The Need for Speed
Everything is in place for the development of a supersonic business jet-except U.S. Federal Aviation Regulations.
- By Ron Swanada
- Air & Space magazine, March 2004
(Page 3 of 3)
In light of this research, and because the FAA's rules had not been re-examined for more than two decades, last November the agency requested public comment on the issue and sponsored a workshop on supersonic flight. Gulfstream Aerospace, long interested in developing a supersonic business jet, submitted substantial details for what it calls a Quiet Supersonic Jet. The initial design requirements for the QSJ are presented in the sidebar (opposite).
At the FAA workshop, Gulfstream Aerospace was the most vocal company among the participants, but all manufacturers of business jets attended, along with the makers of business jet engines. The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), which chaired the panel of airplane manufacturers, will place a high priority on getting the FAA to change the regulations that govern operation and design of this important new class of airplane.
GAMA told the FAA that it is essential to begin immediately the process of changing the regulations that prohibit supersonic flight. Since these rules were established in the 1970s, technologies have advanced significantly, and recent studies have shown that safe and environmentally acceptable designs for aircraft and engines are not only possible but likely to have sufficient market demand. The first new supersonic airplanes are likely to be advanced general aviation aircraft—business jets.
GAMA also noted that it is essential that the FAA maintain sufficient research and development activities to support this rulemaking process. And as most supersonic civil operations will involve international flight, the FAA should also begin negotiations with its counterpart agencies in other nations to revise international standards and recommended practices to allow advanced supersonic aircraft to operate internationally.
In November 2002 the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry issued a report stating, "Superior mobility afforded by air transportation is a huge national asset and competitive advantage for the United States. Because of the tremendous benefits derived from a highly mobile citizenry and rapid cargo transport, the United States must make consistent and significant improvements to our air transportation system a national priority."
Because they have already done some preliminary work and because they serve a market that needs and can afford supersonic aircraft, business jet makers are uniquely positioned to create one such improvement: the next generation of high-speed transport. No company can make that move, though, under the current FAA regulations.
In order to ensure that new vehicle technologies are introduced into service efficiently and safely, the FAA's regulations must keep pace with the technologies that are both here and near. They must enable—not restrict—improved safety and mobility.
When I look at the Wright brothers' 1903 Flyer, I see a beginning, not an end. And when I look at the Concordes that are now being placed in museums, I'd like to think of them in the same way.