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How Will the Public React to NASA’s X-59 Supersonic “Thump”? Westat to Survey Community Response

December 8, 2021

Westat, a leader in survey design and analysis, is partnering with experts in the fields of aviation, acoustics, and weather to evaluate community response to NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) aircraft. NASA has designed this experimental plane to produce a quieter “thump” than a “boom” when flying supersonically and provide a testbed from which people’s reactions to this unique acoustic signature can be gauged. Westat will design and implement survey methods, questionnaires, and analysis techniques to measure community response.

In the current planning phase, Westat is working with NASA, HMMH (the prime contractor), and other team members to finalize our approach, gain approvals, and conduct a pilot test. In later stages, we will recruit and survey respondents in a range of communities, each over a month-long period, to gauge their reaction to the X-59 flights. 

Data from the surveys, flight, and weather will be delivered to NASA in real time to evaluate the success of each flight toward the research goals. At the end of the study Westat will derive dose-response curves and conduct other analyses. NASA will use this data to better understand the public’s response to the new sonic thump. The results will also inform FAA (and potentially international) policy, which may result in enabling supersonic flight over land.

Learn more:

60 Minutes: Startups and NASA Working to Return Passenger Supersonic Flights to the Sky

New York Times: Can Supersonic Air Travel Fly Again?


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