Supersonic Commercial Plane
Jul 16, 2021
Supersonic Commercial Plane
Q Why is it in News ?
The US airline United has announced plans to buy 15 new supersonic airliners and "return supersonic speeds to aviation" in the year 2029.
- The Airline has agreed to purchase the Overture aircraft from Boom Supersonic (a Denver-based start-up), with the planes able to fly at Mach 1.7 faster than the speed of sound.
- The new supersonic “Overture” aircraft will become the world’s fastest commercial airliner, reducing travel time by about half of today’s planes.
Q What is a Supersonic Plane ?
- Supersonic aircraft are planes that can fly faster than the speed of sound.
- Usually, supersonic planes can travel at the speed of around 900 kmph, twice the speed of normal aircraft.
- The technology for supersonic flights is actually over 70 years old, but only recently has been used for commercial flying.
- Before 1976, when the first commercial supersonic flight took off, the planes were used entirely for military purposes.
- Concorde, the British-French turbojet-powered commercial airliner, was the first aircraft to carry passengers at supersonic speed. Supersonic planes flew passengers from 1976 until 2003.
- But eventually had to discontinue, due to cost and other concerns.
Q What are some key details about Overture Supersonic Aircraft ?
- The Overture aircraft would travel at the speed of Mach 1.7 or 1,805 kmph with a range of 4,250 nautical miles.
- In a single flight, it could carry 65 to 88 passengers and reach an altitude of 60,000 ft.
- Trial flights are scheduled to begin in 2026, with commercial use coming three year later.
- It will build upon Concorde’s legacy through faster, more efficient and sustainable technology.
- The company has claimed to produce an eco-friendly aircraft with “net-zero carbon emissions'', set to fly with 100% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
- Sustainable aviation fuels include biofuels and synthetic kerosine that are manufactured using renewable and sustainable materials.
- It aims for “zero overland noise.”
- This essentially means that it will cruise at supersonic speeds only over water, ensuring that no sonic boom or excessive noise reaches the surfaces where people live.
- It will be equipped with advanced aerodynamics and carbon composite materials.
- This will be able to cut significant development and maintenance costs in ways which the Concorde planes could not.
Q What are some challenges with Supersonic Planes ?
- Challenges with Supersonic Planes:
- High Manufacturing Cost: The costs of making “sustainable” supersonic planes are extremely high.
- Environmental Cost: The very nature of its flying using excessive amounts of fuel and energy is likely to have high environmental costs.
- Despite the use of sustainable fuels, the greenhouse gas emissions are not nullified.
- The plane consumes high amounts of fuel in order to take off, that too in a market where sustainable fuels aren’t readily available.
- Excessive Noise Pollution: The speed of the planes result in producing excessive amounts of noise pollution in the environment.
- The “Sonic Boom” created by these planes feels like an explosion to the human ear.
- This, thus, limits where and when the supersonic planes can fly. They can only reach their actual speed until they are far enough from people and completely over the ocean.
- Regulatory Approvals: To fly such planes can be unsuccessful, especially for transatlantic flights. Getting clearance from regulators around the world would be a challenging task, since the supersonic planes in the past have already been flagged for these hurdles.
- Too Costly: It would not be economically feasible for everyone. Only the very rich can afford supersonic planes, as a ticket is likely to be way more costlier than a first class ticket of a regular plane.