Bjorn’s Corner: Supersonic transport revival

By Bjorn Fehrm

August 10, 2018, ©. Leeham News: The interest in civil supersonic flight has been revived in the last years. Aerion Supersonic is well advanced with its AS2 supersonic business jet and there are several projects looking at restarting supersonic airliner service, 15 years after the Concorde stopped flying.

We will examine the unique challenges facing these projects in a series of Corners.

Figure 1. The latest rendering of the Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet. Source: Aerion Supersonic.

What changes when we go supersonic?

When an aircraft goes from subsonic to supersonic flight, several mantras from the Civil airliner world no longer work as planned:

  1. We can use standard aluminium alloys and carbon fibre construction materials to make the structural parts of the aircraft. No longer true when we go supersonic.
  2. To fly long-range flights we need a wing with high aspect ratio. No longer true when we go supersonic.
  3. The ideal ratio of fuselage diameter to length is around 10. No longer true when we go supersonic.
  4. A long-range trans-Atlantic or trans-Oceanic aircraft is dual aisle with eight or nine abreast in the economy section. No longer true when we go supersonic.
  5. Modern cockpits offer the Pilots a good view of the runway when landing. No longer true when we go supersonic.
  6. Efficient engines have high bypass ratios to increase engine propulsive efficiency. No longer true when we go supersonic.
  7. Efficient engines have high core pressure ratios to increase engine thermal efficiency. No longer true when we go supersonic.
  8. The engine nacelles are fairly simple designs compared with the technology used for the engines. No longer true when we go supersonic.
  9. ………..

We could continue but the list makes it clear, flying supersonic instead of subsonic, as all airliners do today, changes the design rules for an aircraft in a drastic way.

How these rules change, why they change and how to attack the resulting challenges is what we will dive into in a series of Corners.

61 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: Supersonic transport revival

  1. Higher speed implies higher utilisation. No longer true when flying supersonic.

    It’s easy to prove this to yourself on a spreadsheet, comparing times between JFK and LHR for instance for a conventional subsonic airliner and one that flies at Mach 2.

    The subsonic airliner can ride out the times that both airports are closed, and/or no-one wants to fly, by being in the middle of the Atlantic – a so called red-eye flight.

    A supersonic aircraft flies too fast for that – you can’t avoid long times on the ground so that you can both take-off and land at both airports without doing one in the middle of the night. The aircraft has to spend longer sitting on the ground, which costs.

    So apart from the expense of the airframe, the thirsty engines, the high drag, the relatively low number of passengers, zero freight, special ATC handling procedures, the noise, excessive pollution and the paucity of routes that could justify the expense of a supersonic seat, doubling the speed doesn’t correspondingly double the number of cycles in a given period of time.

    This issue is explored in a must-read book published in the early seventies called ‘The Concorde Fiasco’ and I urge anyone who’s interested in the subject to read it, especially if you have a yearning to invest .

    The conclusion of the book, as I recall, is that Concorde should never have got onto the drawing board, never mind off it. I suspect that conclusion stands firmer today than it did then, before the oil price shock of 1973.

    • One of the reasons the UK government didnt look too closely to the economics was because they thought approving the project would get the French on their side to ‘join the EU’.

      • One of the reasons why Tony Ben, the government minister responsible for the Concorde treaty from the UK side, wasn’t too worried about the punitive cancellation clauses was that he thought it’d be a good thing for Concorde to be built, regardless of the economic sanity.

        On the whole I think he was right. You can’t look at something like that (or even the A380 if it comes to it) from just an economic point of view. Otherwise you end up with a very dull world. If anyone can decide, “what the hell, lets go for it”, it ought to be government.

        Something similar is happening in Japan right now. They’re building a very long maglev train line from Nagoya to Tokyo. The interesting part is who exactly is building it. It’s the privately owned train companies, and they’re going to go bust in the process. This is a deliberate strategy; the government will be forced to step in and complete the project, and eventually the companies will be privatised once more. Japan will be left with a super fast railway that wasn’t economically justified, but will get a lot of use for decades to come and will no doubt attract a lot of visitors too.

