It’s been more than ten years since Concorde made its final transatlantic flight.
But there’s a new generation of supersonic passenger aircraft beginning to emerge, boasting speeds at least twice as fast as current commercial planes.
While these planes will first appear in the private and business jet market, catering only to the super rich with gargantuan price tags and first class service, supersonic may eventually reach regular holidaymakers.
One such jet, the N+2, designed by US global aerospace Lockheed Martin, is intended for commercial airlines, and aims to cut the travel time from New York to Los Angeles by half – from five hours to just 2.5.
The aircraft would accommodate 80 passengers and have a tri-jet configuration in which one engine is on top of the aircraft and the other two are under each wing to reduce sonic boom.
‘To achieve revolutionary reductions in supersonic transportation airport noise, a totally new kind of propulsion system is being developed,’ said Michael Buonanno, Lockheed Martin manager of the NASA N+2 program.
Supersonic: The Aerion AS2 jet will use proprietary supersonic laminar flow technology, flying at 1,217mph
‘We are also exploring new techniques for low noise jet exhaust, integrated fan noise suppression, airframe noise suppression and computer customized airport noise abatement.’
Meanwhile, in Reno, Airbus is teaming up with US-based Aerospace firm Aerion to create a supersonic jet that can fly from London to New York in three hours and from Los Angeles to Tokyo in six.
The Aerion AS2 business jet will fly at 1,217mph, using proprietary supersonic laminar flow technology – almost as fast as Concorde, which flew at 1,350mph.
Engineers from Airbus’ Defence and Space Division will work with Aerion at its base in Nevada.
The cost of the AS2 is thought to be more than $100million – over £60million – and Aerion hopes test flights will begin by 2019.
The cost of the AS2 is thought to be more than $100m (£60m) – and test flights will begin by 2019
The jet, which will fly between major global cities, will be made mostly from carbon fibre composite material.
Design features include wings which reduce overall drag by 20 per cent, allowing for lower fuel consumption and longer range and a luxurious 30-foot-long cabin will seat up to 12 passengers.
Aerion chairman Robert M Bass, said in a statement: ‘This is a major step forward for Aerion. It puts us solidly on track toward our objective of certifying the world’s first supersonic business jet in 2021.’
After 27 years of service, British Airways retired the Airbus’ Concorde airliner – which travelled at more than twice the speed of sound – in October 2003, signalling the end of the supersonic passenger jet.
Interior: A 30-foot-long cabin will seat up to 12 passengers in business-style comfort
Modern commercial long-haul jets typically cruise at speeds between 480mph and 560mph
The plan is to certify the plane in 2021 with first delivery in 2022. Flight testing would begin in roughly 2019.
Aerion officials knew it would take a well-established original equipment manufacturer to complete the project, he said.
‘We couldn’t be more delighted with the choice of Airbus,’ Barents said. ‘We think that their footprint around the world is clearly going to help us as we develop the airplane.’
Flight testing could begin on the supersonic jet as early as 2019 with it becoming available in 2021
Billionaire Bass has been open about his personal mission to offer the first business jet to fly faster than the speed of sound, a project begun in 2002.
Aerion, Chief Executive Officer Doug Nichols, told CNN: ‘The collaboration with Airbus was an essential piece in order to bring the expertise of a premier aircraft development concern into the fold.’
The US forbids civilian planes from the sound barrier – about 750mph per hour – while flying overland due to noisy sonic booms, but the AS2 model will fly at subsonic speeds until it reaches the ocean, when it will speed up. Over Europe it can fly at supersonic speeds without detection.