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When will supersonic flight return?
The last 115 years of humankind’s relationship with air travel has been mindboggling. On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright lifted off in the fields of Kitty Hawk. The era of human air travel was born.
But skeptics abounded. Yes, we could fly. But could we fly fly?
For instance, one famous early doubter told reporters in 1909 that “no airship will ever fly from New York to Paris.” The name of this skeptic? Wilbur Wright himself!
Just 38 years later, American pilot and legendary daredevil, Chuck Yeager, broke the manned supersonic flight barrier in USAF aircraft #46-062, a.k.a. the Glamorous Glennis.
Wired Magazine offers some of the juicy engineering details of Yeager's feat:
The Bell X-1 had a radical new “all flying tail" that allowed Yeager to maintain control as the air compressed ahead of his plane, drastically increasing drag. (This is still standard on supersonic military jets today.) It also has thin wings and a sharply pointed nose to help it slice through the air. As he fired the final two chambers of the rocket powered plane, Yeager finally pushed through that sound barrier, to a speed of Mach 1.06, making him the fastest man on Earth.
Commercial planes—most famously the Concorde—soon followed suit, allowing regular folk (with scads of disposable income) to experience the magic of faster-than-sound air travel for themselves.
But after the Concorde got grounded in 2003, we haven’t seen any commercial supersonic transport (SST) attempts get off the ground.
That may be changing. Quickly.
Per Forbes, the Denver-based Boom (in conjunction with Japan Airlines) plans to reignite SST travel:
[it will] develop a supersonic aircraft that flies at Mach 2.2 and will cut current airline flight times in half. The Concorde flew at Mach 2.0, and today’s commercial jets fly at Mach 0.85. Boom says its jets will fly from New York to London in three hours and 15 minutes, enabling business people to leave early in the morning, make afternoon and evening meetings in England, and return home in time to tuck their kids into bed.
What do you think? When will the next commercial flight break the sound barrier?
Resolution is at the date/time at which a supersonic flight is flown on an aircraft designed for passenger use and operated by a company intending to use it for such purpose, over a distance of more than 1000 km. The contemplated timeline runs from late-2018 through 2030.
ETA 2020-11-26: Rockets or any type of hypersonic aircraft do not count as qualifying aircrafts for the purpose of this question.
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