        • No Concorde, no Airbus.But Tony Benn and his like almost destroyed the aircraft industry and much of the rest of British industry with an endless stream of disastrous projects.

          • Grubbie – “Tony Benn and his like almost destroyed the aircraft industry…” Are you including Duncan Sandys’s earlier late-1950s’ Tory defence policy in that?
            Matthew might not be wrong in suggesting Wedgie Benn likely thought Concord [in the days when British examples were to be spelled without the French ‘e’] was a good thing.

        • Opportunity cost?

          The poor Japanese taxpayer is left having paid for a white elephant prestige project that benefits relatively few when the money could have been spent on something of better value – hospitals, bridges, schools, airliners that make money and benefit the majority etc. Exactly the same can justly be said of Concorde.

          The scam you describe being grifted onto the unfortunate Japanese is a means of making the costs public and the profits private. Sounds like the banks are involved in that.

          • “…a means of making the costs public and the profits private”. To whom would the ‘profits’ from developing an American SST have been paid, since work stopped the moment Uncle Sam stopped paying the bills? How would have been – indeed, how was – the value of any new knowledge accrued in that incomplete development measured? If such knowledge had been/was applied to subsequent other ‘private’ ventures was its value U.S. government ‘subsidy’?

    • I’d sure fly one to spend 1/2 time in the air. Just sign me up. Today I pay between four and $6000 for a round-trip. Very happy to subsidize somebody else’s in this way.

      • Concorde did the job as far as the passenger was concerned, there’s no doubt about that, providing it was the kind of passenger who didn’t mind the ticket price.

        The moral argument never stacked up; while the 747, DC10 & Tristar were built (mostly) with private money to move the public, Concorde was built with the public’s money to move an elite.

        Far from subsidizing anyone, Concorde’s passengers, some of the least need in the world, were subsidized. That would be true of any new supersonic machine too I reckon – not the public necessarily, but someone’s going to have to make a whopping loss.

        The economic argument never stacked up either, even against 707 and DC8s.

        Concorde was one aircraft that met two differing certification requirements. The one unequivocally good thing to come out of it- eventually – was the outbreak of good sense, co-operation and harmonisation of European design and certification standards. That’s starting to be undone, intentionally or not, by Brexit.

        • Truly Ironic if the Concorde got the EU going and then Brexit dumps it.

    • IIRC, one of the core economic premises of the Boeing Sonic Cruiser was that you could get 3 east coast to western Europe legss in a 24 hour period where with conventional ~M.85 designs you were limited to 2 due to exactly the types of airport restrictions you describe above.

      so while you got ~the same fuel costs as a 767, you got a 50% increase in utilization, lower cabin crew and services cost and a huge customer desirability boost by cutting several hours off of flight time

      of course this was because it was just barely or not quite supersonic as opposed to Mach 2ish

      • At Mach 1 a sonic cruiser could have gone from LHR – JFK in around 6 hours, a conventional M0.85 machine in around 7 hours (assuming 6391 Km and speed of sound = 300 m/s). A one hour saving per sector.

        That might be enough to turn two sectors a day into three, and at further destinations (if range was available) one sector a day into two.

        But the law (currently) prohibits supersonic flight over the US mainland, and other countries are likely to ban it, so flight much faster than 1.0M is likely to be severely curtailed because of air traffic and sonic booms.

        Would the Sonic Cruiser have been a success? I don’t know because it never got off the drawing board, but those fast types that did (Convair CV990 Coronado (0.9M), Hawker Siddely Trident (0.9M) and Concord (2.0M)) were all commercial failures. Utilisation didn’t make up for fuel consumption.

        • Hello Chris Lee,

          In the business/play jet world Gulfstream 650’s with Mach 0.925 top speed and Mach 0.9 normal cruise speed have been selling pretty well, since the first delivery on late 2012, more than 300 have been built.

          “The G650 had a nominal list price of $64.5 million in 2013, but there was a three-year waiting list. Some aircraft produced for delivery in 2013 sold for more than $70 million to buyers that wanted to take immediate delivery.”

          • While true, that i people that have hundreds of millions and billions (or some cases corporations)

            Have to wonder how folks feel about high fuel use and emissions and get targeted.

