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NASA is Testing an Experimental Aircraft that will Drastically Cut Flight Times in Half

NASA has started performing tests to determine how residents in Texas will react to noise from an experimental aircraft that will drastically cut flight times in half.

On Monday, the U.S. space agency began a research project, aiming to experiment for their next airliner, dubbed the X-59 or the ‘Son of Concorde,’ as aviation fans know it.

The goal of this project is to figure out if residents living near the Texas Gulf Coast will hear noise from the jets as they travel faster than the speed of sound. However, these jets are designed not to make the explosive sound of a sonic boom.

The company states that the noise these jets will make going 940mph, or 1,515 kmph won’t be louder than the sound of a car door closing.

On Monday, the two F/A-18’s used in the trials reached 55,000 feet/ 17 km above the Gulf of Mexico and then took a dive towards Texas accelerating through the sound barrier approximately 23 miles from the coast before pulling up and back out to sea.

Jerry Baker, 46, lives behind the island’s seawall and he is one of the 500 residents taking part in NASA’s study to listen for any noise. Baker said he heard several loud bangs on Monday.

Baker added that the first one was the loudest, it rattled the windows, but the next day the thumps were quieter. He only heard one at eleven o’clock and said they were minimal, just two tiny bumps.

The goal of NASA’s tests is to convince aviation authorities to change regulations on flights over land that will permit a new generation of supersonic jets to fly.

Concorde was in service from 1976 until it died out in 2003 due to the cost of running the aircraft, the crash of 2000, the threat of terrorism after the September 11th attacks, and the noise of loud sonic booms in residential areas.

The first flight of the X-59, which could eventually fly from London to New York in a mere three hours without producing a loud sonic boom, is set for 2021.

The craft could become the first commercial supersonic aircraft to hold passengers since the famous Anglo-French jet Concorde was retired 15 years ago.

However, first NASA will use a modified combat jet to verify the ‘acoustic signature’ of the engines to be used in the airliner, by sending it into a series of dives.

Then they have recruited 500 people on the ground to answer surveys about the noise produced by the F/A-18 Hornet, to guarantee the flight is quiet as it flies over Texas.

In November, the scheduled tests will see an F-18 fighter jet perform dive manoeuvres off the shores of Galveston, Texas – an island city near Houston.

The plane will rapidly descend from nearly 50,000 feet (15,200 metres), briefly going supersonic and firing off the sound likely to come from X-59 aircraft.

The noise, which Nasa says is a ‘sonic thump,’ should sound more like a car door slamming instead of the booms generated by existing supersonic aircraft.

The agency will use sensors on the ground to measure the sounds while compiling public reaction via a series of surveys.