New technology will help mitigate the risk of sonic booms over populated areas, bringing the aerospace industry closer to supersonic flight.
Honeywell and NASA have completed a two-year test to determine the most effective way to show pilots flying supersonic jets where people on the ground may hear sonic booms, potentially eliminating one of the primary barriers to the broad adoption of supersonic flight. The testing program successfully integrates predictive software and display technology into business jet cockpits, and demonstrated how pilots can see where, and how, sonic booms would affect the population on the ground.
“We are pleased to complete this important milestone of the pilot interface testing in civilian airspace with Honeywell,” said Brett Pauer, commercial supersonic technology subproject manager, Overland Supersonic Flight, NASA. “This technology could prove to be useful for NASA’s future planned Low Boom Flight Demonstration experimental airplane. This plane is being designed to gather community noise response data that may help remove the regulatory speed restriction to overland commercial supersonic flight.”
Flying at supersonic speeds would change the aviation industry drastically, enabling pilots to cut business jet travel times roughly in half. For instance, travel time from New York to Los Angeles would be reduced from five hours to 2.5 hours or less. However, the primary barrier to broad adoption of supersonic flights over land are sonic booms, which are loud noises caused by aircraft traveling faster than the speed of sound.
“With predictive technology and knowledge, pilots can change course and minimize the boom over populated areas,” said Bob Witwer, vice president, Advanced Technology, Honeywell Aerospace. “Honeywell and NASA have developed this unique predictive display for civil aviation that has been tested in commercial airspace, bringing the vision of the return of commercial supersonic flight closer to reality.”
In recent decades, NASA worked to develop the Cockpit Interactive Sonic Boom Display Avionics software that predicts sonic boom impact from an aircraft’s current position and flight parameters. As part of the completed two-year test program, Honeywell and NASA integrated the software with Honeywell’s Interactive Navigation technology into a modern business jet’s avionics suite, which allows pilots to predict sonic booms over the aircraft’s future planned flight path. This provides them with actionable information and visuals to assess the boom impact of a flight plan and display trajectories before the boom is generated, preventing the loud sound from disturbing populated areas.