          • The G 650 has a huge range penalty (+/-25%) when it goes from 0.85 Mach to 0.90 Mach cruise based on what I have read

          • Dan F – “The G 650 has a huge range penalty (+/-25%) when it goes from 0.85 Mach to 0.90 Mach cruise based on what I have read…”
            Not to mention a pocket-money penalty as well. Does anyone have any similar related stats on Citation Ten, another proponent of the theory (and, indeed, practice) of ‘brute force over drag’?

          • Hello Dan F. and Pundit,

            Regarding: “The G 650 has a huge range penalty (+/-25%) when it goes from 0.85 Mach to 0.90 Mach cruise based on what I have read.”

            According to the following excerpt from the Jane’s article at the link after the excerpt, the range reduction for Mach 0.9 vs. Mach 0.85 cruise for a Gulfstream 650ER is 17%, not 25%, since 7500 nm / 6400 nm = 1.17.

            “Whereas the G650 could reach 7,000 nautical miles at a typical cruising speed of Mach 0.85, the G650ER can cover 7,500nm sectors. Alternatively, at the high-speed cruise of Mach 0.9, the new aircraft can fly for a further 400nm, to a range of 6,400 nm.”


            I think that both of you have a major misconception about what sells aircraft like the G650 to the people who can afford the 65 million USD intital price tag and operating costs of about a million USD per year. People buy G650’s because they are the fastest, fanciest, most expensive, and most prestigious. An even faster, more expensive, and more prestigous businesses SST, as long as it did not get many multiples more expensive than G650, would appeal even more to these people.

            A Ferrari 812 with a 789 horsepower V-12 engine would undoubtedly get better gas mileage at 55 mph than it would its top speed of 211 mph, or whatever speed the fast lane is going on a freeway; however, I don’t think that people pay $315,000 for a 789 horsepower sports car so that they can drive it around at 55 mph in the slow lane. Selling Ferrari’s and G650’s is a different business than selling Toyota’s or Ford’s. The whole point of buying a Ferrari, just like buying a G650, is that it is expensive, fast, and advertises that you can afford the best of the best. I know that I saw a fair number of Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and Porsche’s when I lived in Silicon Valley, and the only time I saw them in the slow lane was if they had spun out or were headed to the off-ramp, even though they could have gotten better mileage in the slow lane with the Prius’s than they were getting in the fast lane.


          • AP_Robert – “…advertises that you can afford the best of the best”. Or, to be realistic, that – perhaps most-often – your customers and tax deductions can afford the monthly rental?

      • As Boeing graphics showed after the Sonic Cruiser was dropped, it wouldn’t have matched contemporary fuel costs – a point the company conceded at the outset, according to AW&ST: “It burns a little more fuel but the operating cost is very competitive with today’s aircraft.”

        • “It burns a little more fuel but the operating cost is very competitive with today’s aircraft” – This was the key point of the Sonic Cruiser and what any competitive supersonic aircraft would have to compete on operating cost in this very, very risk averse industry. Of Bjorn’s key points.

          1. This was part of why the Sonic Cruiser was canceled, high strength composites were seen as key to any super sonic aircraft and too big of a change to go from aluminum to composites and sub-sonic to super-sonic. Boeing prioritized correctly the change to composited on the 787 first.
          2. Still true
          3. Still true
          4. Not necessary to have as many wide-body aircraft when you can get in more cycles per day.
          5. Not as necessary when we add cameras, synthetic vision and perspective displays.
          6. Still true, but we’re seeing more technology breakthrough such as a 3rd stream, 3d printing advanced composites, etc.
          7. Still true, same as #6
          8. True, however nacelles can provide greater engine efficiencies at super sonic through the ram effect.
          9. ?

          • Obviously we mustn’t confuse Sonic Cruiser hyperbole with supersonic aircraft, but it certainly seemed that the airlines – offered higher performance at claimed ‘very competitive’ operating cost – were very happy to remain with current speeds (and flight schedules) and take prospective better efficiency as a lower operating cost.

