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Aesma
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Boeing Sonic Cruiser: was it a real attempt?

Sun May 23, 2021 10:51 am

Youtube just recommended a video to me, I was not looking for it and don't know much about the youtuber but he makes good points.

It's in French, you can use the autogenerated/translated closed captioning but I don't know how good it will be :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH3X2rM-LAM

He starts by talking about the EEC/USA accord signed in 1992 regarding state aid to aircraft manufacturers, and goes on to argue that the sonic cruiser was never intended as a real airplane Boeing would make and sell, but instead a way to subsidize R&D for the 787 through state aid, that was then not taken into account for the 787, so it could get more state aid.

One argument that I find quite convincing is that no engine was in any stage of development for the plane. The other being that there was never much interest from airlines, so clearly no reason to spend billions upon billions on its development.

To this day Boeing boasts about having used the sonic cruiser development to make the 787, in particular composite know-how, modern cockpit, flight management, all electric architecture, etc.
Last edited by atcsundevil on Tue May 25, 2021 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Clickbait title
New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
 
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Revelation
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Sun May 23, 2021 2:57 pm

I guess we'll never know the truth.

In our many long NMA threads the idea of it being a smoke screen has been floated a few times, and we'll probably never know the truth about that either.
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KFLLCFII
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Sun May 23, 2021 3:07 pm

They're not exactly in a position now for it to matter anymore.
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Aesma
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Sun May 23, 2021 3:14 pm

It matters regarding the lawsuits at the WTO that are still ongoing.
New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
 
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Polot
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Sun May 23, 2021 3:27 pm

Aesma wrote:
It matters regarding the lawsuits at the WTO that are still ongoing.

If there is enough evidence the EU would have argued it in their lawsuit. It’s not like this YouTube video provides any smoking gun.

I don’t currently have time to watch a 20 min video. How much state aid did Boeing receive for the sonic crusier? How many billions did it spend on the concept before scrapping it? How different is the Sonic Crusier to the normal prototyping and concept developing that Boeing:Airbus do, other than being more public?
 
GDB
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Sun May 23, 2021 3:46 pm

I tend to see it as perhaps the start of the reverse takeover of Boeing by MDD, at management level.
It was IIRC championed by an ex MDD exec, at least in public, notably at the 2001 Paris Airshow.
This was around the same time they fancied a new corporate HQ for themselves, away from Boeing's then main sites.
The 747X was also axed, which may have been a good thing but they reversed their position on a radically improved 747 a few years later.
It was also this Boeing management that kicked off the whole WTO issue.

Since the mismanagement by Boeing execs has been a big topic here and of course, with the 737MAX, everywhere else too, along with others such as the 787 development delays, quality issues, KC-46, Starliner, many have asked 'what happened to Boeing's reputation for quality?'
Some trace it to that 1996 takeover and maybe the SC, if it this ruse for funding, was an early manifestation of it.

Certainly everyone I worked with, in BA Engineering at the time, thought it a non starter unless it had a range with pax to make the modest speed gains meaningful, which was a stretch in itself.
I wondered if a latter day follower of Timothy Leary had followed the late hippy guru's advice to put large quantities of LSD into a cities water supply, in this case Seattle.
 
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Aesma
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Sun May 23, 2021 5:24 pm

The 1992 accord allows 3% of revenue to be given through state aid to develop a new aircraft. In the video all years aren't detailed but in the last one, 2002, Boeing got 2.7 billion, which was more than 8% of revenue.

There is also an argument that the 1992 accord was made when the US had 2 separate manufacturers, once merged their revenue was much higher so that also is convenient.
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Aesma
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Sun May 23, 2021 5:27 pm

GDB : one customer of two, Virgin Atlantic, remarked that the speed gains would be problematic since they would need to buy new slots for their transatlantic flights. Also redeyes would land in London too early (or not at all, now that I think of it isn't there a curfew ?).
New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
 
cedarjet
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Sun May 23, 2021 5:30 pm

It was good for press, I remember the launch story was the top half of the front page of the Times. It’s like some Ryanair stories, they’re never intended but gets them in peoples minds, most notably the story of charging €1 to use the toilet in flight. They were never going to do this but it got them in the news for 24h, for the cost of an emailed press release.
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Pythagoras
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Mon May 24, 2021 3:07 am

I was on the Sonic Cruiser PD team. The number of engineers working on Sonic Cruiser was a pretty small team mostly looking to understand the technical feasibility of the concept. The canard version which got most of the publicity had some nearly impossible technical issues to overcome. And yes, the technology under development was applicable to either conventional sub-sonic or transonic airplanes. Essentially, Boeing did not know the value of speed and put out to the airlines the questions of whether they would prefer a higher speed airplane with the same fuel burn as the 767 or a 767 replacement with 20% lower fuel burn.
 
BoeingGuy
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Mon May 24, 2021 4:45 am

Revelation wrote:
I guess we'll never know the truth.

In our many long NMA threads the idea of it being a smoke screen has been floated a few times, and we'll probably never know the truth about that either.


