GE unveils new supersonic commercial jet engine
GE Aviation has given impetus to the revival of civilian supersonic flight by revealing a new family of engines designed to fly faster than the speed of sound. Called the Affinity, the new engine will be incorporated into the Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet, which is being developed in partnership with Lockheed Martin, GE Aviation and Honeywell, and could cut the time of a transatlantic flight by three hours.
Since the retirement of Concorde, supersonic passenger flight has become something of a lost art, but new initiatives by NASA and various companies promise a renaissance as new technologies tackle the problems of cost, fuel efficiency, and noise.
Key to this it the development of new engines that can do a better job than the old Rolls-Royce/Snecma Olympus 593 that hurled Concorde through the sky at over Mach 2 (1,535 mph, 2,470 km/h). GE claims that the Affinity, which is based on the company's supersonic fighter jet experience and lessons learned from building engines for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, will be up to the job.
GE isn't giving out any details at the moment, but it says that the new family of engines will operate at up to 60,000 ft (18,000 m) and be able to meet the new noise requirements currently under revision by various air authorities, so it will be able to fly subsonic over land as well as supersonic over water.
To do this, it will use Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), which is a computer system capable of overseeing all aspects of engine operations without the need for manual override. In addition, the new engines will work with Aerion's natural laminar flow concept, which uses a modestly swept leading edge on the wing and a new fuselage design to reduce air drag over the wing by up to 60 percent, and overall drag by 20 percent.
Aerion says that this will not only reduce operating costs, but appreciably increase the aircraft's range.
The AS2 is scheduled to make its first flight in 2023 and is aiming for certification in 2025.
GE's promo video for the new Affinity engine is below.
Source: GE Aviation