Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 13, 2020


Clare Lakewood, (415) 316-8615,

60 Groups Denounce Trump Administration’s Proposal to Revive Super-polluting Supersonic Planes

WASHINGTON— More than 60 climate, environmental, community and public-health groups nationwide called on the Trump administration to withdraw a proposed rule that would pave the way for the return of commercial supersonic airplane travel.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s rule would allow commercial supersonic aircraft, which have been banned for almost 50 years, to be noisier at takeoff and landing than new conventional jets.

“The Trump administration’s plan to revive these super-polluting planes is a huge threat to our climate and the air we breathe,” said Clare Lakewood, legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “We need rules that protect our air and climate from aviation pollution, not ill-conceived efforts to revive an particularly dirty form of transportation.”

Today’s letter to the FAA points out that supersonic planes “failed nearly two decades ago because of the aircraft’s sky-high fuel consumption and inability to meet environmental regulations.” The letter says that given “our limited carbon budget, limited time to act, and urgent need to slash greenhouse pollution from the aviation sector overall, allowing super-polluting aircraft to enter the U.S. sky would be madness.”

It’s projected that supersonic planes would burn five to seven times more fuel per passenger than standard aircraft. In a study released last year, the International Council on Clean Transportation concluded that a new fleet of supersonic planes would emit 96 million metric tons of carbon pollution every year.

“Once again the Trump administration is recklessly pushing a plan forward that will benefit corporations at the expense of our clean air and environment,” said Marcie Keever, legal director at Friends of the Earth. “As the climate crisis worsens we should be focused on cleaner forms of transportation, not reviving dirty technology like these super-polluting planes.”

The letter highlights research tying supersonic planes to extreme noise and air pollution, include a projection that they would exceed international subsonic limits for nitrogen oxides by 40%. Exposure to nitrogen oxides is linked to respiratory disease, heart attacks and strokes. The letter also notes that a series of “studies published since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic have found that exposure to higher amounts of air pollution also increases a population’s vulnerability to the novel coronavirus.”

The new noise pollution rules have been proposed as a result of provisions included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. That Act required the Federal Aviation Authority to begin the process of setting certification standards that will let commercial supersonic jets fly in U.S. airspace, and to consider repealing a nearly 50-year ban on civilian supersonic flight over U.S. land.

Commercial aviation already accounts for 9% of all U.S. transportation CO2 emissions and 2.4% of CO2 emissions around the globe. This number is expected to grow in the coming decade if the administration does not establish long-overdue emission reduction rules — and that’s before factoring in the increased pollution that would accompany supersonic planes.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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