Will we start travelling supersonic again? That is a question that we need to wait and watch! But by looks of things. We might actually start seeing supersonic flights sooner than expected. Just imagine going to your travel destination in less than half the time you spend right now?
Remember the concord? Well, that was a flight that let you travel at nearly Mach 2. That’s near twice the speed of sound. What flights take 8 hours these days could be done in just 3! That was how fast the Concorde flew!
But what happened to the Concord? I will come back to that soon. For now, let’s talk about the future of supersonic flights. There are multiple players in this space such as Aerion Corporation, Boom Supersonic and even Lockheed Martin, they have drawn up plans for supersonic flights. But one thing that seems to be appearing is that the next supersonic flight might be private instead of a Commercial flight. The reason for this is mentioned in the challenges that supersonic flights face.
What are the challenges faced by Supersonic flights?
SonicBoom – The first and the most important challenge that supersonic flights face are that they create a sonic boom wherever when they fly beyond the speed of sound. Due to the pressure of air that gets compressed in front of the nose and wings of the plane, a wave of air is generated behind the plane also known as a sonic boom. Which can be heard on the ground and can shatter glasses and rock buildings. That is not good for anyone living in the flight path of the plane. Due to this very reason, most countries have speed limits of flights over land.
Heat – The next problem is the heat that is generated by the very reason that the plane has to push through so much air. The same reason asteroids burn up once they enter our atmosphere, “Friction”. This can cause the frame to expand and contract, reducing the life of the plane. Flights that fly about 10000ft expand and contract due to the change in air pressure and so depending on the number of take-off and landings the plane has to be maintained regularly. Many times this can be seen with the Concord, with high maintenance costs(also special parts needs to be used which again increases the cost) But with the current material knowledge and understanding from years of experience we have a better chance of creating a more resilient and stronger plane. Concorde was known to heat up and expand! Flyers used to experience touching the window in flight and feeling it hot.
Fuel consumption – These planes are fuel-hungry! The jet engines that run today’s modern flights actually create trust using the blades rather than the jet. This helps in fuel efficiency but slower speeds. The faster a plane has to fly the more dependent they should be on their jet to provide the trust which consumes more fuel. The same goes for supersonic flights, and this increases the cost.
When will we see the next commercial supersonic plane?
We can’t say for certain when we will see the next commercial supersonic flight since most of these are currently in just presentations or drawing board stage! But companies like Aerion Corporation are planning on releasing a new private plane. Boeing has proved that smaller planes can create smaller sonic booms that are within the standards of most countries. So that’s why companies will be able to launch private planes which will be able to fly over land more easily than larger commercial planes that can accommodate more passengers!
These planes will be still built for the upper class since due to the aerodynamics the planes have to be built slimmer than regular flights and so the number of seats would reduce. This was why the Concorde used to carry the wealthiest of that era!
Many military jets are already built to go supersonic. Alternatively, companies like SpaceX and Hyperloop both are trying to build vehicles that move in a vacuum and tries to overcome the limitations of flying through the air!
Hopefully with all the data that human has made and the processing power computers have can simulate the best possible vehicle we might actually see another supersonic flight taking us to our travel destination quicker and more comfortably than our current flights. Do follow me on my social media page or subscribe to my newsletter.