Supersonic planes without the sonic boom could arrive by 2023

Commercial planes that travel at supersonic speeds, like the Aerion AS2, are inches away from reality. Photo / Aerion Corp
Commercial planes that travel at supersonic speeds, like the Aerion AS2, are inches away from reality. Photo / Aerion Corp

When the Concorde first hit the skies in the 1970s, it could fly from London to New York in just under three hours.

But the futuristic supersonic jet failed to attract passengers and was decommissioned in 2003.

Now researchers claim that Concorde-style jets could be making a comeback, and are working on a supersonic plane that does not produce an Earth-shaking sonic boom.

The plane-makers promote the idea of flying to New Zealand for a weekend from Europe - or vice-versa. A Paris-Auckland trip would take less than nine hours.

Researchers have claimed that the development of super-fast aeroplanes has so far been hindered by the loud noise created by the planes' sonic boom.

But recent advances in noise-reduction technology, along with falling commercial flight prices, could make supersonic travel viable within 10 years.

"It represents a shrinking of the world, just as the transcontinental railroad and subsonic aviation did before it," Samuel Hammond, a research fellow at the Mercatus Centre at George Mason University in Virginia, told Wired.

"But it also stands to reverse a four-decade innovation stagnation in aviation."

His study found that the technology to build quiet supersonic planes is within reach.

"Aircraft engineering has significantly improved since when the Concorde was flying," he noted in a research paper.

In November 2015, Airbus announced it was working alongside tech start-up Aerion to build a supersonic plane called the AS2. Photo / Aerion Corp
In November 2015, Airbus announced it was working alongside tech start-up Aerion to build a supersonic plane called the AS2. Photo / Aerion Corp

"With lighter materials, more efficient engines, better computer modelling, and more experience, it is more than possible to create an aircraft today that is both faster and more affordable than the Concorde was."

The find comes as tech companies are racing to come up with the first viable supersonic plane since the Concorde.

Tech start-ups Aerion and Spike Aerospace plan to have their supersonic planes ready for 2023.

In November 2015, Airbus announced it was working alongside Aerion to build a supersonic plane that could fly at speeds of 1931km/h.

The company claimed its AS2 plane will be capable of supersonic travel, allowing passengers to travel between London and New York in just three hours, and Los Angeles to Tokyo in six.

The Aerion AS2 will have a luxurious 30ft-long cabin that will seat up to 12 passengers. Photo / Aerion Corp
The Aerion AS2 will have a luxurious 30ft-long cabin that will seat up to 12 passengers. Photo / Aerion Corp



It would bealmost as fast as Concorde, which flew at 2170 km/h.

The team has so far made initial designs for a carbon-fibre wing structure, fuselage, landing gear and a fuel system.

Design features include wings that reduce overall drag by 20 per cent, allowing for lower fuel consumption and longer range and a luxurious 10m-long cabin that will seat up to 12 passengers.

A key innovation is the jet's long thin shape, which helps reduce the noise created from the sonic boom.

In a conventional supersonic aircraft, shockwaves from the nose, cockpit, inlets, wings and other features come together as they move through the atmosphere into strong shocks emanating from the nose and tail.

As these shockwaves pass over the ground, air pressure rises sharply, declines, then rises rapidly again, which produces the classic "double-bang'' sonic boom.

Reshaping the aircraft to produce a longer, more slender shape is the best way to generate shockwaves of lower, more equal strength that do not form into such strong bow and tail shocks.

"We see clear and achievable technical solutions to the design of a supersonic jet, and a realistic road map for helping Aerion proceed towards construction and flight," Airbus senior vice president Ken Mckenzie said in November 2015.

But the AS2 faces competition from the Spike Aerospace S-512, designed by engineers from Boston.

They claim their plane will reach Tokyo from LA in just five hours and London to Mumbai in four.

"It will save passengers time so they can explore more of the world," the company said.

"Wouldn't you love to go hiking in New Zealand for the weekend, or fly to Paris for lunch?"

Both companies claim their supersonic planes are just years away from hitting the skies.

But Hammond and his team have pointed out that the industry is being held back by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ban on civil supersonic flight over the United States.

They have called for the 1973 ban to be replaced with a noise restriction.

"In 1973, the Federal Aviation Administration (fFAA) banned civil supersonic flight over the United States, stymieing the development of a supersonic aviation industry," they said.

"It is time to rescind the ban in favour of a more modest and sensible noise standard."

- Daily Mail

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