a plane flying in the sky

When you order a package at 10PM on a Monday, it often arrives at your home the next morning. Compare that to a decade ago, when it took weeks, and it’s bonkers. The world, to put it lightly, has done miraculous things in the last year(s).

Air travel though, minus a few cool new seats and some bluetooth to listen to your movies wirelessly has barely changed though, and with the retirement of most 747’s, surprisingly the fastest commercial jets, things have gotten slower.

Now that ideas of supersonic jets are actually more concrete, tried and tested viable options, people are thinking it’s the next big thing. There’s just one problem: a variety of archaic legislation is holding it up.

Even if a supersonic jet existed that’s ready to safely enter service from tomorrow, it could be months, or even years until the red tape around supersonic booms and other issues is lifted. That, in short, is what’s holding up the predicted multi-billion dollar sector of supersonic travel, as supersonic aircraft orders ramp up.

a interior of a plane with windows and seats

Supersonic Hold Up

According to Bloomberg, NetJet’s owned by Warren Buffet just ordered 20 supersonic jets from Aerion, based in Reno, Nevada. Boom, another leading contender in the race for a supersonic future has garnered investment and orders from Virgin, Japan Airlines and a variety of private businesses.

Executives, high rollers, A-listers and others with the dough to set the rules want to see a return of sub 4 hour travel between the USA and Europe, or sub 6 for Asia. Instead, for decades, the fastest four engine planes have been quickly retired, in favor of more eco friendly, fuel efficient aircraft.

The undoing of supersonic travel was multi-fold, and generally attributed to safety concerns around Concorde after tragic incidents, noise pollution in communities, excess waste and eventually, lack of demand, in the end.

But things are different now. Planes suppress noise better, safety standards have improved with stronger materials and testing; and after a shakeup between the cozy relationships with the FAA and manufacturers, rigorous standards checks are back.

a plane flying in the sky

FAA Bans And Regulatory Issues

In 1973, the US put a ban of supersonic booms over land. Against all odds, the ban still remains. Bloomberg, in an opinion piece, argues that the ban should be replaced with an agreed decibel metric, which gives nuance to the improvements in suppression of noise that have happened since… 1973. Just think about cars if you need reference.

As the world goes green, a very important and novel thing to do, issues around air pollution and ozone impact have also flared up in early talks. Boom will fuel supersonic planes with direct carbon capture, creating carbon neutral flight. That’s a far cry from the specs of Concorde, long may it live.

When you break it down, it’s archaic rules from the decades before the internet or mobile phones which are hampering the future of aviation, and the next great frontier in business travel right now. Sure, these planes will see benefits mostly for the rich, powerful or famous at first, but over time the broader public would likely see benefit.

Like all competitive businesses, costs would likely go down, and competition would drive new solutions. Really, who wouldn’t want to fly from LA to Japan in 5 hours? US businesses have been key drivers in pushing this technology forward, only to see the FAA and other bodies fail to take swift action to help get more test flights going, and pave the way for supersonic travel.

It won’t be long before it’s the only thing holding up supersonic flight.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I was lucky enough to be on the flight deck of Concorde for take off out of jfk. The thing that struck me most was how old fashioned it was.

    1. It was old fashioned because it was conceived in the 1960’s first flew in 1969 and didn’t make it’s first commercial flight until 1976. So you have a 1960’s flight deck little changed flying in the first couple of years in the 21st Century. Testament to the design and engineering that went into it.

      The thought of carbon neutral supersonic flight is incredible. Let’s hope we see it sooner than later.

  2. If the SST had made it into production, sonic booms would unlikely have been a problem. The greenies don’t just want to lower CO2, they want to stop travel entirely. Unless, of course, it’s on a horse.

  3. Legislation was put in place to prevent competition, plane (!) and simple. Concorde was the only SST, Boeing hadn’t come up with anything beyond sketches, so to prevent them looking bad, SST’s were banned in US skies. If Boeing had come up with a design you can bet they’d be allowed to fly.

      1. I agree with the underlying thought but Boeing did far more than come up with a design, they built several models, including one 1:1 scale!
        Just checked, search YT for “sst” and there are several long and short documentaries about the project and it’s evolution. It didn’t happen because…. economics and oil prices.

  4. I’m surprised to see no mention of Lockheed Martin’s X-59 QueSST (“Quiet SuperSonic Technology”) aircraft that is being developed for NASA’s Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator program.

  5. This is nuts, ate they planning mach+ flight over land. From the US to England and from The US to Japan are both over water. Why are they talking about restrictions over land. They dont have to go msch untill over the ocean, whats yhe problem. Ive worked on fighters in the AF over 25 years they break nach over land all the time.airlines are worried about losing money

  6. Eventually when enough SSTs are procured by airlines the price per ticket should be cheap. It needs to lowered anyway. The airlines nickel and dime you to death. Once at cruising speed they won’t be burning fuel as much. But it foes suck done gas to kite the burners and Get to your speed. People need to suck it up . This is a give and takes world. Even in nature. Just like the vaccines, they took forever just to get emergency released its sad,

  7. When I was in 1st grade the national guard would fly supersonic about 30 miles away over Lake Champlain. The boom was still so powerful it would disrupt the class and shake the large, quarter inch thick glass windows so hard you would swear they were going to break. If you were outside at the time you could feel it in your chest like a large firework.

  8. What amount of noise is expected
    Why would a neighborhood already dealing with jet noise want more

  9. I cannot help feeling that the ban on the Concorde overflying mainland USA was highly political, when their own forces regularly exceed Mach 1 and no ‘ citizen’s would dare to criticise such home spun ‘achievement’. Whilst the Concorde predominantly flew across the Atlantic, its commercial success might have been enhanced if routes across the US and beyond to Asia had been allowed. The question remains how the US public will react to minimum sonic disturbance even from the products from US manufacturers.

  10. I don’t know in what world Mr. Gilbert Ott is living; but, it’s certainly not mine.

    Send a package at 10pm and receive it the next day: is that by Royal Mail?

    Well designed seats and Bluetooth headphones? Is there any acknowledgement that the vast majority travel in economy class?

    It appears this write-up is for the concord-flying (or aspiring) elite minority.

    1. I’m sorry to hear that. But I don’t think your comments are fair, at least not in the markets discussed.

      1) I’m referring to Amazon Prime. You don’t need to be an elitist to have it.
      2) Yes, many airlines have introduced bluetooth, or streaming directly to personal devices.
      3) One can acknowledge supersonic travel, without discussing the plights of humanity, or economy class. They’re generally disparate topics.

  11. Maybe if Biden could put aside his ice cream cone fascination for awhile, and the media could stop kissing his rear end for awhile, something could be done about those archaic regulations (-: Nah, not likely.

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