President Joe Biden has raised the prospect that supersonic civil aircraft might be crossing the world’s skies within the next ten years.
Biden mentioned supersonic flight during a 7 April press briefing related to his infrastructure improvement plan.
He did not say if or how his administration intends to further support supersonic advancements, and a broad review of Biden’s infrastructure proposal, released by the White House, makes no mention of supersonic jets.
Both NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration, however, are already working on supersonic projects, as are several US manufacturers.
“Next ten years… We are going to talk about commercial aircraft flying at… supersonic speeds,” Biden says.
“If we decided to do it”, such aircraft will “travel 2,100 miles per hour”, he adds.
Biden’s timeline does align roughly with plans set out by various US companies working to develop supersonic jets.
Aerion Supersonic, for instance, is developing a supersonic business jet called AS2 that it hopes will be flying passengers in 2027.
Another company, Boom, aims to fly its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator this year and to develop a supersonic airliner called Overture that will make first flight in 2026.
NASA has been supporting supersonic advancements through its Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator project – a NASA-Lockheed Martin effort to develop a supersonic test aircraft with a muffled sonic boom. That aircraft, called X-59, is on track for first flight in summer 2022, NASA says.
The agency then plans to use X-59 to evaluate the quiet-boom design with the goal of aiding the FAA’s authorisation of civil supersonic flight, which the regulator has effectively banned since 1973.
The FAA has already started the work of writing regulations for a new class of supersonic civil jets. In January, the FAA finalised a rule intended to make easier the process by which airframers obtain approvals to conduct supersonic flight tests.
The FAA last year proposed a rule to establish noise standards – only at take-off and landing – for civil supersonic aircraft.