    • Are not some of the proposed small SST’s aimed at the business/play jet market, where after arriving in Tahiti or the Bahamas, the aircraft and crew sit around for a few days until the boss man or woman decides that their vacation is over and its time to head back to the office, or maybe just fly to another one of their mansions? If you have to ask about utilization and the price …. you can’t afford it.

      • Agreed, I can’t afford it!

        BBD had a rough time with the C series and that is an aircraft that can actually do something and turn a profit.

    • Hello Chris Lee,

      Regarding: “A supersonic aircraft flies too fast for that – you can’t avoid long times on the ground so that you can both take-off and land at both airports without doing one in the middle of the night.”

      That is why you need to go hypersonic, not just supersonic!

      “Hyslop compares hypersonic technology to a supersonic airliner, like the M2.0 British Aerospace/Aerospatiale Concorde. That speed allowed the Concorde, in theory, to cross the Atlantic twice a day using the same crew (although British Airways and Air France chose not to exploit that advantage). By contrast, the hypersonic airliner, in theory, might be able to cross the Atlantic four or five times a day with the same crew, he says. The difference in utilization rate potentially makes the hypersonic airliner more attractive than the costs of operating a supersonic jet, he says.”

      • AP_R – “…speed allowed the Concorde, in theory, to cross the Atlantic twice a day using the same crew”. Would contemporary duty and flight-time limitations and turnaround times realistically have enabled that?
        There were even suggestions that the great white bird permitted folk to fly from London to New York, do a day’s business (work, even), and be home in time for bed. Alas, that – if really true – was not exploited either.

  2. I’d question Bjorn’s claim of the “optimum” subsonic fuselage fineness ratio (length/diameter) being around 10. My experience has shown that the optimum is closer to 12. Several types (DC-8-60 and -70 series, 757-300 for example) have surpassed this value and are 0ver 13, approaching or even exceeding 14.

    • The efficiency of the A380 as a passenger transporter when equipped with equal comfort level seating to e.g. a 777-300ER (the 300ER with a fineness ratio of 11.8, the A380 then seating close to 700 seats) is not because of the engines (equal efficiency level at best to GE90-115) or the wing (contrary to the market hype, it’s rather inefficient due to low aspect ratio), it’s the very efficient packaging of the 700 people in a fineness ratio 9.4 fuselage. The wetted area per seat is at a record level. And wetted area drives the dominant drag for airliners (air friction drag) and their fuselage weight (stressed skin designs, more skin area per passenger-more weight per passenger).

      Airliner variants with fineness ratio 12 or more have higher per seat efficiency because their original variants had padded wings and engines with project growth margin. These aircraft were not 100% efficiency-optimized in their base variants.

    • Hello 787cape,

      Whatever the aerodynamic efficiency of the aircraft you cite may or may not have been, their configuration does not seem to have been optimal compared to less-stretched versions of the same or similar aircraft in the eyes of customers, as measured by number of aircraft sold. Sales figure below are from the Wikipedia pages for each aircraft type.

      Boeing 707 series excluding E3 and E6 military variants, but including 720 shrink version (length 136 ft 2 in to 152 ft 11 in): 917 built.

      DC-8 series 10 to 50 (length 150.7 ft): 311 built.
      DC-8 Series 62 (length 157.5 ft): 67 built.
      DC-8 Series 61 and 63 (length 187.4 ft): 178 built.
      All DC-8 70 Series aircraft were converted from 60 Series aircraft.

      757-200 (length 155 ft 3 in = 155.25 ft): 994 built.
      757-300: (length 178 ft 7 in = 178.58 ft): 55 built.

      [Length (might include tail overhang)/Fuselage Width] for the above aircraft.
      707 – Fuselage width 12.3 feet: L/W = 11.1 to 12.4
      DC-8 Series 10 to 50: L/W = 150.7/12.25 = 12.3
      DC-8 Series 62: L/W = 157.5 / 12.25 = 12.9
      DC-8 Series 61 and 63: L/W = 187.4 / 12.25 = 15.3
      757-200: L/W = 155.25/12.3 = 12.6
      757-300: L/W = 178.6/12.3 = 14.5

      Note that Bjorn said “around 10”, not “exactly 10”. Actually he wrote: “The ideal ratio of fuselage diameter to length is around 10”, in which “diameter to length” clearly should have been “length to diameter”.

