Sonic Boom Mitigation

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Project Number: 

As demand for long range business travel increases and technologies for efficient supersonic flight mature, a market for small supersonic civil aircraft appears to be forming. Results of recent studies indicate that such aircraft are feasible. However, a major remaining impediment to the operation of such aircraft is the cruise noise signature. Sonic boom noise issues are different from many other aspects of aircraft noise in that the potential annoyance occurs en route, along the flight path rather than just near airports. Maximum utility will require supersonic flight over land, currently prohibited by law. The law was formulated and promulgated at a time before the purposeful shaping of the sonic boom waveform was achievable. The aim of the proposed work is to determine if sufficient new data exists to warrant a reevaluation of the FAA’s regulation prohibiting supersonic flight over land. Recent research on shaped sonic booms has indicated low boom designs are possible and result in significantly less objectionable signatures than classic booms of the 1960s – 1980s. Several recent studies have investigated designs with initial overpressures of no more than 0.3 lb/ft2, in contrast to Concorde’s typical 2 lb/ft2 N-wave signature — a dramatic reduction in noise levels. Due to this technological progress and resulting potential commercial and military application for the United States, supersonic aircraft operation and sonic boom signatures should be investigated for low boom designs, and this is the overarching goal of Project 8. This research is expected to lead to the re-evaluation of existing regulations and, possibly, to the development of new regulations to permit operation of commercial supersonic aircraft over both land and water in the United States and worldwide, for the specific case of shaped boom aircraft designs.

Anticipated outcome

Improved understanding and metrics of civil supersonic flight, leading to the re-evaluation of existing regulations and, possibly, to the development of new regulations to permit operation of newly-designed commercial supersonic aircraft over land and water.

Participating universities

Pennsylvania State University
Purdue University

Lead investigator

Victor W. Sparrow, Professor of Acoustics, Graduate Program in Acoustics. Pennsylvania State University,

Project manager

Sandy Liu


Development of a Model of Startle Resulting from Exposure to Sonic Booms. A. Marshall and P. Davies. A PARTNER Project 8 and Project 24 report. December 2013. Report No. PARTNER-COE-2013-002. Download (pdf 23.3M)