Supersonic passenger flights are back?

Aviation companies are plotting the return of supersonic flight – and they think their jets will be better than the Concorde.

Highlights:

  • Since 2003, supersonic flight has been absent from the aviation industry.
  • Aviation companies are hoping to introduce a new generation of supersonic jets over the next decade.
  • They’re touting new designs and materials they believe will improve performance.

Since the Concorde was retired in 2003, supersonic flight has been absent from the aviation industry. Fifteen years later, three startups and a major defense contractor are plotting its return.

The Concorde made its first commercial flight in 1973, and for nearly 30 years, it allowed customers to cut overseas trips in half. A flight from New York to London would take about three hours and thirty minutes on the Concorde, compared to about seven hours on a standard, subsonic flight.

But the supersonic jet was expensive to operate, and the combination of a deadly accident in 2000 and an economic downturn after 9/11 led to its retirement in 2003.
Boom Supersonic wants to make flights affordable.

The companies working on the Concorde’s successors believe improved designs and materials will result in superior performance. But their aircraft will still be expensive to operate and, given current regulations, unable to fly over land in the US and many other countries due to the loud sonic boom they produce.

Due to those constraints, the next generation of supersonic planes will focus primarily on business travelers and the kinds of wealthy clients who fly on private jets instead of commercial aircraft.

But one startup, Boom Supersonic, thinks its customers will be able to buy tickets on its 55-seat, XB-1 aircraft for a price similar to today’s business class fares. The company says it will be able to fly at Mach 2.2 (Mach 1 is the speed of sound), which would make it the fastest commercial aircraft in history.

The XB-1 will be made from carbon composites and use design features the company says will improve its aerodynamic qualities. Boom has received over 75 pre-orders for the aircraft, which it plans to deliver in 2023, from customers including Japan Airlines and the Virgin Group. On Tuesday, Ctrip, China’s leading online travel agency, announced its investment in the company.

Spike Aerospace believes it has conquered the sonic boom

 

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