Feeling supersonic: What does the future hold for air travel?

September 16, 2014

 

For many years the prospect of supersonic air travel looked dead in the water for commercial flyers, however two leading contenders have recently emerged to fill the void left by Concorde...

 

2003 marked the end of supersonic commercial air travel as we knew it, with British Airways taking Concorde out of service. In fact, the airline was so keen to ensure that flyers wouldn’t be given the chance to go supersonic again that they decided to cut the wings off the plane. For all the talk of travel innovations it seems rather bizarre that over a decade later supersonic air travel is still off the cards for your average air passenger.

 

However two leading contenders have recently emerged as the favourites to fill the void, with Boston’s Spike Aerospace and Nevada’s Aerion Corporation both well underway with plans to make a boom in the travel industry. Aerion’s NASA-backed design and Spike Aerospace’s unique windowless cabin, not to mention top speeds looking to hit Mach 1.8 (1,200mph), have won them both many admirers.

 

To get a better understanding of what makes the two companies tick we sat down with Doug Nichols – CEO at Aerion Corporation and Vik Kachoria – CEO at Spike Aerospace, to get their views on going supersonic and the future of air travel.

What is the thought process behind having no windows (as you can see above) and what are the risks that come with this?

 

VK: In every aspect of our design, we have been looking for ways to improve fuel efficiency, reduce noise and ensure safety. The thought behind the windowless cabin was in pursuit of these goals. By removing the windows, there is an improvement in fuel efficiency because the exterior of the fuselage is smooth and drag is reduced. This is similar to a swimmer who shaves his body to minimize drag in the water and improve performance. A smoother fuselage means we can fly faster and more efficiently.

 

Inside the cabin, passengers will be able to enjoy wonderful panoramic views of the outside world. No more tiny port-holes to look through. No more glare of the sun shining through. And no more view of the black of the night. If passengers prefer, they can watch a movie, work on a presentation or dim the screens to a starry night and get some sleep.

 

The Multiplex Cabin is possible with the use of high resolution flat panel displays and digital cameras that simply were not available just five years ago. Several windows will be available for emergency purposes and can be used by passengers for a quick look outside. The windowless cabin is just one of the many of the innovations we will feature on the Spike S-512 Supersonic Jet.

Aerion Corporation has upped the cabin size and added an extra engine to the first in its planned range of supersonic business jets currently on the drawing board. Designed with Supersonic Natural Laminar Flow (SNLF) wing technology that was tested in transonic wind tunnel tests and in NASA flight trials, the Aerion AS2 will now use a set of three smaller jet engines in place of its previous large two-jet design to provide quieter running, improved take-off performance, and longer range.

 

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