Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 17, 2018

Contact: Vera Pardee, (858) 717-1488,

Report: Supersonic Airliners Would Take Aviation's Climate Damage Through Roof

Supersonic Aircraft Swap Fuel Efficiency for Speed

OAKLAND, Calif.— Luxury supersonic planes, which aviation startups are attempting to bring back, will likely burn five to seven times more fuel per passenger than typical airliners, according to a report released today by the International Council on Clean Transportation.

Quiet efforts to build the high-speed planes are again underway, despite the Concorde’s flop decades ago. The aircraft would intensify the climate-damaging effects of airline travel, which is one of the world’s fastest-growing sources of carbon pollution.

“Supersonic aircraft would be an exorbitant, environmentally catastrophic luxury for the world’s glitterati,” said Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The super-rich would shave a few hours off their flights from New York to London while the rest of us are stuck breathing their filthy air and enduring the sonic boom in their wake.”

Today’s report also estimates that near-term commercial supersonic airliners would exceed existing nitrogen oxide limits for subsonic aircraft by 40 percent. Exposure to nitrogen oxides is linked to respiratory disease, heart attacks and strokes.

The report’s analysis is based on a 55-seat airliner in development by Boom Supersonics. Boom projects the plane would fly commercially by 2023 and cut travel times by more than half for transatlantic flights and a little less than half for transpacific flights.

Supersonic business jets, with fewer than 18 passenger seats, are in development by Spike Aerospace and Aerion Supersonic with the goal of being in service by the mid-2020s.

Because the sonic booms from aircraft breaking the sound barrier harm people and wildlife, a 1973 Federal Aviation Administration regulation banned civilian flight at supersonic speeds over U.S. soil, restricting supersonic speed to travel over the ocean. The 2018 Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act, a bill pending in Congress, would undo this ban.

International aviation, among the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gas pollution, is already expected to generate 43 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide through 2050, consuming more than 4 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget, according to a Center report. A return of supersonic aircraft threatens to exacerbate aviation’s contribution to the climate crisis.

“Supersonic aircraft are an enormously wasteful extravagance that would shatter any pretense that the aviation industry cares about the climate harm it inflicts,” Pardee said. “These super-polluters shouldn’t be allowed to take to the skies at all, let alone spread their sonic booms wherever they fly.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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