In Aviation, the Revolution Won’t Be Supersonic

The latest buzz in the aviation world is the idea of a supersonic passenger jet. The Concorde, which flew for 30 years from 1976 to 2003, is a case in point: it was the only supersonic plane to be viable commercially, but it was also the most expensive, and failed to meet its fuel efficiency promises. A new supersonic passenger jet would be cheaper, but what would the plane look like? Would it be quieter and easier to fly?  The technology is already here, but as yet there is no commercially viable supersonic passenger jet on the horizon.

Commercial aviation is a challenging environment, and the stakes are high. But what if the future of air travel isn’t fast and fancy, but rather quiet and low-cost? That future may be closer than you think, because researchers in the US and the UK have made some big leaps in development.

As the world’s population grows, the demand for airspace grows with it. But in a world with limited space, more and more of the international air traffic is expected to be routed through low-altitude air routes. This will put pressure on the existing air traffic network, and the solution is a technology called ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ (UAVs).

say they find it unpleasant to sit in a cramped airline seat for hours, but they generally don’t want to pay to fly faster. Just ask Concord’s operators. United Airlines announced Thursday the purchase of 15 supersonic Overture passenger jets from Boom Technology. The 88-seat aircraft, which can reach 1.7 times the speed of sound versus 0.8 times the speed of subsonic jets, is expected to enter service before the end of this decade. The hype about the possible return of supersonic flights, 18 years after the cancellation of the British-French Concorde project, has been heard for years in the aviation industry. United’s confidence vote will likely make it even louder. The idea is that many of the problems that made the Concorde a money-making venture – between 1976 and 2003 only 14 aircraft were put into commercial service – can now be overcome. Some advocates believe more efficient designs could bring the cost of a ticket down to the level of a normal first-class fare, while Concord’s surcharge is about 10%. The new designs also promise to reduce the sonic drone that causes unbearable noise levels and can even break windows. Overture’s plan to fly exclusively on green fuel should address some environmental concerns. The International Council on Clean Transportation estimates that supersonic aircraft consume five to seven times more fuel per passenger than conventional aircraft. Analysts in a Swiss bank UBS estimates that supersonic flights could be a $180 billion market for commercial operators by 2040. Our own survey of passengers shows that a third of them would be willing to pay at least 25% more if journey times were halved. But it’s unlikely the Flyers will put their money where their mouth is. Since the liberalisation of the sector 50 years ago one constant has remained in the aviation sector: Price is the determining factor when buying airline tickets. That’s why aircraft didn’t get faster between 1968 and 2014, while fuel consumption – the main operating cost – fell by 45%, according to ICCT data. Boeing his Sonic Cruiser quasi-supersonic aircraft project in 2002 for a reason: People don’t pay much to fly faster. Of course, supersonic flights are for executives who are not price sensitive. But with increasingly better internet on planes and the ability to work in comfort, a trip from New York to London in 3.5 hours instead of six hardly seems unusual, especially considering that the trip to and from the airport is a significant part of the effort. The cockpits of supersonic aircraft will be tighter than those to which businessmen are accustomed. In addition, the noise level can be reduced without compromising fuel efficiency, so the authorities can refuse to lift the ban on land-based supersonic flights. This significantly limits the number of routes on which these aircraft can be deployed. Supersonic aircraft are really cool, which is why aerospace engineers and the public want to see more of them. But paying $5,000 to get on board is another story.

United Airlines on Thursday announced plans to purchase 15 supersonic jets from Boom Technology.

Photo: Supersonic boom Email John Sindreu at [email protected] Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8Contrary to popular belief, the world is not ending. In fact, it’s moving in the opposite direction of the jet pack. The world is not going to be full of flying cars, or flying sidewalks, but instead, it’s going to be full of drones.. Read more about supersonic flight time calculator and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are there no supersonic planes?

Supersonic flight is one of the biggest goals of modern aviation. Airplanes that can fly at supersonic speeds can travel over half the distance between New York to Sydney in two hours, five times faster than the fastest commercial aircraft, while cutting fuel consumption by a third. However, the cost of designing, building and testing supersonic jets is so high that no commercial supersonic aircraft has yet been developed. The problem comes down to the price: the jet fuel needed to fuel a plane’s engines is unlikely to be cheap or plentiful. Part of the reason that supersonic travel is so expensive is that the technology of the past has been used in the design of both the engines and the wings of supersonic airplanes. It Qantas, which operates Australia’s national airline, is currently in the midst of a costly and time-consuming process to replace its fleet of Concorde supersonic jets, the only commercial air service able to fly at supersonic speeds. The company expects the new planes will be ready to fly by the end of the decade.

Will we ever fly supersonic again?

Ever since the Concorde made its final supersonic flight back in 2003, the idea of designing commercial aircraft that could fly faster has been completely removed from the minds of engineers and designers. Could today’s planes ever be designed to fly faster than Mach 2? The idea of supersonic flight has been talked about since the 1960s. Back then, engineers envisioned flying at hypersonic speeds of up to Mach 5, which would require speeds of up to six miles per second. Now, however, with supersonic flight long gone from the modern era, the idea of returning the speed of sound to domestic air travel must be an attractive proposition.

What makes a plane supersonic?

Supersonic aircraft are becoming more and more common these days, but not everybody knows what makes a plane go supersonic. There are two main factors that help a plane reach supersonic speeds: speed, and how long it takes to reach said speed. The world’s fastest commercial passenger aircraft is the Concorde, which was retired in 2003. Its successor, the supersonic Concorde SST, was never meant to enter service. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the design of Concorde was not ideal for flight at supersonic speeds.

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