Humanity, as a civilisation, is akin to an innovation juggernaut. A cursory glance at any industry magazine will aptly demonstrate the advancements in medical science, defence and energy to name just three. Aerospace is no different yet in 2003, for the first time in human history, we took a technological step backwards by grounding the supersonic Concorde for good.
It wasn’t without reason. They were prohibitively expensive to build and maintain and therefore to travel on. The changing climate in commercial travel and limited routes meant that the price tag became increasingly preposterous. Following the crash of Air France flight 4590 consumer confidence wavered which only worsened after 9/11. The inquest into the crash also highlighted a raft of fatal design flaws and evidence to suggest that prolonged supersonic flight was compromising the airframe.
But, thanks to a patent filed by Airbus, supersonic passenger planes could once again be plying the skyways. According to the documents lodged with the US Patent Office the aircraft could reach speeds of 2,500 miles per hour which is over four times the speed of sound. This would turn London to New York into a two hour round trip.
Supersonic concept - Image courtesy of Airbus Group
One of the biggest challenges the aerospace and defence giant would have to overcome would be the incredible levels of pollution an aircraft capable of achieving those speeds would produce, let alone a fleet of them. Airbus appears to have proposed a solution. In the filed documents three engine types are referred to:
A conventional jet engine that can be retracted into the body of the plane, ramjets which compress air before it mixes with the fuel making them incredibly powerful and fuel efficient, and finally a rocket motor powered by hydrogen and oxygen.
Image courtesy of Airbus Group
The latter engine would be the drive that would catapult the aircraft 100,000 feet into the air in an almost vertical climb. It’s during the climb that the sound barrier would be broken, although the design of the nose and the altitude at which the barrier would be broken could mean the sonic bang is significantly quieter than that of the Concorde.
The aircraft, however, will only carry 20 passengers. Airbus’ suggested market are VIPs and business travellers that need to make transatlantic return journeys in a single day, the market for which is far larger than most would suspect. Being able to make return journeys between the US and UK could revolutionise business.
However Airbus has learned from its forebears and aren’t pinning all its hopes on the commercial market. As the aircraft is capable of cruising on the edge of space far above conventional anti-aircraft weapons it could be used for reconnaissance, a rapid response transport to extract high value assets or as a carrier for tier 1 infantry such as the SAS. Indeed the aircraft itself could be weaponised and utilised for precision strikes.
It’s incredibly early days for this revolutionary aircraft but the potential is evident and will no doubt create a great deal of excitement around Airbus Group. This follows only a week after the company announced a net profit increase of 34% to £1 billion. It also goes someway to make up for a tough year following the downing of Germanwings flight 4U9525 in March and an A400M Atlas at the start of June in Spain due to software errors.
We'll be keeping an eye out for more news as it becomes available. We are actively recruiting for all specialisms within the aerospace industry. If you’re ready to launch your career register your details today.