Aeronautic officials debuted a new quiet supersonic plane capable of flying faster than the speed of sound and getting from New York to London in three and a half hours.
The 100-foot long 30-foot wide X-59 supersonic aircraft, dubbed “son of Concorde,” was rolled out by NASA and Lockheed Martin on Friday, an innovation officials said they expected to revamp commercial air travel.
The Concorde aircraft, which could travel some 1,350 miles per hour, was retired some 20 years ago after launching in 1976, plagued by costly maintenance and a fatal 2000 crash.
Its new progeny can travel 925 miles per hour while generating a less disruptive sonic boom to communities below due to innovations in design, shaping and technologies, officials said.
Over the past half-century, the US and other nations have banned supersonic flights because of the startling booms created when planes exceed the speed of sound, which is 767 miles per hour, NASA noted in a press release.
The plane’s thin tapered nose was expected to break up shock waves that would cause a sonic boom on a conventional aircraft, and its cockpit is located about halfway down the length of the plane, meaning pilots would have to rely on camera monitors to operate it.
The X-59 is part of NASA’s Quesst mission, which is aimed at “providing data to help regulators reconsider” the ban.
“This is a major accomplishment made possible only through the hard work and ingenuity from NASA and the entire X-59 team,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy.
“In just a few short years we’ve gone from an ambitious concept to reality. NASA’s X-59 will help change the way we travel, bringing us closer together in much less time.”
The Quesst team was now shifting to prepare for the aircraft’s first flight, scheduled later this year, by integrated systems testing, engine runs, and taxi testing.
After the maiden voyage, the X-59 would embark on its first “quiet supersonic flight,” officials said.
“It’s thrilling to consider the level of ambition behind Quesst and its potential benefits,” said Bob Pearce, associate administrator for aeronautics research at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“NASA will share the data and technology we generate from this one-of-a-kind mission with regulators and with industry. By demonstrating the possibility of quiet commercial supersonic travel over land, we seek to open new commercial markets for U.S. companies and benefit travelers around the world.”
NASA cautioned that the X-59 was a “unique experimental airplane,” not a prototype that would be replicated for commercial endeavors.
The cost of the project is $632 million over eight years, according to Bloomberg.