March 20, 2023
March 6, 2023
February 20, 2023
February 6, 2023
Faster is always better when flying private; it’s one of the main reasons we choose private flights as our preferred method of travel. So, why not resurrect the idea of a supersonic business jet? Check out the latest “concept car” of the friendly skies.
It’s been a decade since the Concorde was finally grounded in 2003, and we’ve had to suffer with subsonic speeds since then. But the Boston-based Spike Aerospace, composed of a team of ex-Gulfstream, Eclipse, NASA and Airbus engineers, has been hard at work for the last two years on the next generation of business jets – the Spike S-512 – where aviation and aerospace converge. Maybe it will take the boredom out of flying.
With a range of 4,600 miles, their Spike S-512 is expected to carry 12 to 18 passengers on private flights from New York to London at a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 (1,370 mph) in a measly 3 or 4 hours, or London to Mumbai in 4, or Los Angeles to Tokyo in 8, cutting these journeys in half.
Although it’s still in the development stages, the current design features a cabin with “virtual windows.” The interior will have thin display screens embedded into the wall. Real-time video taken from micro-cameras on the fuselage will create panoramic views to display on the screens. But passengers on private flights will be able to dim them or change the content to something else, like movies, the SuperBowl, or anything that can be transmitted with satellite and wireless connections.
One reason for going windowless is that airplanes are stronger without windows. Windows add drag and weight to slow the plane down, compromise the airflow, require more parts, and weaken the structure of the plane. Military and cargo aircraft today are designed without windows (except the cockpit) for these same reasons. Spike Aerospace expects that having a smooth exterior skin will reduce the drag caused by the windows and help the S-512 reach its top speed.
They are also planning to use Pratt & Whitney JT8D-200 series engines which are already in existence and offer reduced (Stage-3) noise compliance standards, enhanced short field performance, and steeper and faster climb rates with greater fuel efficiency. (Although I’m not sure where they intend to store 40,000 pounds of fuel in this baby!)
The Spike S-512 will have a hefty price tag – about $80 million – but the ability to get from New York to London in 3 or 4 hours just might be worth the expense. The fastest way to get there now is on the Gulfstream G650, and the trip takes just over 6 hours.
And they still need to solve the sonic boom dilemma. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has banned supersonic flight over the U.S. so, until they can reduce the noise – or boom – when the S-512 breaks the sound barrier, we’re in for a wait.
There are several other companies with supersonic business jets in development. Nevada-based Aerion Corporation has the Aerion SBJ in the works, which may make it to market by 2020. HyperMach Aerospace Ltd. wants to produce SonicStar, which they say could reach Mach 4 (about twice as fast as the Concorde) and get you from New York to London in an hour. The Russian-American Sukhoi-Gulfstream S-21 was put on hold. And Lockheed Martin also has an aircraft design concept for supersonic flight over land.
Lest you think the whole supersonic idea is far-fetched, remember that Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic is scheduled to launch its first commercial flights into space this year. SpaceShipTwo (SS2) has successfully passed all of its supersonic test flights, and Branson and the 600 others who paid $250,000 each for the ride will soon be exploring the last frontier.
If you have free time on your hands and are up for a good challenge, Spike Aerospace is looking to hire a Senior Aerodynamic Engineer and a Senior Aircraft Performance Engineer.