Supersonic air travel is experiencing a rebirth of sorts lately, at least in terms of new concept designs for passenger planes from the likes of Airbus, Denver-based Boom and Boston's Spike Aerospace. Spike, in particular, aims to make it possible to travel faster than sound over new parts of the world by greatly reducing the disturbing sonic booms that result from breaking that threshold.
The company says that its planned S-512 18-passenger jet (which we've covered in detail previously) will employ proprietary technology that basically optimizes the craft's aerodynamic design "primarily through shaping of the wing, fuselage and tail [...] to minimize any disturbing sound created by the sonic wake."
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Historically, supersonic passenger flights like those offered via Concorde until the fleets were grounded in 2003 have only been available for trans-oceanic routes where sonic booms would not disturb large population centers. Spike sees its Quiet Supersonic Flight (QSF) technology opening up routes over Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
"Sure, there is a market for high-boom supersonic jets that only fly over water. But there is a much bigger demand for low-boom jets that can fly supersonic everywhere," said Spike President and CEO Vik Kachoria.
The company is in discussions with airlines to offer supersonic flights aboard Spike jets alongside regular flight offerings starting in the early 2020s. Spike says it sees the S-512 making flights from Paris to Dubai in 3.5 hours or London to Hong Kong in 5.5 hours. It also anticipates that ticket prices would be only slightly higher than fares for business or first class seats on subsonic planes.
It's important to point out this is a very specific vision from a company that will not even begin to construct its first scaled prototype until this summer, so some healthy skepticism is warranted until the concept is proven.
Spike is not the only outfit looking into sonic boom-reducing technology, either. Airbus has a patent for a rather odd design of a quieter supersonic passenger jet that probably will never be built, and NASA is working with Lockheed to design a prototype "low-boom" supersonic passenger jet.
Time will tell if any of these designs ever help supersonic travel get off the ground again.
Source: Spike AerospaceView gallery - 4 images