      • One other thing to consider with Concorde was that while its fuselage was quite narrow ( 1ft shorter than a DC9) the wing was a lot broader in chord and not the high aspect wings we have today.
        I can see the long thin fuselage ( 202 ft) better supported by the very wide delta type wing structure . The MD90 was 152ft long

      • [Total length (might include tail overhang) / Fuselage width] and number ordered for 737 NG, A32X CEO and A32X NEO. I did not include 737 MAX due to incomplete data on order breakdown by model. Dimensions and order numbers per Wikipedia. Order data for 737 NG through 5-31-18, order data for A32X CEO through March 2018, order data for A32X NEO through 6-30-18. NG BBJ’s included in 737 NG orders.

        737-600: L/W = 102.5/12.3 = 8.3, orders = 69.
        737-700, 700C, and 700W: L/W= 110.3/12.3 = 9.0, orders = 1285.
        737-800, 800A: L/W = 129.5/12.3 = 10.5, orders = 5152.
        737-900, 900ER: L/W = 138.2/12.3 = 11.2, orders = 564.

        A318 CEO: L/W = 103.2/13 = 7.9, orders = 80.
        A319 CEO: L/W = 111/13 = 8.5, orders = 1,484.
        A320 CEO: L/W = 123.25/13 = 9.5, orders = 4,762.
        A321 CEO: L/W = 146/13 = 11.2, orders = 1,800

        A319 NEO: L/W = 111/13 = 8.5, orders = 55.
        A320 NEO: L/W = 123..25/13 = 9.5, orders = 4,158.
        A321 NEO: L/W = 146/13 = 11.2, orders = 1,930.

  3. Well as is all to often found, Reality rears its ugly head and things don’t go as Planed (pun intended)

    Well for thousands of years they just improved on the wagon and ships.

    Unless there is a breakthrough I do not see, we are just stuck chugging along at Mach 8 or a bit more for a long time to come.

    I remember the time when Jet Fighters pushed the Mach to 2.5 and better, until they realized the penalty of that didn’t get them anything and settle down to more around Mach 2.

    Concorde was far more a technical marvel than an A380 and I admire it to this day, but no more practical.

    Someone may bet one off the ground and then it will go bust as well.

    To be kept in mind, the Titanic for all its wonder paid its way with Steerage passengers.

  4. The one thing that really energizes engineers is people saying “It will never work”. Just like people who said that railroads would never go faster than a horse because people would not be able to breath.

    I can’t believe that we will have forever reached the limit in terms of the speed with which we can travel across the earth.

    Having said that, I very often reflect on the fact that nothing from a regular passenger’s point of view has changed in my 48 years of flying. It still seems just the same. The only change we have seen is a reflection of the growing divide during that time between rich and the rest. Lie flat beds are a new luxury.

    From my point of view, development really stopped when Boeing came out with 757 and 767. For the first time there was nothing really exciting about a new aircraft in terms of passenger experience, and only minor changes since then for the regular passenger. Compare that with the excitement of the Comet, 707, and perhaps most of all with 747. Concorde had the same excitement but doesn’t live on.

    It’s time for the next jump into the future !

    • All the excitement is in things you cant see. Engines, navigation, flyby wire, reduced maintenance of structures and so on.
      Passenger trains too may look the same but HST is something different

    • Robert – “…there was nothing really exciting about a new aircraft in terms of passenger experience, and only minor changes since [Boeing came out with 757 and 767] for the regular passenger.” I suspect some of our existentialist milennial friends would disagree; there seems to be plenty of people making a living from “nothing really exciting.” Just ask the folks at Runway Girl Network, which “delivers news and intelligence about the airline passenger experience industry.” An industry, no less…

      • The 707 was pretty much the big leap, and it was big.

        Meteor as well but it never carried the pax numbers.

        Upshot is that since the late 1950s, its been very incremental for a reason. Its really really really hared up past mach .8. More like impossible.

        When a 737 is still competitive, we have a natural road block the same as horses and wagons.

        Lots of changes in controls and computers, but even that has its limits and severe issues when applied wrong.

