The US airline United has announced plans to buy 15 new supersonic airliners and “return supersonic speeds to aviation” in the year 2029.
- 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
What is Supersonic Plane:
A supersonic plane is an aircraft capable of supersonic flight; that is an aircraft able to fly faster than the speed of sound (Mach number)
Supersonic aircraft were developed in the second half of the twentieth century. Supersonic aircraft have been used for research and military purposes, but only two supersonic aircraft, the Tupolev Tu-144 (first flight – December 31, 1968) and the Concorde (first flight – March 2, 1969), ever entered service for civil use as airliners. Fighter jets are the most common example of supersonic aircraft.
What about Boom’s Overture supersonic plane?
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.
The company has expressed confidence in getting an “experimental” jet ready by 2022, start rolling out aircraft by 2025 and eventually open them for passengers by 2029. It claims to build on Concorde’s legacy through faster, more efficient and sustainable technology.
The Overture will also not be noisy as supersonic planes in the past were, Boom claims, as 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.
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.
Source: Indian Express