Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Future Of Super Sonic.

The Paris Air Show is full of concepts.  Two of them have to deal with Super Sonic Transports (SSTs). Murdo Morrison, editor of Flight International magazine told CNN, "Good luck to [the inventors], but I'm very skeptical."1  As well he should be.  There have been many concepts of super sonic travel for the common man, but only two have ever made it to the skies, and most of those planes are filled with concrete to keep them from ever flying again.

For those who have lofty dreams of flying at super sonic speeds, let's break down the reasons that will keep us from joining the few who have moved faster than the speed of sound.  The most important reason is cost.  The development of a plane that can travel faster than the speed of sound is a high price that only countries seem to be able to afford.

Look to Concorde.  When Concorde was created it was through a treaty of two countries, not a business agreement between to businesses.  Concorde was sold to British Airways for the price of 1 Pound.   Concordski (the Russian TU-144) was mostly a stolen design, and America decided against funding the Boeing version.

If a company did have the funds to create such a plane, the next issue is that most airlines couldn't afford it. Richard Branson offered BA the same price they paid for Concorde if they would sell to Virgin Atlantic.

Next, look to the investment that airlines are making in Jumbos and Super Jumbos.  It is often more profitable to carry more passengers slower than fewer passengers faster.  Concorde made BA money, but Air France lost.  It's a hard market to break into, and if your airline doesn't have the right hubs, you can't offer the routes that the rich want to travel.

I want to take a moment to point out that one of the manufacturers that is touting a SST design is EADS, parent company of Airbus -- And, if you recall right, Airbus helped shut down the Concorde program to focus more of its money on the Double Decker Death Trap (A380).

There are other issues with an SST, but most companies won't get past the money issue.  Don't get me wrong, I'd love to travel at twice or ten times the speed of sound, but we're a long ways away from that.  But concept are no more than ideas in someone's head.  Find the money and you still have to create a plane that can fly at 80,000 feet on seaweed.

But, hey, I'm just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?

1. http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/06/21/concorde.hyper.sonic/index.html?hpt=hp_c1

1 comment:

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