      • AP: Space X put a car into space, something around 80 million or more to do so.

        So yes we can get your Fiat to the moon, but ………..

        There is a difference between difficult and impossible.

        This pushes the impossible (cost) and Hyper is way over the edge.

        Sure Boeing can do it (maybe sort of) as long as we pay for it.

  5. David Learmont pointed out that his granddaughter was joining the RAF and was very unlikely to fly in an aircraft as fast or high flying during her career as he did in 1976 wilst drinking champagne as an ordinary British airways passenger. 10,000 feet higher and you would be wearing a pressure suit and flying in a U2.
    All this amazingness is something that the very rich will pay for,despite not really having much advantage over a business jet flying point to point equipped with sleeping facilities. There are a surprising number of watches in the $1 million price range even though they don’t perform any better than a cheap Casio.

    • Grubbie – “There are a surprising number of watches in the $1 million price range even though they don’t perform any better than a cheap Casio…” A good example of value engineering; we always must be aware of the distinction between cost, price, value, and worth.

  6. Aluminium alloy structures works pretty fine up to M=2. The Concorde were throttled back a bit from M2.2 to 2.0 due to alu wing l.e. heating.
    Modern fighter engines gives pretty efficient supercruise “no lit afterburner” at M1.6-1.7. The F-22 can thus do a M1.6 trot for quite some time even though not having an optimized inlet for supercruise like the Concorde.
    One can suspect the military buying a number of SSBJ’s just to fly downed soldiers to specialist hospitals as quickly as possible as soon as the helo drops them off next to an idling SSBJ making the surivors family thankful for the supersonic aircraft and crew saving dad or mom.

  7. I’d heard that a teardrop shape is a perfect aero shape. At supersonic speeds a pointy nose must be a better shape than a blunt one. I assume the 10 to 1 ratio is an optimization of frontal area, skin drag, and volume for subsonic airliners. Frontal area must be a big deal in supersonic design.

  8. Really sad, sounded like the sort of bloke you’d like to share a drink with.
    What really surprises me is how impressive the acrobatics were.Is it really that easy to do if you don’t worry about safety?Would the designers expect the plane to survive that sort of thing structurally?

  9. Yes, terrible tragedy. I presume more details will be release in the upcoming days. Whatever his struggles were, and as he said to ATC he had people that cared about him, at least he did choose to take other lives.

  10. Sam – or, indeed, at least he did not choose to take other lives…

    • His new friend the ATC did an excellent job removing that thought from his mind when he mentioned the possibility.

      • I don’t think its a terrible tragedy as much as just a sad episode that played out in the skies. Usually suicide is a lone event and the ones affected are immediate friends and family.

        Terrible tragedy would have been he crashed it into occupied space and killed people on the ground.

        The technically interesting thing is now in the open that you can just get in a fly one of those things.

        One operation talked about software locks, but as we saw with locking cabin doors, that too can be a tool (or mistake) that can bite. Ala, Anyone remember the Password?

        I am amazed the aircraft stood up to the maneuvers. As amazing as it was, they were badly done as you would expect and at least one pullout should have pulled the wings off.

        Could they have shot it down over Puget Sound? If so they should have. Pure luck that the oddity was he crashed it on the Island.

        Upcoming test to see if a Sidewinder will track a turbo prop?

        The next time (though this is a touch copy cat to pull off) they may not be so lucky.

    • For sure not me.

      There are some things that are inherently restricted, some by tech and some by physics.

      1. Muzzle loaders predominate for 500 years. The tech was very slow. The real leap was rockets but hugely costly so the tech is pretty well frozen.

      2. Horse, wagon, sail, all were slow. Huge tech leap with steam engines changed that, but realistically limits were reached 40 years ago. Fuel use is the issue.

      3. Aircraft made phenomenal strides as they were invented at the early point where science had kicked in, but travel speeds have not gone over what the early jet fighters could do (sub sonic)
      Sure you can put a passenger in the back of an F4 and move them at Mach 2.2 or so, can’t afford it though for anything more than extremely special.
      Up to Mach .8 it works for pax and freight, above that, no.

