FAA approves overland supersonic tests

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral on 6 March 2020, on its way to the Internatio

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral on 6 March 2020, on its way to the International Space Station - Credit: NASA/Tony Gray and Tim Terry

To facilitate testing several new designs for high-speed business aircraft, the FAA is allowing supersonic flights over the US mainland

To facilitate the testing of several new designs for proposed high-speed business aircraft, the FAA has decided to allow supersonic flights over the US mainland. ‘The renewed interest in the development of supersonic airplanes caused FAA to review its application procedures that allow for flight tests of these aircraft,’ the agency said in what is legally termed its Final Rule on the topic. ‘This Final Rule modifies the criteria for these authorizations and moves the material from an appendix to a regulation to make it easier to understand’.

However, the FAA also stressed that the approval is for testing only and that it ‘continues generally to prohibit civil supersonic flight over land in the United States’.

The design of the next generation of supersonic business aircraft should ensure that sonic booms don’t have the energy to reach the ground from operating altitudes, and it is expected that the new rules will allow manufacturers to test these characteristics more easily.