Supersonic travel has been a burning ambition of the upper classes for many years. The technology needed to make it a reality has existed.
The problem with working out what one needs to fly commercially is that it’s not just about having a plane that flies faster than the speed of sound; it’s also about its one-way re-fueling.
Propulsion by what’s called Schott’s snuff test turns out to be a feasible method, even if it’s decades away. The good news is that you don’t have to wait that long.
There’s a working concept that could get you there.
A company called Skyjet recently unveiled their Supersonic Cryo-Mobil Lagoon, a giant, underwater body that would allow supersonic travel between Los Angeles and New York City with a fraction of the emissions. Skyjet is now entering the “provisioning phase” in which they plan to operate a series of full-scale flight tests that could begin as early as late 2018.
Related Image Expand / Contract There’s a plan for suborbital and commercial space flight. (Admissions Annex)
Skyjet operates not like the cumbersome and very expensive suborbital cruise companies like Virgin Galactic and XCOR, but by lining up funding for paying passengers, since launching has always been expensive.
They don’t have to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, but they can’t work out the kinks of long-range long-understood systems like the Hawker Beechcraft Electra, either. Skyjet will have to be able to take off vertically using engines on a floating platform with a jet bridge, which are already controlled remotely, rather than relying on high-tech engines programmed by pilots.
To realize their business plan, Skyjet needs money, which they believe they can get with the help of the venture capital firms Canaan Partners and Lowercase Capital, who put $2 million into the company in June.
Skyjet’s CEO David Clifton, a former CEO of Epicor, an early developer of the Oracle-like, real-time, enterprise resource planning software that BSA Bernerding chose over Microsoft, said, “From what we’ve seen from customers we expect that they will start flying in two years, because they’re all eager to fly with us. We should be flying within the year. We haven’t had a question about why we’re not, and we think that if we can’t fly, then we should shut up.”
One area that might pose a challenge for the company is security. It’s not that a new company would be impervious to attack if they were flying supersonic.
In February of 1966, a British female pilot named Violet Arlene Wright crashed a conventional hot-air balloon just above the California resort of Big Sur. Wright’s parachute did not open, meaning she was left dangling in the balloon. She perished when her parachute failed to open.
However, it’s less likely that she would survive the sort of close call that may be inevitable in a high-speed supersonic jet. Wright parachuted into the ocean with one of her feet dangling from the balloon, and survived despite spending about five hours in the water. That would have been far too little time for her to have lived, but she made it out alive.
In addition to the financial hurdles, supersonic travel still has hurdles to overcome on the engineering and aviation end. The volcano fog at Mach 1 would be known as a Saran Wrap event if it existed today.
Related Image Expand / Contract Space planes could take passengers to outer space. (SpaceX)
Supersonic flight is much more unpredictable than the speed of sound since the world is a truly spherical arrangement and few decisions are taken at the speed of sound. But both Wrister and Clifton see off-piste scramjet experimentation as being the next wave in hypersonic flight research.
U.S. space tourism company Virgin Galactic is planning to begin test flights in 2017 of its VSS Unity space plane, though the eventual goal is suborbital and commercial space travel.
And according to new figures from the Federal Aviation Administration, the only flight that is approved to fly at supersonic speeds is the October 23, 1961, Concorde flight from London to New York.
No supersonic commercial flight is ever likely to happen. But if the speed of sound could fly? It’s possible. A fantasy of the upper classes still won’t fly, but it may become a reality.