They were both real. The NMA was more real, including having dedicated teams and buildings for the project. A new airplane will eventually happen:
 
GDB
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Mon May 24, 2021 7:48 am

Aesma wrote:
GDB : one customer of two, Virgin Atlantic, remarked that the speed gains would be problematic since they would need to buy new slots for their transatlantic flights. Also redeyes would land in London too early (or not at all, now that I think of it isn't there a curfew ?).


I do recall VS commentating about it, as for being a customer, that was around the same time VS ordered A380's, with their CEO making cracks about his UK rival's lack of a similar order, mentioning 'aging' 747's of theirs (ours).
Well we all know how that panned out.
So I would rate their comment on SC as just more PR that their CEO was addicted to.

Whether the article about the SC that is linked above is just Boeing bashing, I do not know, no one I knew took the concept too seriously, besides this was 2001, that September as we know, any idea of anything like SC, if it was viable, would have ended then. After all, the only other airliner that was faster, really faster than the rest, was effectively retired early due to the attacks and the loss of business and turmoil across the airline world in general.
 
iamlucky13
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Mon May 24, 2021 10:10 am

Aesma wrote:
Youtube just recommended a video to me, I was not looking for it and don't know much about the youtuber but he makes good points.

It's in French, you can use the autogenerated/translated closed captioning but I don't know how good it will be :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH3X2rM-LAM

He starts by talking about the EEC/USA accord signed in 1992 regarding state aid to aircraft manufacturers, and goes on to argue that the sonic cruiser was never intended as a real airplane Boeing would make and sell, but instead a way to subsidize R&D for the 787 through state aid, that was then not taken into account for the 787, so it could get more state aid.

One argument that I find quite convincing is that no engine was in any stage of development for the plane. The other being that there was never much interest from airlines, so clearly no reason to spend billions upon billions on its development.

To this day Boeing boasts about having used the sonic cruiser development to make the 787, in particular composite know-how, modern cockpit, flight management, all electric architecture, etc.


The tip to use translated auto-captions was very helpful. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to follow.

The suggestion that the Sonic Cruiser was a way to get away with subsidizing key tech development for the 787 doesn't seem credible since the 1992 agreement in question was an overall industry limit, not a program specific one. Hence, the EU complaint includes all government R&D contracts and other aid, not merely those that were 787-specific.

It's not very useful to observe that there was no engine at any stage in development, because the sonic cruiser never went beyond the first stage of development where the major design features are traded back and forth to try to define the overall design. The concept was only publicly shared for about 18 months before being cancelled.

I really don't see a strong case to be made for alternative histories on the Sonic Cruiser. Boeing was looking to develop it's next product, the 747-X prospects were not great, and there was still some interest in faster travel. That interest declined as the cost compromise was fully considered, especially during the industry downturn that soon followed.
 
Oykie
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Mon May 24, 2021 10:12 am

A con to me suggests intentional lying, fraud and sometimes criminal intent. I believe that is too harsh. I believe Boeing where serious. I remember the sonic cruiser as a serious attempt. Fuel at that time, late nineties was cheap. It was not until after 9/11 airlines started asking Boeing for a simple 757/767 replacement. I remember reading that back in 2002. Boeing was pressed by its customers to not go forward with the SC. Before launching Boeing tried to sell the 767 with new engines from the engine alliance and nobody wanted it. The WTO dispute between Boeing and Airbus is hurting both companies in my opinion. Both received subsidies that have created some cool tech and airplanes. :-)
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Revelation
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Re: Sonic Cruiser : a Boeing con ?

Mon May 24, 2021 2:13 pm

It's interesting to get some insider views that SC and NMA were real things, and NMA even more real than SC.

In my mind, it brings up the question: could management create a "smoke screen" program to deceive the market on what they are truly doing, and could its secret stay safe?

I saw this happen in my career. I was a hands-on engineer at a large corporation. We made all-new hardware and software to replace our current top of the line product, using different chips than that product. The product developed to working prototype stage, but that was it. Later I learned there never was a real expectation to make that into a product, its real goal was to pressure the company making the chips for the existing product to lower their price so we could make more money. Management kept that fact very closely held, no one below the SVP level knew the truth.

Like most subterfuge, it came back and bit us in the butts. We did get a lower price from the current manufacturer, but then their parent company decided they weren't making enough money and decided to exit the business, as did their competitor. Our only option was to pay the original vendor a premium to make a large final run big enough to cover years of projected demand before they shut down. We did so, then the market turned away from that tech, so we got stuck with a huge shipment of expensive chips with no market for them.

Something tells me management still would do things the same way. They got bonuses for being clever guys and moved on to other things long before the consequences of their actions caught up with them. This may be part of the reason why I tend to accept various "smoke screen" theories more readily than others.
Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world
The heart has its beaches, its homeland and thoughts of its own
Wake now, discover that you are the song that the morning brings
The heart has its seasons, its evenings and songs of its own

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