SUPERSONIC IS COMING BACK BUT WILL THE AIRLINES BUY IT?
Colorado-based company Boom Supersonic, which earlier this year entered into a $2 billion partnership with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, has taken a significant step toward making that a reality for travelers, recently unveiling its first prototype. NASA is working toward flying a quiet supersonic jet, named the QueSST in 2019.
Boom has already revealed with its first aircraft, the XB-1 Supersonic Demonstrator, will look like, but now it can actually start the task of building one that it can begin testing, which it expects to start in about a year. The Demonstrator will be a human piloted, 1/3 scale prototype of the eventual 45-passenger jet craft it aims to use for commercial service, with Virgin Galactic as its first paying customer for planes.
The XB-1 - appropriately nicknamed Baby Boom - is capable of flying 2.6 times faster than any other airliner, reaching a high speed of mach 2.2, or 1,451 mph., faster than the defunct Concorde and certainly faster than the standard 550 mph, with fares no more expensive than a current business-class round trip, which ranges between $5,000 and $10,000.
That’s important considering cost was one of the factors that doomed the Concorde.
That means passengers can travel from New York to London in just three hours and 15 minutes and make the 15-hour journey from Sydney to Los Angeles in under seven hours. Concorde could only fly up to 4,000 miles, could not fly nonstop over the Pacific.
Other potential issues include sound and fuel efficiency, which the company plans to address through the utilization of advanced materials and improved engine technology.
NASA’s plans for a quiet supersonic jet, the QueSST, just became tangible: the agency and Lockheed Martin have started wind tunnel tests for the future X-plane.
It’s a scale model at this stage, but it will be subjected to winds as high as Mach 1.6 (950MPH) to gauge both its aerodynamic performance as well as parts of its propulsion system. The tests should run until the middle of 2017.
Whether or not QueSST moves beyond these tests will depend on funding approval. If it does get the go ahead, though, the next step is making an honest-togoodness aircraft poised to fly in 2020.