New Jets Aim to Stimulate Supersonic Travel

"People have always wanted to travel faster since they started galloping across the plains on horseback," says Mike Bannister, senior Concorde captain at British Airways.

New Jets Aim to Stimulate Supersonic Travel

"People have always wanted to travel faster since they started galloping across the plains on horseback," says Mike Bannister, senior Concorde captain at British Airways.

Of course, he knows something. Because Bannister flew Concorde on British Airways for 22 years, Concorde's last commercial flight was made in London skies in October 2003. The Concorde is on display at the Bristol museum after this last flight.

Nearly 20 years later, the world has moved one step closer to a faster-than-sound airliner.

Boom Supersonic unveiled its supersonic test plane XB-1 this month. The plane was the Soviet Union's first civilian supersonic aircraft after the Tupolev TU-144 model, which began flying in 1968.

Its thin and tapered structure will allow the design of the Overture model proposed by Boom to be approved. Overture is a more elegant delta wing project similar to Concorde.

The Overture aircraft is expected to carry 65-88 passengers on trans-ocean routes.

When it is ready for use, Overture will be the fastest aircraft in history with a speed of Mach 2.2.

AS2 in the business market

NASA's supersonic plane X-59, which has thinner and longer wings, will also begin test flights in 2022. The aircraft is looking for technological ways to reduce supersonic noise.

Another supersonic aircraft is Aerion's AS2 model plane. Civil supersonic flights are slated to begin towards the end of the next decade. But with only 8-10 passengers, this plane targets a new market that consists of passengers who will only make supersonic business trips.

New Jets Aim to Stimulate Supersonic Travel

Bannister says that these jets are not competitors to each other, it should be understood as new entrances to completely different sectors in commercial flights.

"With the AS2 Aerion, we aim to fly in a method that will produce a lower supersonic sound at Mach 1.4 speed. Boom wants to cross oceans at Mach 2.2 speed. In my opinion, this is a much stronger market," says Bannister.

One of the engineering problems with these aircraft is the ability to control the air drawn in by high-speed engines.

Drawing air at supersonic speeds can cause problems with aircraft engines. It is planned to reduce the amount of air intake to a speed that will not break the airflow and tire the engine.

This is a very sensitive area. This was the reason for the rift between the British and the French during Concorde's retirement. Air France retired its fleet, but British Airways insisted on flying the jet.

"One of the reasons Airbus, which asserted itself as the authority on Concorde's design, did not give us full authorization to continue to fly was because the amount of air received was still kept secret," Bannister said.

The aviation industry is now going through a very difficult period due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Airline companies have either delayed or canceled orders due to falling passengers.

So, will there be demand for supersonic jets?

"The real question is whether the aviation industry will be able to succeed in the post-Covid era. There is a theory that business travel will not return to its former level. But the situation of very wealthy people will be important," says Bannister.

Bannister thinks the prestige of supersonic flights will reduce interest in aircraft flying slower than the speed of sound.

Aerion AS2 is produced near Cape Canaveral in Florida. The company believes that this three-powered jet, with only a handful of people flying 1,000 miles per hour across the globe, is the one that frequent business travelers have been waiting for.

The company aims for the plane to start flying by 2027.

Companies operating business jet fleets offer many different design options. Aeiron also believes the AS2 model aircraft will be a valuable addition to these options. The aim is to sell 300 aircraft for over 10 years.

Aerion gained more reputation when aviation giant Boeing purchased a minority stake in the company. Boeing has taken two seats on Aerion's board of directors. Boom's advisory board also includes former Lockheed Martin executives.

"It's not about whether it will happen, but when it will happen. (Supersonic jets) is the most valuable commodity we have in this period," said Chad Anderson, president of Jetcraft, who advises on buying and selling private jets. Anderson stated that flights between London-New York or Dubai are suitable routes for this technology.

Against Boom's intention to make supersonic flights over the seas, Aerion Mach believes that flights at 1.4 speed can be done overland. Institutions in the US have not yet lifted the ban on civilian supersonic travel.

NASA's X-59

Therefore, a great political lobbying activity should be carried out. NASA's X-59 will also play a big role in this.

New Jets Aim to Stimulate Supersonic Travel

The involvement of big names like engine manufacturer GE and Boeing also reversed speculation in supersonic designs in previous years. “These are real and very talented actors,” Anderson said.

NASA states that the biggest problem in starting supersonic passenger flights is still the sonic boom. Although it has sides that overlap with the XB-1 model, the X-59, which NASA put into supersonic research, has a very strange and different look.

With its long, thin pencil-like body, delta wings that are folded like a sandwich between the nose part of the aircraft and the tail surface, and the pilot cockpit buried much further behind the nose, the X-59 will be an experiment in developing technology that will see many more supersonic passengers in the future. The X-59 is seeking a flight profile where the sound boom will not affect the ground, with a Mach 1.4 speed limit.

The X-59 hopes institutions will tolerate the noise of the booming voice.

The design of the X-59, scheduled to begin flights in 2022, envisages the fluctuation of the sonic shocks in its hull, thus minimizing the impact on the ground.

As of 2024, the plane will be tested in designated areas in the USA and the reactions of those living in those regions will be evaluated when it flies.

High-resolution cameras are also part of this package because pilots need to see everything to the end of the nose that affects their vision. The Concorde's nose was tilted forward and the visor was pulled down to provide visibility on take-off and landing while cruising.

Bannister believes these engineering efforts are satisfactory, but in terms of design the Concorde is nicer than the X-50 and XB-1:

"Concorde pleased both sides of the brain, artistic and scientific."

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