SSFA Eyes Creation Of Supersonic Flight Highway Over Washington

A Washington State aerospace group is pushing for a supersonic flight corridor over the American state, to encourage testing for faster than sound aircraft and offer future jets a highway to cross the region.

FAA Supersonic Boom
The SSFA is pushing for a region in Washington to be reserved for supersonic flight testing. Photo: Boom Supersonic

What are the details?

Currently, in the USA, the FAA forbids any supersonic travel over the continental states. This is because the supersonic boom is so loud it can shatter windows, disturb wildlife and cause noise pollution. Additional problems include interfering with existing ‘slow’ airline traffic.

However, the FAA is open to re-examing these 45-year old rules. In a recent Forbes article, the FAA said they are working hard to “enable the return of civil supersonic travel while ensuring the environmental impacts are understood and properly addressed.” Part of this process is to create a new category of aircraft which has special rules and guidelines for faster than sound travel.

The FAA “will provide a streamlined, clear line of sight on how to gain approval to conduct flight testing. This is a necessary, key step for further research and development in an emerging segment – and ultimately bring their aircraft to market.”

Supersonic flight rules
A renewed interest in supersonic flight has raised concerns about the rules and regulations governing supersonic travel. Photo: Boom Supersonic

Who is the SSFA?

SSFA, the SuperSonic Flight Alliance, is a group working with aerospace firms to develop a special region of Washington state that permits supersonic flight. This will allow aircraft builders to test and demonstrate new supersonic aircraft and, eventually, create a superhighway for faster than sound aircraft to travel.

Based in Moses Lake, the region would far from major urban centers like Seattle and have plenty of room for aircraft testing. However, being in the same state as Boeing and large aerospace suppliers would make it an attractive prospect for new plane builders.

Location of the test site. Photo: SSFA

“Create a 300-mile civilian supersonic corridor (CSSC) over Eastern Washington, in partnership with the FAA and the aerospace industry” is the mission statement of the SSFA as written in their brochure “Aerospace OEMs need non-military airspace to test and certify new supersonic civilian aircraft.”

The region itself is supportive, as the influx of new jobs (and high-technology jobs that attract rich talent to the region) would be a boon for the local economy.

The different supporters of the group. Photo: SSFA

Who are the likely candidates to use the testing site?

If the region was approved, who would want to test there?

For one, we know that Boeing would capitalize on another testing site so close to their factories, even if it was for non-supersonic aircraft. The local weather patterns, humidity, and other conditions would make it perfect for pilots to test new technology, and the distance involved gives them a destination rather than flying around in a loop.

But Boeing is also heavily invested in the supersonic firm Aerion and is looking to bring to market its own high-end very fast transports (likely for VIP customers, to whom time is literally money).

Aerion AS2
Boeing has partnered with Aerion to make supersonic business travel a reality in the near future. Photo: Aerion.

Other US supersonic builders include Boom Aerospace, who is testing its prototype aircraft next year. Virgin Atlantic and Japan Airlines have invested in this firm to secure the rights to the first orders.

What do you think? Is it a good plan? Let us know in the comments.