'Son of Concorde' supersonic jet, the X-59, is one step closer to first flight after passing key safety test

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By Kim Novak

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NASA's new X-59 supersonic jet, which has been nicknamed the 'Son of Concorde' is one step closer to making its first test flight after passing key safety tests.

The X-59 was built by Lockheed Martin as a key part of NASA's Quesst mission, which aims to reduce the sonic booms associated with supersonic planes such as the Concorde.

The Concorde flew from 1969 until its last commercial flight in October 2003, with it primarily being operated by British Airways and Air France, with the British Airways Concorde making just under 50,000 flights and flying more than 2.5million passengers supersonically throughout its tenure.

The fastest transatlantic flight on the Concorde was between London Heathrow and JFK airport in New York, which it completed in 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds at a top speed of 1,354mph.


Despite being able to halve the time most commercial aircraft take to fly from the UK to the US, Concorde was eventually retired in 2003 with the reason being cited as low passenger numbers following one of the aircraft being involved in a crash in 2000, as well as a slump in air travel following the 9/11 terror attacks, as well as rising maintenance and repair costs.

The jets were also known for their loud sonic booms as they took off, and supersonic aircraft have been banned from flying over land for over 50 years due to the disruptive vibrations and noise they cause when they exceed the speed of sound.

GettyImages-2640994.jpgThe Concorde made its final commercial flight in October 2003. Credit: Phil Cole/Getty Images

NASA's Quesst mission aims to reduce the sonic booms, with the x-59 expected to create a quieter "thump", due to its revolutionary and unique geometry.

The X-59 has an elongated nose section measuring 38 feet (11.5 meters), which makes up a large part of the aircraft's 99.7 feet (30 meters) total length.

The aircraft has now successfully completed its Flight Readiness Review, which is a pivotal step towards it taking to the air for the first time.

According to Space.com, the review was conducted by independent experts from across NASA, and evaluated the project team's approach to safety for the public and staff during ground and flight testing, as well as their analysis of hazards that may arise.

The X-59 will face further analysis ahead of its maiden flight, based on insights and recommendations made as part of the review.

Cathy Bahm, NASA's Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project manager, said in a statement: "It's not a pass-fail. We'll be getting actions from the board and will work with them to resolve those and work toward the Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review."


The Flight Readiness Review is the first step in the flight approval process, before the X-59 will undergo an Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review, which assesses the project team's response to the first review.

NASA officials will also have to sign an airworthiness certificate and flight request before the X-59 will officially be allowed to take its first test flight.

The team is also preparing for further ground tests focused on systems integration engine runs and the effects of electromagnetic interference on the aircraft. 

Brad Neal, chairman for the X-59 Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review board, added in the statement: "It's a brand-new thing that we are developing, even though they're components that have been on different legacy aircraft.

"As we get into integration testing here, it's going to be a great opportunity to learn."


The X-59 is also reported to be able to cross from London to New York in just three and a half hours.

So while the first commercial flight on an X-59 might be a little way off, the first time it takes to the air is creeping ever closer, meaning supersonic commercial flights could very well be a reality again soon.

Featured image credit: NASA/X

'Son of Concorde' supersonic jet, the X-59, is one step closer to first flight after passing key safety test

vt-author-image

By Kim Novak

Article saved!Article saved!

NASA's new X-59 supersonic jet, which has been nicknamed the 'Son of Concorde' is one step closer to making its first test flight after passing key safety tests.

The X-59 was built by Lockheed Martin as a key part of NASA's Quesst mission, which aims to reduce the sonic booms associated with supersonic planes such as the Concorde.

The Concorde flew from 1969 until its last commercial flight in October 2003, with it primarily being operated by British Airways and Air France, with the British Airways Concorde making just under 50,000 flights and flying more than 2.5million passengers supersonically throughout its tenure.

The fastest transatlantic flight on the Concorde was between London Heathrow and JFK airport in New York, which it completed in 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds at a top speed of 1,354mph.


Despite being able to halve the time most commercial aircraft take to fly from the UK to the US, Concorde was eventually retired in 2003 with the reason being cited as low passenger numbers following one of the aircraft being involved in a crash in 2000, as well as a slump in air travel following the 9/11 terror attacks, as well as rising maintenance and repair costs.

The jets were also known for their loud sonic booms as they took off, and supersonic aircraft have been banned from flying over land for over 50 years due to the disruptive vibrations and noise they cause when they exceed the speed of sound.

GettyImages-2640994.jpgThe Concorde made its final commercial flight in October 2003. Credit: Phil Cole/Getty Images

NASA's Quesst mission aims to reduce the sonic booms, with the x-59 expected to create a quieter "thump", due to its revolutionary and unique geometry.

The X-59 has an elongated nose section measuring 38 feet (11.5 meters), which makes up a large part of the aircraft's 99.7 feet (30 meters) total length.

The aircraft has now successfully completed its Flight Readiness Review, which is a pivotal step towards it taking to the air for the first time.

According to Space.com, the review was conducted by independent experts from across NASA, and evaluated the project team's approach to safety for the public and staff during ground and flight testing, as well as their analysis of hazards that may arise.

The X-59 will face further analysis ahead of its maiden flight, based on insights and recommendations made as part of the review.

Cathy Bahm, NASA's Low Boom Flight Demonstrator project manager, said in a statement: "It's not a pass-fail. We'll be getting actions from the board and will work with them to resolve those and work toward the Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review."


The Flight Readiness Review is the first step in the flight approval process, before the X-59 will undergo an Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review, which assesses the project team's response to the first review.

NASA officials will also have to sign an airworthiness certificate and flight request before the X-59 will officially be allowed to take its first test flight.

The team is also preparing for further ground tests focused on systems integration engine runs and the effects of electromagnetic interference on the aircraft. 

Brad Neal, chairman for the X-59 Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review board, added in the statement: "It's a brand-new thing that we are developing, even though they're components that have been on different legacy aircraft.

"As we get into integration testing here, it's going to be a great opportunity to learn."


The X-59 is also reported to be able to cross from London to New York in just three and a half hours.

So while the first commercial flight on an X-59 might be a little way off, the first time it takes to the air is creeping ever closer, meaning supersonic commercial flights could very well be a reality again soon.

Featured image credit: NASA/X