Through our research and advocacy, the Niskanen Center has been at the forefront of the push to end the ban on civil supersonic flight overland—a change that will spark an aviation innovation renaissance. Now that goal appears within reach.

Today the Niskanen Center and coalition partners are proud to release a letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in support of the Lee-Gardner amendment to the FAA Reauthorization. The amendment would require the FAA to develop a reasonable supersonic noise standard, “informed by noise levels that are tolerated in the United States for non-aviation,” to replace the ban within one year of the Act’s enactment.

We are pleased to be joined on our letter by some of the nation’s premier defenders of technological innovation: the Committee for Justice, Competitive Enterprise Institute, R Street Institute, and TechFreedom.

You can find our letter below and in PDF form here:

Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson:

Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) have introduced an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act that would enable the development, testing, manufacturing, and operation of civil supersonic aircraft in the United States, in accordance with a sonic boom noise standard that is “economically reasonable and technologically practicable.” We the undersigned urge you to support this amendment. If enacted, we believe it will spur a renaissance in commercial aviation innovation, create thousands of American manufacturing jobs, and strengthen the United States’ position as a global technological leader.

The 1973 ban on civil supersonic flight over land traces its origins to a panic spurred by an activist movement that opposed the French and British supersonic transporter, the Concorde. While we see a legitimate public interest in reasonable limitations on aircraft noise, banning civil supersonic flight altogether is anachronistic, and has effectively created a technological speed limit over the United States. It has persisted for forty-four years due to regulatory inertia, and stifled private sector research and development into quiet and affordable supersonic travel for far too long.

Left unamended, the Act would merely require the FAA to conduct a review of federal law and recent technological advancements as they pertain to the operation of supersonic aircraft over land, and report their recommendations to the relevant subcommittees within 180 days. We believe that, in light of over forty years of public research into supersonic transport by NASA, the FAA, and others, further delay is unwarranted.

The economic benefits of civil supersonic aviation over land will be enormous. Beyond being able to traverse the continental United States in two and a half hours, faster over land air travel will result in greater economic growth, increased geographic mobility, and many spin-off innovations. The FAA has the data it needs in order to devise a reasonable noise standard and replace the ban on civil supersonic over land. However, without the Lee-Gardner amendment to spur the FAA into action, civil supersonic aviation will continue to stagnate under regulatory uncertainty.


Niskanen Center
Committee for Justice
Competitive Enterprise Institute
R Street Institute