Commercial air travel has remained relatively unchanged since the 1960s. However, a new generation of supersonic passenger aircrafts will soon take the travel industry by storm. Introducing the N+2 jet. Designed by US global aerospace company, Lockheed Martin, this airliner boast speeds at least twice as fast as today’s commercial airplanes – potentially cutting down a 5- hour flight from New York to L.A. to just 2.5 hours.
The technology comes as a response to growing consumers and travelers’ demands for faster and more efficient travel. Thus, within the next coming years, the supersonic air travel industry is expected grow at an unprecedented pace. Although the aircrafts will initially be marketed in the private jet industry (catering to the super wealthy, or first class), they will eventually become commercially available for all travelers.
The N+2, specifically, accommodates up to 80 passengers, and possesses the ability to travel over 5,000 nautical miles with sonic boom levels 100x quieter than the out-of-commission Concorde supersonic passenger airline – one of only two supersonic aircrafts to have entered the commercial industry.
According to Lockheed Martin, noise is the major hurdle of commercial supersonic air travel. A supersonic aircraft, for example, can zoom through the sky at speeds greater than Mach 1; this creates disturbances of air pressure that merge to into shockwaves, and result in enormous sonic booms. To emphasize the point, the company describes the difference between hearing a car versus a jet: as a car approaches, an individual can hear it coming in continuous increments over a longer duration of time. A supersonic aircraft, on the other hand, is a burst of sound over a very short duration of time, essentially resulting in the “boom” effect.
Precisely for this reason, current air traffic regulations restrict supersonic aircrafts from flying over land. Lockheed Martin has been working for over a decade to solve this problem. The N+2, for example, will utilize a tri-jet configuration (one engine under each wing and one above aircraft) to reduce noise.
‘To achieve revolutionary reductions in supersonic transportation airport noise, a totally new kind of propulsion system is being developed,’ said Michael Buonanno, Lockheed Martin manager of the NASA N+2 program.
‘We are also exploring new techniques for low noise jet exhaust, integrated fan noise suppression, airframe noise suppression and computer customized airport noise abatement.’
At this rate, passengers can expect to see the technology enter the market by 2025.
Image courtesy of NASA.gov