CLEVELAND (WJW) – Fifty years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration banned supersonic commercial travel over land. Today, the NASA Glenn Research Center is helping to create a runway to faster travel times in the US.

The Quesst Mission aims to change the rules for supersonic travel thanks to the creation of the X-59. 

“The X-59 is what we call an X plane. It’s a one-of-a-kind aircraft that NASA is building just to collect data so that the FAA and international regulators can help make a new rule for supersonic flight over land based on the quiet noise it will make,” said Ray Castner, NASA Propulsion Lead for Quesst Mission. “With any luck, you’ll barely even hear it.” 

A sonic boom registers at about 110 decibels. That’s the equivalent of a balloon being popped. The X-59 is set out to lower the sonic boom to 75 decibels, which is the sound of a car door slam from 20 feet away.

“Traditional sonic boom, it was a very loud, short duration, startling sound,” Castner said. “This sound is more of a thump. I’ve definitely heard that in the simulators, and it is very similar to being outdoors and hearing a car door slam, instead of a house-shaking boom.”

A model of the X-59 was tested in Cleveland in NASA Glenn’s supersonic wind tunnel, now it’s being built in Palmdale, California.

“I like to say the road to building the X-59 has come through Cleveland. Obviously we’re proud of the facilities here,” Castner said. “We’re proud of being able to build an X plane and fly around and demonstrate reduced sonic boom.”

Once it’s deemed safe for flight, it will start flying over cities to collect data to deem if the new lowered sonic boom impacts people. If all works out, it could change how we travel decades from now.

“We want to be able to fly New York to LA in two, to two and a half hours instead of four to six hours like it takes right now,” Castner said. “The biggest barrier to flying over land is the sonic boom that a supersonic aircraft makes.”

More on the X-59 and Quesst can be found on NASA Glenn’s website.