Supersonic passenger flights may see a return to the skies as a number of US-based startup companies plan on converting existing engines into supersonic ones to enable much faster flights for passengers.
Aerion Supersonic, Boom Supersonic and Spike Aerospace are planning on renovating engines currently in use rather than creating new ones, which would set the companies back billions. They plan on releasing their supersonic jets by the mid-2020s but are likely to face resistance from European nations for breaching environmental standards.
Since Concorde flights came to an end in October 2003, no company has attempted to revive supersonic passenger planes. Following the crash on 25 July 2000 which killed all 100 passengers, nine crew and four people on the ground as well as the terrorist attack on 11 September 2001, Concorde struggled to attract a sufficient number of passengers and ran into financial problems.
The result of a British-French partnership, the Concorde planes achieved speeds of 1,350 mph making them the fastest commercial aircraft ever created. A flight from New York to London took a mere 3.5 hours, much quicker than the 8 hours it takes a Boeing 747 to do the same distance.
However Concorde was very noisy and had to burn much more fuel than normal jets to attain it's supersonic speeds, causing serious concerns about its sustainability. A Concorde jet could only carry around 100 passengers and for each person it would burn 250 litres of fuel per hour. A Boeing 747 jet can carry about 500 passengers and for each person it needs to burn only about 27 litres per hour, meaning that Concorde used almost 10 times as much per passenger.
Aerion, Boom and Spike are planning on developing modified engines that would use five to seven times more fuel and would produce 40 per cent nitrogen oxide and 70 per cent carbon dioxide over the legal limits in Europe, says the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
It will be very difficult for the companies to produce an engine with the capability to go faster than the speed of sound whilst meeting environmental regulations, and due to this, the release of the new jets may be delayed - perhaps indefinitely, at least for the European market.
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