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Concorde Environmental Impacts

The potential impact of SSTs on stratospheric ozone was cited as a potential problem in public comments in response to all regulatory proposals issued by the FAA since Notice 70-33. This issue concerned the public and the governments of several nations for many years.

In November 1975 a final environmental impact statement was prepared on the proposal to allow commercial service landings of the Concorde supersonic transport at Kennedy airport in New York and Dulles airport, and a public hearing was held in January 1976. Comments of those receiving the draft EIS and testimony at the hearing were analyzed and are presented as an addendum to the final EIS.

Concern over the impact of the Concorde's emissions on the stratosphere centers on two issues: (1) the possible reduction of the amount of atmospheric ozone and the likelihood of a resulting increase in the incidence of skin cancer (due to increased ultraviolet radiation brought about by reduced ozone); and (2) the possible effect on the earth's climate.

With respect to the probability of ozone reduction by SSTs, the latest and best available data indicate that data derived from earlier programs substantially overestimated this effect, and that it is questionable whether SST operations would reduce ozone at all. It is equally doubtful, therefore, that SST operations would have any effect whatsoever on the incidence of skin cancer. The FAA study of upper atmosphere effects of SST operations is continuing to further substantiate these current findings in the EIS.

The National Academy of Sciences recently submitted a report to the Congress entitled "Response to the Ozone Protection Sections of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1977: An Interim Report", by the National Research Council Committee on the Impacts of Stratospheric Change. This report supported the FAA findings. The report stated that "the estimated impact of NOx (nitrogen oxides) from the exhausts of SSTs and other high-flying aircraft on stratospheric ozone is now quite small, almost certainly not a matter of immediate concern." Ample time exists for additional tests and measurements and to continue the FAA-sponsored High Altitude Pollution Program to reduce the remaining uncertainties and further analyze these new findings.

The second concern regarding SST impacts on the upper atmosphere involved the potential changes in the Earth's climate. Although simultaneous injection of sulfur dioxide, water vapor, and nitrogen oxides into the upper atmosphere might affect atmospheric temperatures, it was concluded that the possible effect of the Concorde on the mean surface temperature was insignificant. Estimates on the likely changes in associated climatic variables, such as rainfall are not possible at the present time, but these correlative effects are also believed to be insignificant.

The FAA believed that research should be continued into the possible impacts of SST operation on high altitude ozone, incidence of cancer, mean surface temperature, and climatic changes. However, based on the studies accomplished to date, it was concluded that the SST operations permitted by these rules will have no significant upper atmosphere effects.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:53:03 ZULU