Remember the Concorde
? It was the longest operating commercial supersonic aircraft that flew its last flight in 2003 after 27 years of service. With a cruising speed of 1,350 mph (Mach 2), the Concorde could fly from New York to London in under 3 hours. For more than 20 years, the Concorde was the fastest and safest airliner in the world, but a deadly crash in 2000 that killed all 109 people on board, as well as 4 people on the ground, precipitated the demise of the Concorde, which was already suffering from a general downturn in the aviation industry. There hasn't been a successor to the Concorde since it was retired, but perhaps the following are some possibilities.
- Apparently, a secret team of Boeing engineers is still working on the Sonic Cruiser, which was cancelled and replaced by the 787 Dreamliner. Technically, the Sonic Cruiser isn't supersonic, since it's designed to fly at 0.98 Mach, but its design has changed a bit since the original was proposed. The engines, which would have F-35 like variable geometry chevrons, are now located over (rather than embedded in) the wings, which now also have vertical stabilizers. [url]
- The X-51A WaveRider "Scramjet," an unmanned hypersonic aircraft, successfully reached Mach 5.1 in its final test flight. It traveled 230 nautical miles in just over 6 minutes and was the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever. The X-51A is unique in that it uses a hydrocarbon (rather than hydrogen) fuel in its supersonic combustion engine.[url]
- Why isn't there a successor to the Concorde? Perhaps it's because we're too cheap to fly faster. In fact, we're actually flying slower today than we were 50 years ago. In 1958, airliners were traveling at cruising speeds of just over 600 mph, compared to today's more fuel efficient 550 mph.[url]
If you'd like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post