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NASA and the City of Galveston partner in collecting data for supersonic research
by Ruth Ann Ruiz
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Scholes International AirportA news conference held today at Scholes International Airport at Galveston to announce a partnership between NASA and the City of Galveston in testing and collecting data as part of NASA’s research towards the production of a supersonic, commercial airliner.  Melanie Saunders, acting deputy director for NASA’s Johnson’s Space Center expressed excitement in the opportunity to work together with NASA centers: Langley and Armstrong sites in testing the sound levels caused by the F/A-18 aircraft. 

Peter Coen, project manager of NASA’s Commercial Supersonic Technology Project explained the selection of Galveston as a test city was made due to the dense population and the opportunity to fly over the water. “We have had great support from all local authorities,” said Coen. 

Mayor of Galveston, Jim Yarbrough thanked NASA for selecting Galveston. When asked by a reporter what the benefit would be to Galveston he responded, “This is about being part of a bigger picture, of something that will change aviation dynamics.” 

Test flights will take place in November 2018 and will originate out of Ellington Airport. Each flight will reach 50,000 miles in altitude about five miles offshore. Then, the flight will turn and come over Galveston with exact flight plans to guide the pilot back over the water. Once reaching five miles offshore, the pilot will begin a dive maneuver which will generate a sonic boom that will be heard by mariners out in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result of the plane nearing 30,000 feet into the dive, a thump noise will be projected towards Galveston and islanders will hear it.  

Galvestonians will be invited to participate in the research and collection of data via postcards sent out to residents. Based on the response to the postcards, 500 individuals will be selected to provide feedback on the impact of the noise. NASA will use remote sensor devices positioned across Galveston to record the sound and with the feedback from the selected individuals will be able to begin to construct further research for the future development of a commercial supersonic airplane. 

According to Coen, the sound will not harm pets, animals or homes. The main purpose of this test is to help NASA better collect data from people so that they can continue in developing supersonic airplanes that will not cause a lot of noise. NASA will reach out to the mariner community in advance of the test flights to help alert everyone who might be out on the Gulf waters during the exercises. The noise level over the Gulf will be louder than what is heard in Galveston, but future planes will not have the same level of noise.  

Engineers, pilots, and researchers are enthusiastic about reaching this milestone in development of supersonic airliners. “The ability of everyday people to fly at supersonic levels is a promise overdue,” commented Coen.  

At present, supersonic aircraft are only used in the military and do not fly over densely populated areas.

Remembering Jim Guidry Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership

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