazed in about five billion years!

Posted by: Ted Gado | August 30, 2018 2:28 PM    Report this comment

Ted, The very idea that a single parameter trace gas is DRIVING the global climate is ludicrous on it's face. Anyone with a modicum of critical thinking knows that the global climate is a hugely complex system and increasing just one very minor player from 300 to 400 ppm does NOT drive anything.

One a different note, going from 300 to 400 ppm CO2 is shown to be beneficial for plat life on the planet. The "green" and "vegetarian" lobby both ironically ignores the greening of the planet and the benefit that the slight increase in CO2 is brining. Go figure.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 31, 2018 11:20 AM    Report this comment

Totally agree but like those "critical" thinkers in Salem there simply must be a witch to explain what we don't understand. On the other hand I, before heading west, would love to see a land traversing SST whisking those lucky folks tha can afford it to far reaches of the earth without disturbing those so worried about climate change. Anyone that has flown from NYC to anywhere in the Far East would give anything to shorten that trip! How Henry Kissinger did it I'll never understand.

Posted by: Ted Gado | September 1, 2018 7:09 AM    Report this comment

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