A new breed of supersonic jets is speculated on an annual basis. Enticing dreams and capturing the public and aviation enthusiasts’ imagination, replicating what the iconic Concorde did, remains a commercial target for some niche airline manufacturers.
Who can blame them? Boarding a quintessential luxury private aircraft with all the fittings of royalty, surrounded by the latest tech, and making cross-global journeys in record times is aspirations but not out of reach?
We look at the latest models of supersonic aircraft of the - near future - that promise to offer to change the landscape of private jet travel with the fastest, most comfortable and sustainable journeys imaginable.
The Boom XB-1 is aiming to be the first independently developed supersonic jet designed by Boom Technology and aims to open up pathways to SST (Super Sonic Transport).
The supersonic aircraft is powered by three General Electric J85s and the manufacturers hope the Boom XB-1 will reach speeds of Mach 2.2, with a 1,900 km range.
After a period of development, the XB-1 was revealed to the world for the first time in October 2020 and it is hoped the test flight will take place in 2021 or 2022.
Boom Technology CEO, Blake Scholl, said in late April 2021 that the jet’s first flight will occur “around the end of this year, early next year”, reports Flight Global.
The aerospace company has been recruiting in 2021 in preparation for launching the world's fastest and most sustainable commercial airliner.
Based on the success of the Boom XB-1, the company is also developing the Overture - the first airliner to offer supersonic flight and provide a 100% carbon neutral fleet, says Boom Technology.
When completed, the Overture will carry 65-88 passengers in comfort and be able to cover a range of over 6,500 km (this means flying from Tokyo to Seattle in four and a half hours!)
The aircraft’s build is expected to start in 2022 with a target rollout by 2025 and carrying passengers before 2030.
(On June 4 2021, United Airlines confirmed it has placed an order for "15 of Boom’s planned Overture jets if the plane meets safety, operational and sustainability standards." reported the Wall Street Journal).
Aerion is a Reno, Nevada-based aircraft company that has two supersonic jets lined up over the next decade.
The company has started the development of a $300 million & 44.5-hectare Aerion Park in Melbourne, Florida, where the two aircraft will be produced.
Tom Vice, Aerion’s chairman, president and chief executive, said “At Aerion, our vision is to build a future where humanity can travel between any two points on our planet within three hours. Supersonic flight is the starting point, but it is just that – the beginning. To truly revolutionise global mobility as we know it today, we must push the boundaries of what is possible.”
Aerion AS2 Supersonic Aircraft
Aerion offers the AS2 supersonic aircraft, which is due to begin manufacturing as soon as 2023, and the jet is designed to offer the ultimate in supersonic luxury and sustainable travel.
The first orders are hoped to be completed by 2025 and Netjets has placed the biggest order to date with 20 AS2s, while total orders are over USD $6.5 billion.
The AS2 is designed to be the first certified aircraft to run on 100 per cent engineered carbon-captured synthetic fuels. The aircraft is reported to be able to reach speeds of over Mach 1.4 (1,600 km/h).
Aerion claims this will be the first supersonic aircraft not to require after-burning engines. It will utilise Aerion’s patented ‘Boomless Cruise technology’ which ensures that the sonic boom never reaches the ground.
Aerion Supersonic has also rekindled the ‘dreamers’ imagination with its plans to create another supersonic jet, the AS3 (AS3TM). The jet will allegedly transport air passengers from London to New York in less than 60 minutes, or Los Angeles to Tokyo in 2.5 hours! That’s twice the maximum speed of the legendary Concorde.
The supersonic aircraft will reach maximum speeds of over Mach 4 (that’s over 4,828 kilometres per hour) and the manufacturer hopes the plane will have test flights before 2030.
If produced, the Aerio AS3 will be able to accommodate up to 50 passengers and cover a range of 11,265km.
The aircraft manufacturer said its mission is to make air travel “an exciting, enjoyable, efficient and luxurious experience once again”. The company also wants to tackle the environmental concerns associated with jet aircraft travel.
Vice told the media: “We are building more than the aeroplane of tomorrow – we are building the global transportation networks of the future and we will seek the smartest, most creative and collaborative minds to join our team and our journey to tackle the toughest mobility challenges of the future.”
(In late May 2021, shortly after announcing new details of its proposed AS3 supersonic airliner, Aerion said in a statement that the “hugely challenging” financial environment meant it would not start production of its first supersonic jet, the AS2, and that it would be shutting down operations.)
Spike Aerospace S-512
Another new supersonic jet in development is the Spike Aerospace’s 18-seater S-512. They aim to have the jet reach speeds of Mach 1.6 (nearly 2,000 km/h) and the manufacturer hopes to have the aircraft in commercial service by 2028.
With the hopes of initially reducing transatlantic journey times’ to around three and a half hours, Spike Aerospace is looking to increase speeds to Mach 3.2 over the next decade so jet setters could eventually travel from London to New York in 90 minutes.
Spike also aims to offer ultra-quiet technology. “The Concorde was ridiculously noisy. Most conversations between two people are between 65 and 75 decibels and the noise level found within most plane cabins is around 85 decibels. Not quite a vacuum cleaner but not far off.
“Our windowless aircraft will be about 60 decibels, so lower than the sound of a conversation. No noise-cancelling headphones required”, said Kachoria.
Windowless Digital Cabins
A key design feature is a windowless cabin (Multiplex Digital Cabin). This is best explained by imagining a long computer screen running the length of the cabin on both sides of the aircraft which will digitally superimpose display panoramas. This could also be used for business presentations.
The S-512 could also be perfect for business travel as it will feature flatbeds and conference tables.
Although only currently designed for top government officials in the US, the “low-boom” concept Exosonic supersonic jet, is hypothesised to reach speeds of Mach 1.8 (over 2,200 km/h) have a range of over 9,000 kilometres.
The jet aircraft is designed in collaboration with the USAF Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate and was designed as a concept for the highest-ranking government missions of the United States.
The aircraft can carry 31 passengers, and the cabin offers two private suites with VIP seats. One of the suites will be capable of video teleconferencing for secure communications in flight, while the second eight-passenger suite contains lay-flat seats. There is still room for 20 business-class passenger seats, two galleys, and two lavatories.
Norris Tie, CEO of Exosonic, said “The future for global rapid passenger travel is low-boom supersonic flight. The low boom allows travellers to fly at supersonic speeds without generating disruptive booms for those on the ground.”
Exosonic wants to develop supersonic aircraft with a “muted sonic boom: so passengers will be able to fly supersonic everywhere - overland and overwater to reach their destinations twice as fast as commercial flights available today.”
Exosonic is also developing a 5000 nautical mile range, a supersonic airliner with the capacity for 70 passengers.
The Reaction Engines Limited LAPCAT Configuration A2 (called the LAPCAT A2) was also designed to be used for hypersonic speed jet airliners. This would allow aircraft to reach about the 20,000-kilometre range, speed fuel efficiency, and top speeds of Mach 5+.
Despite this engineering marvel, British aerospace engineering firm Reaction Engines Limited said it would be developed into a working aircraft within 25 years if there is market demand for it.
Although capturing the imagination of the aviation dreamers' is one thing, commercial passenger travel to space and the moon is also moving closer towards reality.
The current United States president, Joe Biden, as recently as April 2021 suggested supersonic civil aircraft might be operational in the next decade. This new breed of a supersonic jet is enticingly close to being rolled out in the next few years.