Boeing’s study of future options for viable supersonic flight has produced a design for a jet slightly slower than Concorde but with far more range.
It would cruise at between Mach 1.6-1.8 compared to Mach 2 or slightly lower for a typical Concorde flight, and carry in a two class singe aisle configuration 120 passengers compared to 100 all first class seating on the Anglo-French SST which was withdrawn from service in 2003.
But the proposed range for the Boeing study of 5000 nautical miles is the intriguing metric, as it would allow non-stop flights between Los Angeles or San Francisco and London in about five to five and a half hours or similar times to Tokyo, Seoul or Shanghai.
From Sydney the jet nicknamed Icon 11 could reach Los Angeles via a stop in Honolulu in around nine hours, depending on how long customs & paranoia took at the refuelling point. It could also connect major Australian cities to Beijing and other north Asia cities in five hours or less.
The tag Icon 11 might have been a reference to Concorde as Icon 1, or the Boeing 747, also one of the great icons of the 20th century.
The Boeing study was done under contract to NASA for its N+3 project to assess in considerable detail, plausible technological solutions for sustainable airliner designs three decades after the work was commissioned in 2005.
Unlike the Lockheed Martin supersonic entry, the proposed Boeing design doesn’t promise to reduce to negligible levels the fierce supersonic boom generated by the Concorde or its faster, but even less practicable Russian counterpart the TU-144.
The pressure shock waves generated by the Concorde were for those directly under the flight path like a very loud double action shotgun blast at close quarters. Boeing says that its design reduces the noise level of supersonic overflights to between 65-75 decibels, which is not devastatingly loud, but not likely to result in public enthusiasm either. Boeing says this level ‘may make it possible’ for supersonic corridors to be flown over land.