NASA and American multinational conglomerate Honeywell say they now know how to reduce sonic booms when flying a supersonic aircraft over land following the completion of a two-year study.
A ban on supersonic travel over U.S. soil has been in place since the Richard Nixon administration in the early 1970s, amid fears of disrupted sleep and broken windows. Sonic booms are loud sounds similar to that of an explosion that can be generated by supersonic flights.
But Bob Smith, president of Honeywell's Mechanical Systems, said Tuesday that while the problem of sonic booms over populated areas has been a problem since the early days of Concorde, it could be about to 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," said Smith.
Smith said NASA has been working on aerodynamic techniques to achieve smoother pressure changes to minimize sonic booms. He explained that Honeywell's input is to take the NASA data and allow a pilot to visualize on screen what impact a sonic boom is having on the ground below 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," Smith added. "It gives them a visualization of what of that sonic boom footprint effectively is."