      Faster and fuel use goes up, emissions go up, size goes down.

    • Hello Keesje,

      Regarding: “Who would invest his own old day money in this project?”

      Boeing Chief Technical Officer Greg Hyslop and Senior Technical Fellow Kevin Bowcutt agree. They wants to skip over been there, done that, supersonics, and go straight to hypersonic. See the excerpt below from the 8-10-18 FlightGlobal article at the link after the excerpt.

      “Hypersonic passenger travel still seems more like dreamy work of science fiction than a feasible commercial project, but this is now a fact: Boeing is working on it, and it’s a serious project.

      “It may not be as hard as people think it is,” says Boeing chief technology officer Greg Hyslop, who quickly adds a caveat: “It’s still going to be hard.”

      Boeing first unveiled its hypersonic airliner concept on 26 June at an aviation technology conference and highlighted it again at the Farnborough air show in July.

      In an industry that has lacked a supersonic transport option since 2003, suddenly proposing a hypersonic airliner as a viable option within 20-30 years seems to register somewhere between the ambitious and the absurd.

      But Boeing insists that it has found a combination of speed, materials and propulsion that can make a Mach 5-capable aircraft not only technologically achievable, but financially profitable at some point after around 2040.”

      • I think this falls into the pie in the sky category.

        Boeing as of late seems to want to be perceived as visionary.

        Same company that can’t replace the plebeian 737? Really!

        If its that urgent we can be there at close to the speed of light, ie video conferencing or whatever they are calling it now.

        All the Boeing mgt will be doddering old men by the time 2040 rolls around and have been replaced by Star Trek Beam me up tech (I swear it).

        I gave up on the MOM concept when I heard they would sell it to FedEx as a cargo plane to. Wow.

        Better off putting those profits to some good use other than stock buy back.

        • Why waste money on pie-in-the sky designs for jet airliners when the money could be more sensibly spent on stretched versions of propeller driven airliners that are currently selling well, equipped with more efficient and higher horsepower piston engines, or if you want get really radical – turboprop engines! The quoted paragraphs are from the link after the paragraph.

          “While Boeing was conducting its design development in secrecy, its competitors were floundering with indecision and abortive efforts. Their success with piston airliners deceived both Lockheed and Douglas into overrating the future of the type, and made them chary of change. Lockheed mistakenly believed that by 1965 only 1 percent of airliners in service would be jets. Sales for piston airliners were high; a powerful piston compound engine became available, and with it both companies launched new stretched versions of their piston airliners. The new models sold well; for example, Douglas received 200 orders for piston liners in the first half of 1955. Their faith in propjet versions of their new airliners was misplaced: conversion failed because the airframes of the piston liners were designed for low speeds and proved unadaptable. Both companies, however, continued to believe that the propjet airliner had the best sales potential for the next decade.”

          ” In addition to pursuing unsuccessful leads in design, Lockheed and Douglas had shrunk from taking the financial risk of starting development early; when they decided they had no choice but to go ahead, the risk had become greater because of Boeing’s lead. Both delayed in hopes of getting the tanker contract, allowing themselves to be outmaneuvered by Boeing. Thus Lockheed’s timely L-193 jet design of 1951, a swept-wing with the engines mounted at the tail, was allowed to die.”

      • AP_R – “Boeing Chief Technical Officer Greg Hyslop and Senior Technical Fellow Kevin Bowcutt agree. They wants to skip over been there, done that, supersonics…” Boeing might have been there momentarily (if not with their own money), but I don’t remember them doing it.

  11. A great example is the Singapore to New York flight, 172 passengers on an aircraft the size of an A350!

    737-8 can carry more 3500 miles.

    Only if Singapore Air can fill it all the time and both ways will they make any money.

    And its the 20 hour flights that supersonic would make a difference on and they can’t make it without fuel stops.

    Build a Carrier off a Cruise ship hull and stage them mid ocean? Gas and go as they say.

    • Not so. The 172 passengers are in business class seating, not only more space but much higher weight seating.
      The best example of the 737 ‘long haul’ was the SAS nonstop Houston Stavanger. And the number of seats? 44.
      That was all before the oil price slump of course.

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