NASA, together with American multinational conglomerate Honeywell, claim they can reduce sonic booms over land, which will potentially bring super sonic flight to the masses. Honeywell also stated that this development can eliminate one of the number one barriers to the broad adoption of super sonic flight.
Since Richard Nixon’s administration during early 1970s, a ban on supersonic travel over U.S. soil has been in place. What is a sonic boom?
Sonic booms are loud sounds, similar to that of an explosion. This is caused by shock waves created by an object that travels through the air faster than the speed of sound. This results in massive amounts of sound energy. When the sonic boom occurs, it makes pressure waves in front of and behind the object.
However, the president of Honeywell’s Mechanical Systems, Bob Smith, mentioned that while the predicament of sonic booms in the populated areas has been a problem from the early days of Concorde, it can now face a change.
“A sonic boom is effectively just a big pressure change. So if you can effectively smooth that pressure change out it becomes a weaker wave so it becomes a rumble instead of a bang,” Smith said.
Smith mentioned that NASA has been doing aerodynamic techniques to have smoother pressure changes that will minimize sonic booms. He elaborated that Honeywell’s input is to take the data from NASA and allow a pilot to visualize on screen what impact a sonic boom is having on the ground under the plane.
“So a pilot gets an understanding if they are getting into a region where the impingement of a sonic boom on a populated area was getting more critical or less critical,” added Smith. It gives them a visualization of what of that sonic boom footprint effectively is.”
The technology can prove to be useful for NASA’s future planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration airplane as per the statement made by Honeywell. This plane by NASA will gather data regarding noise effect on communities that some hope will help remove the restrictions to overland commercial supersonic flight.