Back in the 1960s, the world’s major airlines were beginning to talk about the development of the necessary technology to reach supersonic speed in commercial flights. At that time, it was even normal to assume that a decade later all long-distance flights would be made with ultrafast aircraft.
In practice, however, things turned out to be different; and after the Concorde tragedy –accident in which all 109 passengers on board died, and four people on the ground-, the airline industry decided to put a Pause on the subject.
Today, 22 years after the milestone that made almost everyone distrust the safety of this advanced aerodynamics, news about projects around express flights is heard again. China and the United States are the most popular spokespersons in the race to be the fastest, although it seems that countries with a lower profile, such as Canada, are not far behind.
The company Beijing Lingkong Tianxing Technology – an aerospace company in the Chinese capital, also known as Space Transportation – earlier this year showed prototypes of a rocket-powered aircraft that could exceed 7,344km/h (or Mach 6 speed), and fly from Beijing to New York in less than an hour.
If the project made public for the first time in 2021 materializes, it would be an airplane three times faster than the Concorde, although the team of scientists in charge has already taken care to highlight the main difference with this: vertical takeoff, assisted by a winged rocket.
Together with the research team of the China Institute of Spacecraft Systems Engineering, liu-ruiprofessor of Beijing Institute Of Technology, worked on the development of the aircraft, drawing inspiration from the aerodynamics of models used in space missions more recent and considering that the findings applied in spacecraft could also be applied to commercial and cargo aircraft.
It is logical, then, to think that the plan of the “chinese Concorde” aims at something more than speeding up the transportation of the terrestrials. Meanwhile he first test flight is scheduled for 2025and the first commercial flights by 2030, There was already talk of a future instance of the project, in which they would carry out trips of ten passengers per flight, to the first space stations built by China.
On the other hand, in the Western Hemisphere, american airlines announced its purchase to supersonic boom -American company founded in 2014- of 20 units of the Overture, the new plane that would double the speed of current commercial flights, which would reach a speed of 2,000 km/h (Mach 1.7). The Texas-based airline is the second to do business with Boom, after United Airlines, which announced in 2021 the purchase of 15 aircraft.
The final design of the Overture was revealed a few weeks ago at the Farnborough Air Show, in the United Kingdom, and will have a capacity for carry between 65 and 80 passengers. One of the main promises that the Overture encompasses is that, unlike the Concorde -which consumed around 25,000 liters of fuel per hour- it would use sustainable fuels (SAF), and would have an automatic noise reduction system to meet the standards noise pollution. In other words: it would be the first commercial and ecofriendly supersonic aircraft.
In terms of prices, while a ticket for the Concorde could cost between US$8,000 and US$12,000, and its clients were people who could afford to pay for a VIP trip, from American Airlines and Boom Supersonic they emphasize that the goal of the Overture is that the price is no more than 25% higher than business class on a normal flight.
“Hay million passengers each year who fly in business class on routes where Overture will give a great accelerationand now the airlines will be able to do it profitably,” he said. Blake Scholl, Founder and CEO of Boom.
As for dates, the aircraft would begin production in 2024, with a release scheduled for 2025; and is expected to carry the first passengers in 2029. Among the routes that could be done with the Overture are Miami-London, in five hours; and Los Angeles-Honolulu in three hours.
Without as much press as its two “rivals” in the supersonic air race, Bombardier, canadian Aircraft Company, presented, within the framework of the EBACE 2022 in Geneva, Alabama global 8000, your new business ship -still under development-, which would reach a maximum speed of 1,150 km/h (0.94 Mach).
From the company they assure that the tests of the successor of the Global 7500 have already begun, and that the flights would enter service in 2025. The plane has a capacity of up to 19 passengers. “The Global 8000 leverages the attributes of the Global 7500, and brings our customers a Flagship aircraft of a new erasaid Éric Martel, president and CEO of Bombardier, in an official statement.
According to airlines, currently the fastest commercial aircraft are the Airbus A33Neo with a top speed of 1,061 km/h; and the B788, the Boeingwhich reaches 1,051 km/h; always talking about speeds that can only be achieved in ideal flight conditions.
Projects from China, the United States and Canada still have a long way to go to demonstrate that their aircraft can meet the operational performance and safety requirements demanded by the industry. The aforementioned aircraft are still in preliminary design phases, and the dates promised by agreements between airlines and manufacturers are subject to change and delays.
In the specific case of Boom, the company still is not insured by an engine manufacturer to move forward with the assembly of their aircraft. On the other hand, Chinese scientists have yet to resolve the issue of turbulence and extreme heat, product of the increase in temperature and pressure once the Mach 6 speed is reached.