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Supersonic jets must be no noisier than existing planes - airports group

Allison Lampert

MONTREAL, May 15 (Reuters) - A new generation of U.S.-produced commercial supersonic jets must be no louder than existing planes or risk exacerbating existing complaints over noise from air traffic, Angela Gittens, director of Airports Council International (ACI) said.

U.S. supersonic jet makers are working to reintroduce ultra-fast passenger planes for the first time since the Anglo-French Concorde retired in 2003, with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) working on proposed rules for noise certification of supersonic aircraft by 2020.

These latest supersonic jets, while quieter and more fuel efficient than the Concorde, have difficulty meeting existing noise levels and carbon emissions standards for conventional planes due to engine constraints and higher fuel burn.

Gittens told Reuters in an interview late on Monday that supersonic jets should not get "a free pass" to generate more noise than subsonic planes or fail to meet global carbon emission standards for new aircraft.

The new jets have already sparked global debate with supersonic planemakers backing U.S. calls for the creation of new global standards for passenger planes traveling faster than sound while European nations want the aircraft to meet existing subsonic rules for noise.

Governments, airports and industry have spent billions of dollars globally to improve aircraft technology, install noise-reducing insulation and buy up homes near airports to mitigate public disturbance as air traffic rises.

"We're already getting more noise complaints and the (supersonic) plane isn't even flying," Gittens said on the sidelines of an Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) Global Sustainable Aviation forum in Montreal.

Aerion Supersonic, which is backed by Boeing Co, and Spike Aerospace have said their ultra-fast business jets will meet noise levels for subsonic planes.

A Boom Supersonic spokesman said in an emailed statement that "noise levels are not directly comparable" between subsonic and supersonic jets, since the two are "fundamentally different" and should be held to "broadly different standards."

Boom's supersonic passenger plane will have a similar impact on airports as "the quietist long-haul aircraft it replaces," the spokesman said. Boom did not specify whether the plane would meet existing standards.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the United Nations aviation agency which sets global standards that are adopted by its 192 member countries, has said it would study supersonic jets. It has not committed to creating new standards for the planes.

Boom said the U.S. standards published in 2020 will be sufficient for its certification needs.

"We expect that ICAO will eventually adopt a similar harmonized standard, the spokesman said. (Reporting by Allison Lampert Editing by Phil Berlowitz)