If you missed the chance to experience supersonic travel on Concorde before it retired eight years ago, travellers could once again break the sound barrier – albeit the wealthy few – if a UK-based aerospace firm’s plan for a new supersonic jet takes off.
HyperMach has spent the past seven years developing ‘SonicStar’ – a next-generation alternative to Concorde that they say will whisk up to 20 passengers at a time across the Atlantic at four times the speed of sound.
Travelling at speeds greater than 2,600mph (Mach 4) – twice as fast as Concorde (Mach 2) – a flight on the V-tailed aircraft would complete a journey from the Gulf to New York within two and a half hours, the firm says.
The concept might put a sparkle back in the eyes of those who were fortunate enough to fly at rocket-like speeds on Concorde, but an anticipated return to supersonic travel is still many years away.
HyperMach’s chief executive, Richard Lugg hopes to launch a prototype jet without passengers within 10 years – with certification of the aircraft and the first passenger flights scheduled for 2025.
To Concorde’s biggest fans, there may be no substitute for one of the world’s most iconic jets ever built – with her distinctive droop nose and sonic boom.
But HyperMach’s Lugg says that SonicStar will improve on Concorde’s design flaws by reducing the impact of the sonic boom that led regulators to restrict Concorde’s flights overland.
The firm says this is thanks to a unique engine design that uses ‘electromagnetic drag reduction technology’, which is under development.
Powered by ‘clean sheet’ hybrid electric/gas turbine engines, the SonicStar would also be 30% more fuel efficient than Concorde’s Rolls Royce engines, HyperMach says.
Lugg told TERMINAL U: “Sonicstar’s hybrid engine design makes it capable of significant fuel savings over air travel today. The reduction of emissions and the savings in fuel consumption will more than justify the success of the aircraft.”
Finding more investors for the jet programme is a priority, Lugg added: “Funding is a challenge at the moment while we get the information out into the marketplace, but we are convinced that as soon as investors realise that this technology is so exciting, they will be motivated to invest.”
A seat on the small aircraft would cost the equivalent of a First Class ticket on board a commercial airliner today – putting it beyond the reach of many travellers.
But HyperMach wants SonicStar to be a private charter plane – tapping into the demands of business travellers looking to travel in a fraction of the time of regular commercial aircraft.
The plane may slash journey times, but its range of 6,000 nautical miles would make non-stop ultra long-haul routes such as London to Sydney impossible without a refuelling stop.
It is not the only concept for a passenger plane that can fly much faster than Concorde.
Earlier this year, EADS – the European aeronautic and defence firm which owns Airbus – unveiled radical plans for a hypersonic plane that could transport passengers from London to Sydney in three-and-a-half hours. They believe the concept is “viable” but say they don’t expect the plane to be ready for passengers until 2050.