Photo credit: Boom

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

Boom! Boom! Boom! This word is generally defined as a loud sound, often a sound that can be disturbing and bothersome. Thus, to the people who live with overhead aircraft noise, reading Phil LeBeau’s article that American Airlines agreed to buy 20 supersonic planes from “Boom” seemed especially fitting. What better word to describe the supersonic planes that will overwhelm residents on the ground with sounds that are not only disturbing but hazardous to their health and well-being. United Airlines also made a commitment to buy 15 Boom jets.

LeBeau notes that passengers want “faster, more convenient, more sustainable” flights. Boom will deliver this to their customers. While the article does mention that the fuel used in these aircraft will result in lower emissions, there is no mention of the sound levels to which residents will be exposed. Why wouldn’t Boom include a discussion of the impacts of supersonic booms on residents?

Further research leads to an article published about NASA’s quest to build a “quiet” supersonic plane, namely the X-59. Recognizing that sonic booms are emitted by such aircraft, NASA plans to fly a prototype of the X-59 over neighborhoods and then communicate with residents on the ground to determine whether “a 75-deibel boom” is acceptable or not. But this article adds that the findings from NASA’s prototype will unlikely be considered by the companies, including Boom, that are already developing supersonic passenger aircraft.

Boom expects to have its first model out in 2025 and its first flight the next year. Commercial flights are expected by the end of this decade. With this information now at hand, I would strongly urge citizens living with overhead aircraft noise to contact their public officials about proposed flights that will add to the existing din. NASA’s proposed test flight results should also be examined.