For Immediate Release

May 9, 2018
Contact: Henry J. Price
Phone: 202-267-3883


Background
The Supersonic Transport (SST) Concorde aircraft was introduced in the early 1970s. At that time, many in the aviation community thought that the time had arrived for regular supersonic air travel for passengers.

However, the Concorde was retired nearly two decades ago because of the high cost of meeting the environmental restrictions on sonic booms, inefficient fuel consumption, and other factors.  Ultimately, the Concorde’s future as a viable transportation vehicle was limited.

Companies in the United States and abroad are now taking a new look at supersonic air travel.  Lighter and more efficient composite materials, combined with new engine and airframe designs, may offer the potential for introduction of a viable SST. 

In the area of supersonic aircraft noise, the FAA continually works to ensure the United States keeps pace with latest scientific, technological, and environmental advancements to maintain the safest, most efficient, and advanced airspace system in the world.

Supersonic Aircraft Noise Standards Development
As part of the Department of Transportation’s priority on innovation in transportation, the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration are taking steps to advance the development of civil supersonic aircraft.

In line with this, FAA is initiating two rulemaking activities on civil supersonic aircraft noise.  The first activity is a proposed rule for noise certification of supersonic aircraft, and the second is a proposed rule to streamline and clarify the procedures to obtain special flight authorization for conducting supersonic flight-testing in the United States.  The subsonic noise certification regulations of 14 CFR part 36 do not apply to supersonic aircraft. The current rulemaking activity related to noise certification of supersonic aircraft will determine the technological and economic basis that supports noise level requirements that are appropriate for supersonic aircraft.

The publication of proposed rules will depend on the ongoing data and information gathering process being conducted. This is necessary in order for the FAA to fulfill its obligations under 49 U.S. Code (USC) 44715. The FAA anticipates issuing proposed rules in 2019.  Notices of proposed rulemaking will be published in the Federal Register for public review and comment.

Existing Supersonic Overland Restrictions
Considerations of the impact of sonic booms from supersonic flight preceded the development of the Concorde aircraft.  The Aircraft Noise Abatement Act of 1968 directed the FAA, after consultation with the Department of Transportation, to “prescribe and amend standards for the measurement of aircraft noise and sonic boom,” and, “… such rules and regulations as the (administrator of the FAA) may find necessary to provide for the control and abatement of aircraft noise and sonic boom.”  In 1970, acting under this authority, the FAA proposed a regulation that would restrict operation of civil aircraft at speeds greater than Mach 1, unless authorized by the FAA.  The regulation was finalized with minor changes on Mar. 28, 1973 and codified at (now)14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 91.817 and Appendix B to Part 91.

The FAA’s existing restrictions can be found at 14 CFR Part 91.817.  In essence, that regulation prohibits anyone from operating a civil aircraft at a true flight Mach number greater than 1 over land in the United States and from a certain distance off shore where a boom could reach U.S. shores.  There is a procedure that allows supersonic operation under certain conditions granted on an individual basis. In addition, any new aircraft would need to meet current airworthiness and noise certification requirements.

The two supersonic rulemaking activities would not rescind the prohibition of flight in excess of Mach 1 over land.  At the same time, the FAA is working within the existing statutory and regulatory authority to consider the range of permissible supersonic operations.  In addition, FAA is assessing the current state of supersonic aircraft technology in terms of mitigating the noise impacts associated with supersonic overland flight. 

Supersonic Aircraft International Activities
Since the FAA expects any new supersonic aircraft to operate internationally, we are collaborating with other national aviation authorities and working within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) to develop international noise and emissions standards appropriate for future supersonic aircraft and the engines that power them.

Summary
As part of the Department of Transportation’s priority on innovation in transportation, the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration are taking steps to advance the development of civil supersonic aircraft.

In line with this, FAA is initiating two rulemaking activities on civil supersonic aircraft noise.  The first activity is a proposed rule for noise certification of supersonic aircraft, and the second is a proposed rule to streamline and clarify the procedures to obtain special flight authorization for conducting supersonic flight-testing in the United States. 

Currently, U.S. law prohibits flight in excess of Mach 1 over land unless specifically authorized by the FAA for purposes stated in the regulations.  The two supersonic rulemaking activities would not rescind the prohibition of flight in excess of Mach 1 over land. 

Since the FAA expects any new supersonic aircraft to operate internationally, we are collaborating with other national aviation authorities and working within the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP) to develop international noise and emissions standards appropriate for future supersonic aircraft and the engines that power them. 

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