Eco-Groups Lobby Against Supersonic Flight


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.