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Supersonic Jets Expected to Enter the Commercial Market, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

For a few short years, a supersonic passenger jet called the Concorde flew the skies, mostly between Europe and the East Coast of the United States.  These supersonic jets were a financial disappointment and their flight paths were few due to the sonic booms they left in their wakes.  The Concorde made its last flight in 2003, after a crash of Air France flight 4590 in 2000.  Supersonic military aircraft remain in wide use worldwide.

Today, a number of aircraft manufacturers both old and new are revisiting and improving upon the technology, making ultra-fast jet travel a possible reality in the near future.  The problems that beleaguered the Concord in addition to the sonic booms were excessive noise pollution and high carbon emissions.

Sonic booms occur when aircraft fly faster than the speed of sound, which occurs at a speed of 761 miles per hour (also known as Mach 1).  The source of the sound (the plane) is moving faster than the sound waves it creates, resulting in a series of pressure waves that are heard and felt on the ground.  Waves were intense enough to occasionally shatter windows, crack plaster and torment animals.  The FAA banned supersonic air travel over U.S. soil in 1973.  Noise pollution was also a problem at airports when Concord jets fired up engines to taxi or take off, and landings were likewise very noisy.

However, new technology is being developed to do away with those concerns.  NASA developed a prototype that was tested in a wind tunnel in mid-2017.  The prototype’s more fluid dynamics modeling significantly decreases the formation of shock waves at supersonic speeds, resulting in a low hum as opposed to a crashing boom.  NASA plans to spend $390 million on developing and building a demo plane to fly over six major urban communities by 2022.

Aerion Corporation ( www.aerionsupersonic.com ) is working with Boeing and GE Aviation to design, construct and certify a supersonic business jet called the AS2.  The jet will be built using light-weight carbon fiber composites with three engines that create a maximum speed of Mach 1.4. (The use of three engines will allow the plane to have greater reliability and require relatively short runways.)  The AS2 will seat up to 12 passengers, have a cabin height of six feet two inches and cut the nonstop flying time from San Francisco to Tokyo from 10 hours and 25 minutes to six hours and 12 minutes.  Fractional ownership company Flexject placed an order for 20 of the planes, which are expected to be delivered as early as 2025.

Startup Boom Technology ( boomsupersonic.com ) is counting on better, more efficient materials and engines to cut the price of a passenger’s ticket dramatically compared to the old Concorde.  The firm expects its new XB-1 supersonic passenger jet to seat 55, with commercial operations to begin as early as 2023.  Its design calls for a top speed of Mach 2.2.  Boom Technology received $10 million in investment from Japan Airlines Co., with a non-binding option to purchase 20 aircraft.  Virgin Group founder Richard Branson will take delivery of the first XB-1.

Spike Aerospace ( www.spikeaerospace.com ) is betting on its private S-512, which will have a capacity of 18, a top speed of Mach 1.6 and be able to make the New York to London run in three hours.  The aircraft, expected for delivery as soon as 2023, will have no windows to reduce drag, but instead will feature digital screens on interior walls for videos, including views of the clouds passing outside via camera.

 

 


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