GALVESTON — In 1973 the FAA banned over-land supersonic travel, determining sonic booms created when an aircraft travels faster than Mach 1 are too disturbing to the public and livestock -- and even potentially window-breaking. This meant the famed Concorde could only travel at full speed over open oceans. While you could get NY to London in 3.5 hours aboard that famed jet, it still took over 6 hours to get from NY to LA in a traditional aircraft. This will soon change if NASA's test is successful, leading to the completion of the design of the first-ever overland supersonic jet!
This Friday in the waters off of Galveston, NASA will test this, "quiet sonic boom" using an FA-18 fighter jet specially appointed to NASA. They will mimic the low-boom of the new jet by diving-bombing toward the water at 50,000 feet instead of achieving greater than mach-1 speeds horizontally, as military often aircraft do when traveling in war zones.
As they slip past the speed of sound in their descent, the vertically-oriented sound barrier boom will closely resemble that of a car door closing -- mimicking what the design of the proposed jet would produce over land. Their X-59 prototype will pave the way for larger models that could carry people from NY to LA in about 4 hours, or from LA to NY in a bit more than 3 hours. These time-saving effects will be even greater for international routes when the hours saved really add up. Here in the Houston metro we are quite literally getting a front row seat to the future of commercial aviation.
According to public feedback on Galveston's Facebook page, mixed reaction suggests NASA may have some work to do. One wrote, "My whole house shook and rattled twice this morning. Scared me." Another commented, " I heard the "quiet thump" this morning. It's definitely much better than a traditional sonic boom but I wouldn't want to listen to it all the time such as regular commercial air flights. It still rattles the windows." A third complained that it alarmed her pet. "I was at the dog park when the boom happened, my dog had major anxiety for the rest of the day"
If you live in Galveston, get ready to listen for these test sonic booms by the FA-18 this week. For more info, here's the official NASA site. Have you heard the booms? NASA wants to hear from you! -Meteorologist Brooks Garner