Lockheed wins Nasa contract to build quiet supersonic jet

Agency wants technology that hushes noise made by aircraft that break sound barrier

A British Airways Concorde takes off from Heathrow airport in 2001. The supersonic jet type was retired in 2003 amid rising costs and low passenger numbers. Photograph: Reuters

A British Airways Concorde takes off from Heathrow airport in 2001. The supersonic jet type was retired in 2003 amid rising costs and low passenger numbers. Photograph: Reuters

 

US aerospace and defence giant Lockheed Martin has won a $247.5 million Nasa contract to build an experimental supersonic jet designed to hush the continuous boom emitted after aircraft break the sound barrier.

The new jet is expected to take to the skies in 2021, Lockheed said on Tuesday.

Nasa is looking to foster technology that can overcome noise restrictions on supersonic flight, which has been banned overland for commercial planes since 1973.

Once built, Nasa plans to fly the demo model over select communities to get feedback on the impact. The ultimate goal: opening the skies to faster jet travel and spurring manufacturers to build speedier aircraft.

The Concorde, the supersonic airliner that began service in 1976, was built by a French-British coalition and flown by Air France and British Airways until it was discontinued in 2003 - in part because noise complaints limited its flights.

NASA expects private business jets to be the first type of supersonic aircraft to have commercial success if the ban on overland flight is lifted.

Large passenger airliners that break the sound barrier probably won’t show up until after 2035, according to NASA’s vision.

Aerion Corp, a business jet start-up backed by Texas billionaire Robert Bass, is already working on a design that would fly overland just under the speed of sound and then speed up to Mach 1.4 over the ocean.

Gulfstream, a unit of General Dynamics Corp, has said it won’t attempt to build a supersonic aircraft until it is cleared to fly open-throttle over land and sea.

Boom Technology, a Colorado start-up, is developing a supersonic passenger jet with 45 to 55 seats, and attracted a $10 million investment from Japan Airlines in December.

Lockheed, which builds the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet, helped Nasa build a small prototype of the quieter new supersonic plane that was tested in a wind tunnel. Lockheed in December also agreed to help Aerion build its supersonic jet.

– Bloomberg