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Flying faster, higher, better

On Oct. 24, 2003, a British Airways Concorde flying from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to London’s Heathrow Airport made the last commercial flight of a supersonic transport.

That flight marked 30 years of service for the SST. Unfortunately, the cost of operating the plane made it a financial failure. The noise of its twice-the-speed-of-sound engines made it unwelcome in the continental United States. Only 14 Concordes entered service.

We have lamented here the lack of a replacement for the Concorde that could overcome the problems of economics and noise. It seems very little progress has been made in developing speedier commercial aircraft in the last half century — indeed, most jet airliners today fly at speeds that were attainable by the Boeing 707 and the DC-8 in the 1950s.

In February 2016, though, Lockheed Martin was awarded a preliminary design contract from NASA to build a prototype transport for testing by the end of 2021. Lockheed Martin has been working on a design nicknamed QueSST (Quiet Supersonic Technology). In 2018, the company was awarded a $247 million contract to build what Wikipedia terms “a low boom, X-Plane.” The Air Force informed NASA that it has labeled the program the “X-59 QueSST” (Source – Wikipedia).

To put it simply, the new technology is designed to get rid of the boom associated with flying faster than the speed of sound.

The prototype will be designed to cruise at 55,000 feet at a speed of about 940 miles per hour. NASA expects the noise created will be about the same as the closing of a car door.

We think that the development of speedier jets will ensure — and heighten — Hawaii’s spot as one of the most attractive vacation destinations in the world.

Plus, it is simply good to see our country once again striving to make better, faster, higher-flying aircraft.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.