The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal has approved full funding for an experimental supersonic aircraft that experts say may be commercially viable in the near future, Space.com reports.
The Low-Boom Flight Demonstrator, as the aircraft is known, is scheduled to make its first test flight as early as 2021. The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration has already begun testing preliminary designs for the LBFD, putting a scale model through a wind-tunnel test last summer.
If the project is successful, it could potentially remove one of the problems associated with commercial supersonic flight, the obnoxious sonic boom. The noise, which is generated when an aircraft breaks the sound barrier, limited the now-retired Concorde supersonic jets to overseas routes to avoid sonic-boom disturbances in populated areas.
“Future supersonic aircraft seeking to achieve a low boom, such as NASA’s LBFD, will rely on a swept-wing design in order to fly at supersonic speeds without producing a loud sonic boom,” NASA officials were quoted as saying. “The swept-wing design generally produces crossflow, which is a name for airflow disturbances that run along the span of the wing, resulting in turbulent flow, increased drag and ultimately higher fuel consumption.”
A trip from London to New York on the LBFD would reportedly take about three hours, versus the six to seven hours that is currently required. The flight time is similar to the Concorde, which made the trip in 3.5 hours.