Aw what a shame it went. Wonder if the story would have been the same if the US had got a supersonic jet to fly commercially?
Thanks to IFALPA for this one 1976 – At 11:40am, Air France Concorde F-BVFA and British Airway Concorde G-BOAA took off simultaneously inaugurating the era of commercial supersonic travel. The Air France service was Paris CDG-Rio de Janeiro via Dakar while BA’s was London Heathrow-Bahrain. BA hoped at the time that the Bahrain service would eventually be extended to Australia.
There are, of course, still some brave souls keeping the faith. Aerion springs to mind. They just don’t give up the ghost and Brian Barents still crops up regularly touting his dream around airshows. Good luck to him. I mean it.
The draw of civil commercial supersonic flight is in the journey times. In the Concorde New York to Paris flights took around four hours and 15 minutes versus about seven and a half hours in existing subsonic aircraft.
The drawback (for some) is it is LOUD. It is actually so noisy that it is banned over land in many parts of the world. Shock waves develop around airplanes as they near speeds of Mach 1, and at ground level these are perceived as a loud double boom or bang.
Many manufacturers, however, refuse to be daunted by the task of building a new supersonic plane and say that they have resolved the noise problem. Aerion, for example, has secured around 50 orders for its $80m supersonic business jet (SSBJ) from customers in key markets including Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the USA. Last October the company revealed early results from a new round of flight tests carried out in collaboration with NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. The tests, achieved a top speed of Mach 2.0. Barents said: “This is a tremendous validation of the aircraft’s appeal.”
The exterior of the aircraft looks futuristic, with a long narrow fuselage; however, the inside looks more like a conventional business jet with a spacious interior and comfortable leather seats.
The company is still looking for someone to build the aircraft,– which will likely cost $3 billion by the time the first one rolls out. Should Barents eventually realise his goal, the SSBJ will be able to carry 8-12 passengers and travel at both supersonic and subsonic speeds. Barents reckons that Aerion is ‘at least seven years ahead’ of major competitors Gulfstream and SAI, both of whom are developing technologies optimized for supersonic flight only.
Other OEMs investigating supersonic flight include Gulfstream and Dassault. Both manufacturers are working on sonic boom reduction. John Rosanvallon, Dassault Falcon’s CEO said: “Dassault wants to be part of the international team that builds the first supersonic business jet.” However, Dassault seems to have parked its plans for the time being as it concentrates on other products.
Gulfstream, meanwhile, is concentrating on sonic boom noise reduction using “Quiet Spike” technology, which it has flown on a NASA F-15 flight test aircraft, capable of flying at speeds in excess of Mach 2.0, or twice the speed of sound. The company has developed a telescopic spike that extends from 14 feet in subsonic flight to 24 feet in supersonic flight. This spike flattens out traditional spiky “N”-wave sonic boom pressure waves into more rounded shapes, shaped roughly like a sideways “S.” This modification creates a softer sound that is quieter than Concorde’s sonic boom by a factor of 10,000. The manufacturer is also working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the US Federal Aviation Administration and NASA to gain regulatory approvals for its work.
Recently Italian aviation giant Alenia was reported to be in talks with Russia’s Sukhoi to bring a new supersonic business jet to market by 2015. The plane is slated to fly at more than Mach 1.6 and carry eight passengers with muffled sonic booms. Sukhoi and Alenia are collaborating on the Superjet, a commercial airliner, which is now in flight-testing. Fellow Russian airframer Tupolev has also developed concepts for a supersonic business jet the Tu-444.
Others also wish to muscle in on the market. Back in 2001, Michael Paulson founded Supersonic Aerospace International (SAI) to fulfil his late father’s wishes as outlined in his will. Allen E. Paulson wanted to create a ‘quiet’ low-boom supersonic business jet, and hired Lockheed Martin to complete a feasibility design study for a revolutionary ‘low boom’ supersonic passenger aircraft. The study resulted in the design of the QSST, an aircraft that would have a sonic signature 1/100th that of the ‘Concorde’ at a speed up to Mach 1.8 and a range of 4,000 nautical miles. SAI is looking for a consortium to develop the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QSST).
Slated to cruise at 60,000 feet at speeds of Mach 1.6 to 1.8 (approximately 1,218 to 1,370 miles per hour), with a range of 4,600 miles, the twin engine airplane was designed to create a sonic boom only 1% as strong as that generated by Concorde. Making a long fuselage and ensuring that the individual pressure waves generated by each part of the aircraft structure did not impact as heavily on each other would have achieved this result. The idea is that this would produce a longer, but quieter boom
Interestingly civil and military giant Boeing has concluded that supersonic aircraft could be economically and environmentally viable in multiple markets. With such a powerful advocate, supersonic speeds may be back in vogue again sooner than we think.
I’ll be first in the queue for a ticket.