Mar 05, 2018 / Sustainability
Lee-Gardner Amendment would reduce supersonic fuel burn by 20 percent or more
And require a new regulation allowing overland supersonic flight.
Update: The Lee-Gardner Amendment was adopted by the Senate Commerce Committee by unanimous voice vote.
At Boom Supersonic, our mission is to eliminate the barriers to experiencing the planet. That includes time, which is why our first product is a Mach 2.2 airliner. But it also includes money. We want travel on our supersonic airliners to be affordable. While we anticipate tickets on our first airliner to be 1/4 the cost of those on Concorde, they are still more expensive than we would like—comparable to today’s subsonic business class fares.
One of the best ways to get fares down is to burn less fuel. Not only could you then lower ticket prices, but you would also produce fewer carbon emissions and extend the range of the aircraft. That’s why we’re excited about an amendment introduced by Senators Lee and Gardner to the Senate’s version of the FAA reauthorization bill. If the amendment were adopted and passed by both Houses of Congress, it would allow us to begin designing for significant fuel savings.
The Lee-Gardner Amendment would be a game changer for affordability and availability of supersonic travel.
The physics of supersonic flight are challenging. When you push an aircraft through the atmosphere at Mach 2.2, the air feels like Jello. It generates tremendous resistance. Like the Space Shuttle entering the atmosphere at even higher speeds, our airliner will experience so much drag that it will get hot (although not as hot as the Space Shuttle). At these high speeds, every little bit of streamlining helps reduce drag and reduce the amount of fuel we use in flight.
The Lee-Gardner Amendment would help us reduce drag by allowing us to make our engines narrower. Current engine noise rules for new supersonic aircraft are more stringent than those for the existing subsonic fleet. By setting our engine noise to the same levels as existing subsonic airplanes, we could make our engines produce so much less drag that we would save 20–40 percent on fuel, depending on whether you use this year’s or next year’s rules as a baseline.
An engine this big generates a LOT of drag at Mach 2.2
The fuel reduction also supports longer routes. A 20 percent reduction in fuel burn per mile means correspondingly longer trips are possible. A supersonic flight from New York to São Paulo could be made without stopping to refuel. This would be a significant step forward for connecting the world.
Additionally, the Lee-Gardner Amendment would require the FAA to eliminate the Mach 1 speed limit over the United States and replace it with a well tailored sonic boom standard. This change could mean flights between New York and LA in 2.5 hours, for example. DC to San Francisco would be only 2 hours and 24 minutes at Mach 2.2.
We applaud Senators Lee and Gardner for their leadership on this issue. A vote on this amendment will take place in the Senate Commerce Committee as soon as Thursday morning.