NASA to conduct 'quiet supersonic research' over Galveston

By Ryan Korsgard - Reporter

GALVESTON, Texas - What NASA researchers learn flying an F-18 Hornet in the skies off Galveston, more than 30,000 feet over the Gulf of Mexico, could change how you fly.

NASA Project Manager Peter Coen said the agency would "like to essentially cut the flight time in half for most destinations."

Imagine flying supersonic from Houston to New York in about an hour and a half.

Right now, the subsonic flight takes more than double that. Beginning in November, in Galveston, NASA will study how to quietly fly supersonic jets over land without the big sonic boom. The research will help NASA figure out how to best collect community response for future flights.

Galveston Mayor Jim Yarbrough said, "I can't think of a significant event or a significant project in world history that didn't start with a crazy idea (such as) commercial flights faster than the speed of sound."

The flights are part of NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project.

The goal is to figure out how to overcome barriers to practical supersonic commercial air travel. The jets will fly five to 20 miles away from land. A dive maneuver will deliver a brief sonic boom at sea that researchers describe as “startling.” The sound on land is described as more like a distant thunderstorm.

Coen said, "You hear that rumble in the distance. That's a sonic thump. That's what we expect people to hear in the community."

The flights will start in November and last up to 15 days. NASA plans to solicit community feedback to help gauge community reaction to the study.

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