US space agency NASA has unveiled plans for a new supersonic plane that uses noise-quieting technology, which should make it much quieter than Concorde, when it was in service up until 2003.
When British and French engineers teamed up on Concorde in 1969, they envisaged a plane that would transform aviation and slash journey times.
However, too few airports were upgraded to take the plane, which took too few passengers, certainly wasn't fuel efficient and was also very noisy. It was also, therefore, very expensive to travel on - $7,995 for a return journey between London and New York in 1997. Only British Airways and Air France ended up running commercial services on Concorde.
When the plane was retired in 2003 following a drop in numbers after the July 2000 Paris air crash, no alternatives were in development.
Engineers at NASA, though, believe they may have the answer to some of the cost and technical problems that plagued Concorde.
Over the next few years, the agency has plans to design and create a new supersonic plane that won't inflict a 'sonic boom' when it breaks the sound barrier. It has ideas for a quieter alternative that could be adopted by commercial plane makers.
As part of its upcoming budget, the organisations has outlined plans for a new "X Plane". This, NASA asserted, would result in sonic booms being "so quiet it hardly will be noticed by the public, if at all".
It said the plane would emit a different type of sound, one that is "like distant thunder [or] the sound of your neighbour forcefully shutting his car door outside while you are inside".
That is quite a claim to make, but NASA's engineers believe that they can make it a reality thanks to a new "low-sound airframe" design.
This would alter the design makeup of the engines so that, when in action, they eradicate the sonic boom. The noise-quieting technology would kick in when the vibrations emitted by the engine are compressed together.
"The budget fully funds the Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, an experimental supersonic (faster than the speed of sound) airplane that would make its first flight in 2021," according to the budget document.
"This ‘X-plane' would open a new market for US companies to build faster commercial airliners, creating jobs and cutting cross-country flight times in half," it added
The plans carry the support of US vice president Mike Pence. "Like the railroads that brought American explorers, entrepreneurs and settlers to tame the Wild West, these groundbreaking new technologies will open untold opportunities to extend the range of American action and values into the new worlds of outer space," he suggested.
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