Perusing Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget is harrowing. There are deep cuts or complete eliminations for the poor, children, elderly, veterans, the arts, and the cessation of anything related to climate science. It reads as a budget that’ll make the rich richer and poor poorer, pretty much unabashedly. However, as intrepid lovers of all things travel we did find one teensy ray of hope in the second bullet point of page 50, under NASA’s budget.
It reads, “Paves the way for eventual over-land commercial supersonic fights and safer, more efficient air travel with a strong program of aeronautics research. The Budget provides $624 million for aeronautics research and development.”
Um…Are they brining back the Concorde? Because it really sounds like they’re bringing back the Concorde.
If you grew up in the 1980s, you’ll remember supersonic flights via the Concorde were all the rage. Well, it seems Trump (a man who made his bones in that famed decade) is keen to bring supersonic flight roaring back into our lives. Back then you could get from New York to London in four hours flat — literally half the time it takes today. Their demise was due to a July 2000 crash, compounded by September 11th’s air travel downturn. The service was retired in 2003. At the time, it felt like a small step backwards for aviation and travel. But after some grieving we all moved on.
Well all of us except NASA. They’ve been developing an ‘X-planes’ program that aims to bring supersonic travel back — “greener, safer, and quieter” according to press releases. In fact, they’ve partnered up with Lockheed-Martin and are testing supersonic aircraft right now.
Not to be outdone, billionaire Richard Branson has also gotten into the supersonic fast lane. His Spaceship Company (cool name, bro) plans to launch a mini supersonic jet called the “Baby Boom” (sigh) that’ll seat 40 passengers — which is analogous to NASA’s version. Branson has already set the ticket prices at $6200 roundtrip from New York to London … and there’s the rub.
If you look deeper into Trump’s budget, you’ll find — on page 42, under the Department of Transportation’s section — a bullet point reading, “Eliminates funding for the Essential Air Service (EAS) program, which was originally conceived of as a temporary program nearly 40 years ago to provide subsidized commercial air service to rural airports.” The EAS assures that certified airlines fly to rural, out-of-the-way airports so those people fly safely to their destinations or bigger hubs. They serve 60 communities in Alaska and another 115 communities in the lower 48, with aircrafts ranging from 6 seats to 50. And now that mode of transport may be shut off, stranding people (in Alaska’s case) or forcing them into less safe forms of air travel without the assistance of the National Air Transportation System.
So while Trump wants to cut off rural Americans’ ability to travel, he’s plans to make it easier, faster, and cozier for the super rich to fly. Can’t we average folk have one f*cking nice thing?