Here is an excerpt from a recent story on the (Super)Sonic Cruiser. About two-thirds of the way through the story, you will see Boeing Spokesmann Russ Young say that they will keep an "open mind" on making the sonic cruiser a supersonic cruiser. Also they say that the final design may differ significantly from the publicly released rendering. It sounds to me like Boeing is trying to keep it under wraps as long as possible before they announce their true intentions of building a commercial supersonic passenger transport.
Sunday, September 9, 2001
Is bigger better? Airbus and Boeing have a lot invested in the answer.
By Ken Kaye
The Florida Sun-Sentinel
Boeing had been planning to counter by enlarging its 747, which already can fit 500 seats in its cabin. But the company shocked the aerospace industry in March by shelving that plan and unveiling the highly futuristic Sonic Cruiser.
As Boeing describes it, the Cruiser would be able to fly almost 750 mph, just under the speed of sound or about 200 mph faster than most of today's jetliners.
That would shave nearly four hours off what is normally a 15-hour-plus trip between New York and Hong Kong. It would cut the trip between New York and London to about five hours, cutting one to two hours off the trip in a conventional airliner.
What would make this plane so fast?
For starters, its aerodynamic design is similar to that of the fastest military reconnaissance jets. It would have one giant wing, and two massive engines would be integrated into the back of it. Instead of a large tail section, it would have "canard" stabilizers just behind the cockpit. This design would allow the plane to maximize power and minimize drag.
Further, it would cruise in very thin air between 41,000 and 50,000 feet, or about 10,000 feet higher than today's airliners.
In addition to its speed, the Cruiser's other big benefit, courtesy of that giant wing -- housing an equally giant fuel tank -- would be its ability to fly more than 10,000 miles non-stop, nearly 2,000 miles farther than today's longest-range aircraft.
Boeing officials say the Cruiser's final design may be quite a bit different than the one that is now being paraded around the airline industry.
That has led, Mellberg, for one, to question whether the Cruiser might be a supersonic plane in disguise, attempting to fill the gap left by the grounded Concorde SSTs.
Mellberg said if the Cruiser is in fact operated just under the speed of sound, it would unnecessarily waste energy because "you have a tremendous build-up of drag there.
"Why would you have a plane go that fast but it wouldn't break the speed of sound over the ocean, where you don't care about the boom?"
Boeing officials say by keeping the plane sub-sonic, it would be more economical to operate and would keep it clear of environmental issues.
"We think the sweet spot is just below supersonic, but we'll be keeping an open mind on going faster," said Russ Young, Boeing spokesman in Seattle.
Even if it does become a slightly faster-version of the modern airliner, the Cruiser should be a success because speed sells, industry analysts say.
"When you think about it, we like fast food and high-speed Internet connections. People don't like to wait in lines," Mellberg says. "If I could shave two hours off a trip to London, boy that's the trip I'd take."
Mellberg says aviation progress has been marked with speed advances.
For example, when turboprops were introduced in the 1950s, they were about 100 mph faster than the old piston-powered propeller planes. Then, in the 1960s, jetliners were 150- to 200-mph faster yet.
"That's what you're doing again with the Sonic Cruiser, and it hasn't been done in over 40 years," Mellberg says.