US clarifies rules for flight tests of supersonic planes

The United States is clarifying the process to be followed to obtain authorization to conduct tests with supersonic planes. Long put aside after the Concorde shutdown, supersonic flights are back in the spotlight. Several companies have embarked on the development of these planes promising ultra-fast movements. But before they can market their supersonic planes, companies must go through the key stage of flight tests, which are highly regulated.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the US regulator for air transport, therefore published on Wednesday, January 6, 2021 new regulations that do not lift the ban on supersonic flight over land, but streamline and simplify greatly access to information regarding special flight authorizations. For example, details AIN online, all the information concerning these authorization requests is grouped together, and the FAA office dealing with these requests is specified.

Environmental assessment process

The FAA also provides more details on the environmental impact assessment process for test sites. If the same site is used for several flights, each candidate must make his own request and himself detail the information concerning his flights. The FAA recently reached an agreement with Kansas on the establishment of an air corridor to test supersonic flights, recalls AIN online. This site could therefore be used for various tests.

The FAA adds that the test flights could also be used to collect information on the noise of these supersonic flights in order to establish precise criteria for future commercial authorizations. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao speaks “an important step towards the reintroduction of civil supersonic flight” who “demonstrates the ministry’s commitment to safe innovation”.

Boom Supersonic, Virgin Galactic, Hermeus …

Boom Supersonic, a start-up founded in 2014, recently unveiled its XB-1 supersonic aircraft demonstrator and hopes to carry out tests later this year. The young shoot Hermeus, founded by former members of SpaceX and Blue Origin, also aims to develop a hypersonic aircraft.

Virgin Galactic, a subsidiary of Virgin Group (a company founded by British billionaire Richard Branson specializing in suborbital flights), has announced a partnership with Rolls Royce with the aim of building a supersonic airliner. NASA is also working on a silent supersonic aircraft called the X-59. So many projects that can now be the subject of files in order to turn into test flights.

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