Resistance: A visitor looks at the AS2 supersonic business jet replica on the Aerion Corporation booth during an aviation exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS
Resistance: A visitor looks at the AS2 supersonic business jet replica on the Aerion Corporation booth during an aviation exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: REUTERS

Montreal/Singapore — A US push for new global standards to kickstart its fledgling supersonic jet industry is facing resistance by European nations that want tough rules on noise, documents and people familiar with the situation say.

Fifteen years after Concorde’s last flight, US regulators are weighing rule changes to allow testing of early-stage supersonic jets, amid plans for American-made business and small passenger jets due in service by the mid-2020s.

But the new industry could face delays at the UN aviation agency where the US and European countries — including France, Germany and Britain — are squaring off over new noise rules needed for the jets to fly, five sources told Reuters, speaking about confidential talks on condition of anonymity.

Boom will be making its first appearance at the Farnborough Airshow next week as it aims to cement the revival of the supersonic industry, which is struggling to design jets that meet subsonic noise standards due to engine constraints.

The dispute follows a 1990s clash on noise standards, when the EU wanted to ban noisy, older, US-made jets such as the Boeing 727 from its airports and Washington threatened to retaliate by banning the Anglo-French Concorde. This latest round pits US ambitions for an American-led revival of supersonic jets by start-ups Aerion Supersonic, Boom Supersonic and Spike Aerospace against European fears of disruptive noise from the planes. Aerion, backed by Lockheed Martin and GE, is considered by industry sources as the most advanced of the supersonic projects.

Boom will be making its first appearance at the Farnborough Airshow next week as it aims to cement the revival of the supersonic industry, which is struggling to design jets that meet subsonic noise standards due to engine constraints.

"The politics are that Europe is way more worried about noise [around airports]," said an industry source familiar with the matter. "Europe has a problem but they have no reason to solve [it] because they have no industry pushing for this."

That is a reversal of disputes that delayed the beginning of Concorde’s transatlantic services in the 1970s, as the US Congress and the New York Port Authority banned it due to noise. The Federal Aviation Administration has banned supersonic flights over US land since 1973.

The new jets plan to stick to over-water routes, though the Federal Aviation Administration will decide on allowing overland flights after analysing Nasa data in a study by 2025.

A spokesman could not immediately comment.

Boeing and Airbus have mapped out futuristic visions for ultra-fast air travel.

But since the demise of Boeing’s planned near-supersonic Sonic Cruiser in 2002, the world’s two largest aircraft makers have focused on slower, fuel-efficient aircraft that allow airlines to lower ticket prices.

Now, US start-ups are working to develop quieter and more fuel-efficient supersonic aircraft than Concorde, aimed at business travellers. They claim these can be economically viable with the right engine. They also pledge to dampen the famous sonic boom that depressed Concorde’s sales and restricted its operations until it was grounded for economic reasons in 2003.

The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation, which sets many global standards, has started looking at supersonic jets by seeking technical information from aircraft makers. It will then be in a better position to assess options for standards on noise and emissions, and "how long the process should take", a spokesman said.

Global standards

The European countries think current noise limits should be used as "guidelines" for developing landing and take-off rules, according to a document presented to a recent committee meeting of the Montreal-based organisation.

The US, echoing industry’s demand, has called for new standards that reflect "fundamental differences" between subsonic and supersonic jets, a second document reads.

"Supersonic aircraft are different from subsonic aircraft and need to be treated as such," Mike Hinderberger, Aerion senior vice-president of aircraft development, has said.

Reuters

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