Some readers remember the wonder years of Concorde SST. Ah, the joy of speeding New York to London at breakneck speed. Unfortunately the supersonic Concorde became the victim of its times and we are back to ‘standard’ mainline aircraft. Or are we?
Earlier this year, Lockheed unveiled their newest version of supersonic transport. A beauty by any definition, their Lockheed 2000 version – and more recently their N+2 version – could get a passenger from LA to New York or Honolulu in little more than a couple hours. Not to be outdone, their unmanned Lockheed HTV-2 mockup aircraft hit an incredible Mach 20, roughly 13,000 miles per hour. At that rate, the flying time would drop to about 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, a Japanese firm has been working diligently on a similar SST design to bring supersonic travel back to the skies. They claim their design will produce 75% less noise, a major problem with Concorde and the reason it was banned from flying across the U.S. Alas, their prototype only includes enough room for 50 passengers. That’s about half the load that Concorde carried. How they make that economically feasible is anyone’s guess.
Maybe this is not such a hurdle, according to this article. Some smaller firms like Aerion and Spike Aerospace are betting that private service will make this work in less than ten years. Meanwhile one technology analyst believes that within the next couple decades, we could see general aircraft flying at Mach 2 for the masses. That would mean flying New York to Beijing in about 3 ½ hours. With speeds like that, it almost seems there would be little reason for lie-flat seats, much less isolated world-class private suites on commercial flights.
SST travel will certainly be more expensive compared to commercial flights today but its return seems inevitable as long as the engineers and designers can work around the technical issues. Sure hope I am around for this, it will be truly amazing times for flying.