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Friday, June 29, 2012

Farnborough International Airshow - Airbus A380 and A400M

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Son of Concorde

‘Son of Concorde’ – a realistic prospect, or just another pipe dream?
The Concorde is a much-missed aircraft, but a new-generation of supersonic jets could be within touching distance. Rumours and reports are swirling that a prototype aircraft, dubbed ‘Son of Concorde’ and collaboratively designed by Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Gulfstream, and NASA, is to be revealed during the Farnborough International Airshow next month.

We’ve heard this sort of claim before, and usually reports of a viable Concorde successor aren’t to be taken too seriously; indeed, all such claims have so far proved unfounded. But could it be a different story this time, given the companies involved and the pieces of information they are putting out there?

The supersonic commercial passenger aircraft would have the ability to fly from London to Sydney in four hours – a journey which would normally take over 23 hours – at a speed of more than 2,485 miles per hour, almost twice as fast as the original Concorde. It would initially be aimed at the business jet market.

The aircraft, codenamed X-54, might fly soon after 2020 and be available as a full-sized jet carrying about 300 passengers in 2030, if the new technology used proves reliable and successful. As well as X-54, a number of supersonic prototypes are set to be unveiled at Farnborough, with lighter composite materials, more advanced engines, and smaller fuselages expected to be part of the designs being outlined.

One of the biggest drawbacks of the original Concorde was the sonic boom produced, but those working on the X-54 project say they are close to overcoming this obstacle. A Gulfstream engineer described the sound the new jet would make as closer to a “puff or plop”, according to a report in UK newspaper The Daily Mail. To add more substance to the claims, NASA has previously released images of a test aircraft in a wind tunnel which appear to show that the sonic boom could nearly be silenced using super-thin wings and hidden engines.

So could a commercially successful supersonic jet really be a viable prospect by 2030?

Jason Holland, Editor, Aircraft Technology Engineering & Maintenance